There’s a common misconception about fevers known as Fever Phobia. People believe that fevers are some sort of serious illness and if they go untreated the fever will melt their brain. While they are uncomfortable for anyone, fevers are actually your friends most of the time.
A fever, or controlled hyperthermia, is when you reach an internal body temperature higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s your body’s way of kicking it’s immune system up a notch. The shivering and chills are your body’s way of generating heat. Fevers work in two different ways:
Cells, and more importantly their enzymes (those catalysts that help convert energy), work well in warm temperatures. The warmer the temperature, the faster they work. The warmer temperature also helps your white blood cells mobilize and work more quickly to take down whatever is making you sick.
Bacteria and viruses have a threshold for temperature. They can only live in certain environments before it gets to chaotic for them to function. A fever creates this unbearable environment for pathogens and causes them to literally burn up.
Fevers should be monitored carefully, however. Your body has a threshold for temperature too, and it’s only a little bit higher than the threshold for germs.
For adults, a fever is considered dangerous at temperatures at or above 104.7 degrees. If your fever reaches 105 degrees or if you have a fever greater than 102 that lasts longer than three days, even while being treated with ibuprofen, seek medical attention.
If the fever is below the danger level, it can be managed ice cold sponges applied to the forehead and neck. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help lower the temperature of the fever. However, fevers can’t really be treated and could take a couple days to go away.
The most significant risk of a fever is dehydration, so keep drinking water if you’re sick.
Any fever under 103 degrees is generally harmless. Fans and air conditioning, ice cold towels, ibuprofen, and plenty of water provide comfort for those times where you’re sick and stuck on the couch watching daytime television.