A fever is a temporary increase in body temperature (often due to illness) indicating that something out of the ordinary is happening in the body. Whilst uncomfortable for an adult usually it isn’t cause for concern unless it reaches an abnormal level. For infants and toddlers however a slightly elevated temperature may indicate a serious infection.
Fevers generally become less intense within days, seemingly playing a role in helping the body fight off infection.
Why the body gets them
By itself a fever is not considered to be an illness but rather is a symptom about that infection, so a slight rise in temperature can be a good thing and not a cause for alarm or reason to call a doctor but should be closely monitored especially in the case of the (very) young.
Symptoms that may accompany fever include sweating, shivering, thirst, hot skin, fast breathing, head/muscle ache, appetite loss, irritability, dehydration, general weakness and chills.
Symptoms & signs
Symptom refers to a condition particularly apparent to the patient such as pain, stiffness, soreness, dizziness, pins and needles and numbness. A sign is something that can be clinically measured. Emergency doctors consider ‘vital signs’ such as pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate and blood pressure all of which indicate the state of a patient’s essential body functions.
Fever occurs when an area in the brain called the hypothalamus (the body's thermostat) shifts upwards the set point of normal body temperature. When this happens, we may add layers of clothing or wrap up in a blanket.
When body temperature rises because of infection, fever is caused by chemicals called pyrogens flowing in the bloodstream. When pyrogens bind to certain receptors in the hypothalamus body temperature rises.
Normal body temperature is lower in the morning and higher in the late afternoon and evening. Although most people consider 98.6 F (37 C) normal our body temperature can vary by a degree or more — from about 97 F (36.1 C) to 99 F (37.2 C) — and still be considered normal.
Probably the main reason fever seems worse at night is because it is. The inflammatory response mechanism of the immune system is amplified as it deliberately raises body temperature as part of its strategy to kill the virus attacking us.
Usually a person has pain, cough or other symptoms that explain occurrence but occasionally the cause cannot be identified. If we have a fever for weeks and our doctor can’t find the cause after extensive evaluation the diagnosis may be fever of unknown origin, although it rarely occurs without other symptoms usually associated with physical discomfort. Mostly we feel better when it is treated.
…regards fever as an example of biological brilliance signaling disharmony in the body but a process in and of itself that is remedial. Whilst uncomfortable that does not mean it is an inappropriate response and lends itself to another concept known as orthopathy from the Greek, orthos (right) and pathos (suffering).
This is a set of alternative health beliefs and practices whose proponents claim that fasting, dieting, and other lifestyle measures may be all that is necessary to prevent and treat disease, orthopathy being an offshoot of naturopathy.
It essentially means appropriate suffering. Despite discomfort it may still be the best response under the circumstances. It may not only be appropriate but beneficial as well, a remedial action by the body designed to rectify.
He says I probably have an idea how it could have been designed purposefully.
The Bible, fever & faith
I do. Not blindly and haphazardly by evolution over zillions of bumbling years. Such clever warning and defense mechanisms were incorporated on day one by the Master Designer into the astoundingly complex human body.
When Jesus entered the house of his friend Peter: He saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her. (Matthew chapter 8: verses 14/15).
Far more dramatically though, if you have slowly and carefully read the Bible book called Job your heart would have ached for him as his life rapidly disintegrated before his eyes. Although he was: blameless and upright; who feared God and shunned evil (chapter 1 verse 1), nevertheless at the height of his crushing sorrow his: body burns with fever. (chapter 30 verse 30).
Every aspect of his life including good health, considerable property ownership, high social standing and respect in his community and most significantly his large loving family were all taken from him in quick succession such that he despised the day he was born.
Earlier he had fallen to the ground in worship and famously said words sometimes heard at funerals of yesteryear: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’…In all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (chapter 1 verses 20-22).
As the debate with friends raged the following profoundly impressive words from a true hero of the faith loudly echo throughout the remainder of the book:
I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him - I and not another. (chapter 19 verses 25-27).
A dignified and humble man who suffered fearfully cried out to God: The fear of the LORD - that is wisdom and to shun evil is understanding. (chapter 28 verse 28).
We should aspire to that high measure of faith.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence LORD. (Psalm 89 verse 15).
Gavin Lawrie is a retired Barrister and Solicitor from Tweed Heads NSW Australia and author of the book: 'THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION: Uncovering The Faulty Science Of Dawkins' Attack On Creationism'. He is married to Jan with two adult children and they are grandparents.
Gavin Lawrie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/gavin-lawrie.html