Fever medical therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Medical Therapy

Fever should not necessarily be treated. Fever is an important signal that there's something wrong in the body, and it can be used for follow-up. Moreover, not all fevers are of infectious origin.

Even when treatment is not indicated, however, febrile patients are generally advised to keep themselves adequately hydrated, as the dehydration produced by a mild fever can be more dangerous than the fever itself. Water is generally used for this purpose, but there is always a small risk of hyponatremia if the patient drinks too much water. For this reason, some patients drink sports drinks or products designed specifically for this purpose.

Most people take medication against fever because the symptoms cause discomfort. Fever increases heart rate and metabolism, thus potentially putting an additional strain on elderly patients, patients with heart disease, etc. This may even cause delirium. Therefore, potential benefits must be weighed against risks in these patients. In any case, fever must be brought under control in instances when fever escalates to hyperpyrexia and tissue damage is imminent.

Treatment of fever should be based primarily on lowering the set-point, but facilitating heat loss may also contribute. The former is accomplished with antipyretics. Wet cloth or pads are also used for treatment, and applied to the forehead. Heat loss may be an effect of (possibly a combination of) heat conduction, convection, radiation, or evaporation (sweating, perspiration). This may be particularly important in babies, where drugs should be avoided. However, if water that is too cold is used, it induces vasoconstriction and prevents adequate heat loss.


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