Seven Fever Myths Debunked

Before you go rushing to the doctor... Photo credit from

So, you’re running a fever. But before you frantically call the doctor and apply the quick fixes you’ve been accustomed to, here’s a few fever myths you might need to know:

Before you go rushing to the doctor... Photo credit from

Myth 1. You’re running a fever when your temperature is over 96.8 Fahrenheit (36 degrees celsius). Normal temperature for a normal, resting adult is is 98.6 degrees F (37 degrees celsius) and may vary from one up to two degrees depending on what time of the day (it’s lower in the morning). So don’t hit the panic button just yet if your thermometer hits a hundred.

Myth 2. Fever always means infection. An elevation in your temperature is the response of your body’s immune system to foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, fungi, drugs, or other toxins. Your body temperature goes up to kill the bacteria and viruses that cannot live at higher temperatures. So yeah, you may have fever when you have an infection, but that’s not always the case. An elevated temperature can also be caused by dehydration, an overactive thyroid or you’ve probably spent to much time outdoors on a hot day.

An increase in temperature can be drug-induced. In children, vaccines given can cause a low-grade fever within a day or two of getting the injection. This fever is usually self-limited and short-lived. If the reaction seems severe or the skin at the injection site is red, hot, and painful, contact your child’s doctor.

Drugs taken in overdose like penicillin and sulpha drugs will also cause spike in body temperature, but that is a different story.

Don’t confuse fever with hyperthermia, which is a defect in your body’s response to heat (thermoregulation), and raises the body temperature. This can happen in hot environments.

Myth 3. Always treat a fever. A fever is medically significant if it’s gone over 100.4 degrees for more than 3 days. If you’ve gone over 98. 6 degrees F but not over 100.4 degrees F, don’t worry. That’s considered low-grade fever and can go untreated, unless accompanied by troubling symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache, chills, joint pains, neck stiffness, night sweats or swollen lymph nodes.

Just increase the amount of liquids you’re drinking, especially water, because your body is probably just trying to cool itself by sweating.

Children, though, under 3 months of age with a temperature of 100.4 F (38.0 C) or greater should be immediately seen by a doctor.

Myth 4. Aspirin’s best for fever treatment. Never use aspirin to treat fever especially among children and adolescents because it poses a risk of Reye’s syndrome, a dangerous illness and will cause prolonged vomiting, confusion, liver failure and even coma. Any over-the-counter antipyretic (like ibuprofen) can relieve fever.

Myth 5. Sponge bath with alcohol is good for fever. Alcohol (isopropyl or ethyl) is a no-no. It may provide temporary relief because it cools the skin as it evaporates, but it is a bad idea. The alcohol fumes can be easily inhaled by both children and adults and may cause alcohol poisoning. Tepid water (85 F [30 C]) baths may help bring down a fever and never immerse someone in ice water.

Myth 6. Fever is contagious. The fever itself might not be contagious, but whatever’s causing it might be. You’re usually contagious a day before you feel terrible. Still, it is best to wait until your temperature is below 100 degrees F for 24 hours before returning to work.

Myth 7. All thermometers are accurate. Nowadays, digital thermometers are preferred than mercury thermometers because the latter can break and vaporized mercury is easily inhaled. But choosing the right thermometer would actually depend on who would use it. Ear thermometers are option for babies and older children but earwax or a curved ear canal can interfere with its accuracy. Oral thermometers are most accurate because they’re easiest to use correctly. Rectal temperatures provide the best readings for infants. If you plan to measure temperature both ways, better get separate thermometers and label which is which to use  for oral and rectal reading.

Of course, if you’re too bothered and cannot wait for two or three days for the fever to subside on its own, it is always, your option to immediately consult a doctor.

Web sources:

Fever in Adults

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