Abnormalities in body temperature can pose problems to human health. Temperatures lower or higher than the normal body temperature can cause harm to brain and body cells if not treated or addressed properly. Anything that falls below normal body temperature is called hypothermia, where a person feels cold and clammy. A temperature higher than the normal range is called hyperthermia, where a person experiences an elevation or rise in body heat. Hyperthermia can cause pyrexia—the condition of having a fever—if the elevation in temperature progresses and is not managed properly. Extremes in both temperature changes can lead to irreversible effects on a person’s physical health and wellness.
Though both hypothermia and hyperthermia can happen to any person, the most common temperature problem that leads to health complications is pyrexia due to unresolved hyperthermia, especially in children. This is because fevers are more difficult to manage than the feeling of cold.
Fever is a manifestation of an existing health problem that should be corrected or treated, like a viral or bacterial infection. Though it is important to control the fever, the only sure way to resolve it is to treat the underlying illness. Fever can be treated or managed in several conventional and alternative ways.
Conventional fever management:
- Apply cool or cold compress. A cold compress can be done in different ways. If a person is having an average-grade fever, a cool compress can be done by dampening a clean cloth with cold water and dabbing it on the person’s pulse points to absorb heat from the body. The cloth should be dampened again in the cold water once it turns warm and reapplied on the person. For high-grade fevers that are worrisome, it would be better to use an ice-pack or ice bottle to quickly cool the person down. The ice-pack should be covered with a clean towel upon application because direct skin contact may cause blotching or even bruising. A cold compress should be continuously applied and reapplied until the temperature finally drops back to the normal range.
- Increase water or fluid intake. Fever causes fluids in the body to evaporate. This is an adaptive process where the heat is lessened by letting the fluids absorb the heat and then release it from the body through evaporation. If this process continues, a person may become severely dehydrated and the heat may no longer be exhausted from the body. By increasing the person’s fluid intake, dehydration is prevented and the adaptive mechanism of evaporation will continue to work and help with heat loss.
- Give paracetamol or ibuprofen. Another quick way to relieve fever is by giving anti-pyretic (anti-pyrexia or anti-fever) over-the-counter medications like paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen. These medical drugs work on the body by directly influencing the hypothalamus, which is the section of the brain that regulates body temperature, to lower or decrease the production of temperature-stimulating hormones.
- Encourage rest. Rest is important for a person experiencing fever. Resting reduces the body’s metabolic activities, which can cause the body temperature to rise. Rest is also helpful in allowing the body to heal and recover from the physical stress caused by the fever.
Alternative or complementary fever treatments:
- Use herbs. Several herbs can be used to help regulate and lower the body’s temperature. Herbs that help with fever include elderflower tea and garlic. Both of these herbs help a person to heal from fever because of their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that help fight the cause of the illness and support the body in recovering.
- Encourage vitamin intake. Certain vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin C are helpful in managing and preventing fever-causing infections. These vitamins have anti-oxidant properties that aid in cell regeneration, resistance, and healing.
These fever management interventions should be supplemented by regular monitoring of the body temperature. The only way to ensure that your interventions are working or taking effect is to take the person’s body temperature every hour. If the person’s temperature still remains high after your interventions, medical attention would be required to promptly control and treat the problem.