Fever Definition

An elevation of body temperature above the normal range. Body temperature varies over the course of a circadian cycle, roughly equivalent to 24 hours, to accommodate the body’s metabolic needs.

Body temperature is lowest just before waking in the morning and highest in the late afternoon or early evening, times that typically correlate with the body’s lowest and highest expenditures of energy. The normal range of body temperature is 97.6ºF to 99.6ºF, with the mean of 98.6ºF generally perceived as the standard normal temperature.

Health-care providers generally view a body temperature of 100ºF or higher as a fever.

The body’s immune response raises body temperature as a mechanism for fighting infection. Elevated body temperature increases the body’s metabolism, which enhances the immune system’s ability to contain and eradicate the pathogens responsible for infection.

Each degree of elevation in body temperature accelerates metabolism by 10 to 15 percent. The various types of white blood cells (leukocytes) release interleukinsprostaglandinstumor necrosis factors (tnfs), and other biochemicals (chemokines) that temporarily reset the body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms.

Reduce Fever and Medical Advice

Though common practice is to attempt to lower a fever through measures such as cool baths and acetaminophen or other medications, doctors now believe fever does not ordinarily require treatment.

To the contrary, recent research shows that the immune response and most antibiotic medications work more effectively when body temperature is elevated. Doctors recommend treating fever only when there is risk for febrile seizures, when the person cannot eat or drink enough to meet the body’s metabolic needs, or when the fever creates discomfort.

Medications to treat other symptoms due to the infection, such as headache, also reduce fever.

See also ANALGESIC MEDICATIONS; HEAT EXHAUSTION; HEAT STROKE; LEUKOCYTENONSTEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDS)PATHOGEN.

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