A fever is a temporary increase from the body’s natural average temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Fever typically occurs when the human body is fighting off an infection like the cold or flu. Symptoms include muscle aches, sweating, and chills. People who have fevers are also at higher risk of developing dehydration.
Fever is an important component of the body’s natural healing process. When you have a fever, your body tries to cool down naturally by sweating.
Does sweating mean the fever is breaking? Yes, in general, sweating is an indication that your body is slowly recovering. Read on for more about how sweating affects fever, how you can support healing, and when to see a doctor.
In adults, a fever below 103 degrees Fahrenheit is typically an uncomfortable condition, but it isn’t necessarily life-threatening. A temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit is known as a high fever and can cause cognitive side effects. A fever this high, or a lower fever that doesn’t clear up in 2-3 days, may be life-threatening. Normal body temperature can vary from person to person, but a fever is typically characterized as a core temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fever often starts in the hypothalamus — a region in the brain near the pituitary gland that is responsible for body temperature regulation and hormone production. This part of the brain is often called the “thermostat” since it directly impacts body temperature. When you have an infection, the hypothalamus signals an immune response that raises the set point of your body temperature.
During this process, white blood cells produce a chemical known as Interleukin-1 (IL-1) when they encounter a virus. This chemical is a pyrogen, a substance that triggers an increase in body temperature when it is released into the bloodstream. Not only does IL-1 increase the body’s temperature to kill bacteria and viruses, it also signals T-cells in the immune system to help fight off the infection.
Causes of a Fever
Normal fluctuations in body temperature can vary by one or two degrees without any side effects. In fact, body temperature naturally fluctuates throughout the day. Body temperature tends to be lower in the morning and higher in the evening. When your body temperature increases too much, it may be a sign of a medical condition or infection.
Here are the main fever causes:
- Viral infections or bacterial infections
- Inflammatory medical conditions, including Rheumatoid arthritis
- Malignant tumors
- Certain medications including high blood pressure medications
- Certain immunizations for infectious diseases including measles and DTaP
- Heat exhaustion
Symptoms of a Fever
Fever symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause. Most fevers clear up in a couple days on their own, but some may last longer depending on the underlying cause. People who take medications or have a medical condition that increases the risk of fever may experience fever more often than others.
Here are the main fever symptoms:
- Sweating and night sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Febrile seizures — convulsions in infants caused by high body temperatures
- Chest pain
- Muscle aches
- Tiredness, soreness, weakness
While most symptoms of fever are not life-threatening, dehydration can cause serious health problems. Dehydration is a condition where the body loses fluids and electrolytes it needs to function properly.
To avoid dehydration when you have a fever, drink plenty of fluids. When you sweat to fight a fever, you lose electrolytes that can’t be replaced by plain drinking water. Instead, look for an oral rehydration solution that contains a precise ratio of sodium and glucose such as DripDrop ORS.
Does Sweating Mean a Fever Is Breaking?
Your body’s normal temperature increases when you’re trying to fight an infection. As your body temperature rises, you may experience chills and shivering. Once your body gets a handle on the infection, it starts to cool itself down to a normal temperature through sweat. So, does sweating mean a fever is breaking? Yes and no. In the short term, sweating is an indication that your fever and the resulting high temperature readings are lowering. However, that doesn’t mean that the fever can’t come back if the underlying cause isn’t addressed.
For example, if you take a certain medication that causes fever, you may experience fever symptoms every time you take that medication. Changing medications or altering the dose may help address the frequency of fever symptoms. In the case of an infection, if your immune system doesn’t beat the bug completely, you may experience fever symptoms more than once as your body tries to rid itself of the virus or bacteria.
When To See a Doctor
You do not need to see a doctor every time you have a fever. In many cases, fever can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and Acetaminophen. These medications help to block prostaglandins, compounds in the body that trigger temperature increases.
Never give Aspirin to children under the age of 18 as it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a dangerous liver disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips on fever-reducing medications that you can give to children.
In children, small changes in body temperature may indicate a serious underlying issue. For a child, a fever is anything higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit using a rectal thermometer, above 99 degrees Fahrenheit when the thermometer is placed in the armpit, and above 100 degrees Fahrenheit using an oral thermometer.
There are some instances where it's vital to get medical help in response to a fever. Infants and children tend to react poorly to fevers. To get the most accurate temperature reading on a young child, it’s best to take their rectal temperature.
Here’s when you should take your infant to the doctor if they have a fever:
- If your infant is younger than three months old and has a fever higher than 100.4°F.
- If your infant is 3-24 months old and has a fever up to 102°F.
- Any time your infant has a fever of 102°F and symptoms including lethargy and irritability.
- If your infant’s fever is combined with any other serious cold and flu symptoms such as abdominal pain or chest pain.
For older children, it’s a good idea to visit a healthcare clinic if your child has a fever and has been sitting in a hot car for a long period of time. They may be suffering from a heat-related illness like heat exhaustion. If your child is vomiting, has a fever for more than three days, or has mental symptoms such as confusion and irritability, call your pediatrician.
For adults, it’s important to seek medical attention if you have a fever higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to see a doctor if you have symptoms including severe headache, skin rash, stiff neck, shortness of breath, confusion, or seizures in addition to fever. Some of these symptoms may be an indication of dehydration.
Fever and Dehydration
When you have a fever, you may experience sweating that can result in fluid loss and lead to dehydration. Sweat contains vital electrolytes that help support normal cellular functions including muscle contractions.
Without enough electrolytes you may experience symptoms of dehydration, including headache, dizziness, and confusion. You may also feel fatigued and thirsty, along with experiencing a rapid heartbeat and decreased frequency of urination.
As dehydration sets in, your body becomes unable to cool itself down through sweat because it doesn’t have enough fluids. This causes your body temperature to increase, resulting in the recurrence of a fever. If the fluid and electrolyte loss is not addressed, your fever may rise to dangerous levels.
This is known as hyperthermia, a condition where the core temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It occurs when the body’s normal heat-regulating mechanisms don’t function properly. Dehydration, age, and medical conditions can all increase the risk of developing hyperthermia. Left untreated, hyperthermia can cause serious problems, including cellular death, organ failure, and death.
Fortunately, you can avoid dehydration when you have a fever by making sure to drink plenty of electrolytes and fluids. When your body is properly hydrated, it is more efficient at regulating your temperature. Proper hydration and addressing electrolyte and fluid loss when sweating can encourage a quicker recovery.
Use DripDrop ORS To Prevent Dehydration Caused by Fever
One of the most serious side effects of fever is dehydration, especially in children. As your fever breaks and your body sweats to cool you down, you lose electrolytes. In addition, many infections that cause fever result in other symptoms — like vomiting and diarrhea — that can further increase the risk of dehydration.
To prevent dehydration when you have a fever, reach for an oral rehydration solution. DripDrop ORS is easy to add to a glass of water. If you have a chill, you can also drink it hot with apple cider and honey lemon ginger flavors. Try it with our convenient trial and become a subscriber when you decide to add it to your permanent dehydration protocol.