What is Acute Fever?
Acute Fever is a sudden increase in the temperature of the body and it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition and not a disease. Acute fever is the sudden development of an illness with a high fever. Acute Fever results as the body's response to a disease or infection. The infection could be bacterial or viral; and in response to this infection, the body increases the temperature of the blood, which we recognize as Fever. In order to identify the cause of Acute Fever, it is important to know or identify other signs and symptoms along with the fever.
Acute fever can develop in anyone, but it is more common in infants. Acute fever in adults can be transient and can subside without any complications. However, if someone has persistent acute fever then it needs immediate medical attention and treatment and should not be postponed, as it could be because of some serious underlying cause.
If children have acute fever, then it is a great cause for concern; especially in children who are between the ages of 3 months to 3 years. The common cause of acute fever in children is viral infection. Acute fever from bacterial infection is very rare.
Most of the times, acute fever is controllable; however, acute fever due to septicemia is a life-threatening condition and it needs immediate medical attention.
Treatment of acute fever depends on the underlying cause of the acute fever. The commonly used medicines for bringing down temperature in Acute Fever or any other fever include paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin.
Causes & Symptoms of Acute Fever
The primary cause of Acute Fever is an infection. Given below are some of the common infections, which cause acute fever and their symptoms:
Upper Respiratory Tract Infection as a Cause of Acute Fever
Some of the common Upper Respiratory Tract Infections include: Tonsillitis and acute sinusitis.
Symptoms other than Acute Fever for upper respiratory tract infection consists of:
- Nasal congestion.
- Runny nose.
- Cough (dry or with phlegm). if there is pus present then it indicates a bacterial infection.
- Voice changes, such as hoarseness.
- Burning/sore throat.
- Burning sensation in nose.
- Tired eyes.
- Burning eyes.
- Difficulty in breathing because of congestion.
- Feeling of heaviness in the head.
Lower Respiratory Tract Infection as a Cause of Acute Fever
Symptoms other than Acute Fever for lower respiratory tract infection are:
- Cough with mucus or dry cough.
- Breathlessness (dyspnea).
- Chest pain.
- If there is blood in the sputum then the patient needs immediate medical attention.
- Severe wheezing with other abnormal breathing sounds.
- Feeling of heaviness in the chest.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) as a Cause of Acute Fever
Symptoms other than Acute Fever in urinary tract infection include:
- Dark colored urine.
- Blood in urine (this is a serious condition and should not be ignored).
- Pain when passing urine.
- Burning sensation in urine.
- Change in frequency of urination, such as patient may be urinating frequently or very less.
- Pus in the urine (this is a serious condition and needs immediate medical attention).
- Urinary incontinence.
- Urinary retention (this may require surgical attention).
- Severe tenderness in the pelvic region.
Gastrointestinal Tract Infection as a Cause of Acute Fever
Symptoms other than Acute Fever for gastrointestinal tract infection are:
- Severe abdominal cramps.
- Foul smell in flatulence.
Skin Diseases as a Cause for Acute Fever
There are very few skin diseases, which can cause acute fever.
Symptoms along with acute fever in skin conditions include:
- Burning sensation at the affected region or in the entire body.
- Redness of the skin or changes in the skin color.
- Pain or tenderness in the affected region.
- Swelling or inflammation of the skin.
- Presence of blister or boil.
- Increase in the local temperature at the affected region.
- There may be abscess present.
- There may be frothing from the mouth. Patient may feel giddy and can be in shock in case of animal bite, insect sting, or contact with poisonous substance or any chemical substance.
Drug Induced Acute Fever
There are certain drugs, which can produce, mild to moderate fever and even acute fever as their side effects. There is no particular treatment for drug-induced fever as the acute fever subsides once the offending drug is stopped. Some of the medicines that can produce acute fever as their side effect are: Antiviral medicines, Antibiotics, Antifungal medicines, Anti-arrhythmic medicines, Anti-epileptic medicines, Narcotics, Chemotherapy, Amphetamines, Ecstasy and Cocaine. Sometimes antipsychotics and anesthetics can also increase the temperature of the body.
Other Infections & Medical Conditions as a Cause of Acute Fever
Other infections and medical conditions, which produce acute fever include: Encephalitis, meningitis, otitis media, endophthalmitis, cellulitis, impetigo, necrotizing fasciitis, dengue fever, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), chikungunya, appendicitis, hepatitis, liver abscess, pancreatic abscess, ovarian abscess, lung abscess, cholecystitis, pyelonephritis, diverticulitis, colitis, typhoid, pericarditis, septic arthritis, rheumatic fever, sexually transmitted diseases and acute hemorrhagic fever syndrome.
Acute Fever Caused by Hemorrhagic Syndromes
Acute hemorrhagic fever syndrome is a special condition, which includes the following: Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Ebola-Marburg viral disease, Yellow fever, Hantavirus infections, Rift Valley fever and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.
Miscellaneous Causes for Acute Fever include high metabolic rate, heat stroke, certain vaccinations and excessive alcohol consumption.
Causes of Acute Fever in Children
Causes of Acute Fever in children are: Infection, burns, pharyngitis, meningococcemia, pneumonia (viral, bacterial, mycoplasma), bacteremia, roseola, urinary tract infection, sinusitis, croup, rocky mountain spotted fever, varicella, otitis media, bronchitis, erythema infectiosum, parotitis, tonsillitis, viral encephalitis, cat scratch disease, measles, scarlet fever, injury/trauma, herpangina, Kawasaki disease, pertussis, bronchiolitis, vaccine reaction, upper meningitis (viral, bacterial), hand-foot-mouth syndrome, drug reaction, respiratory tract infection, lymphadenitis and viral illnesses.
Diagnosis of Acute Fever
The diagnosis of the cause of Acute Fever requires various types of investigations. First of all, patient's medical history is taken and physical exam of the patient is done, which includes palpation and auscultation. Depending on the patient's symptoms, different investigations are carried out, such as blood tests are done, which include hemogram, blood culture, ESR, smear for parasites and typhoid test (WIDAL). Complete urine analysis is also done. X-ray or CT scan of the chest and abdomen can be done to look at the internal organs. Lumbar puncture may be needed if the suspected cause is meningitis. All these tests are done to diagnose the cause of Acute Fever so that it could be treated.
Treatment for Acute Fever
Treatment for Acute Fever depends on its cause. Symptomatic treatment is done for majority of the cases of Acute Fever. In case of acute rheumatic fever, patient is told to rest until the inflammation subsides. Other than this, heart tonics are prescribed for the patient and daily heart check-up is done. Salts of salicylic acid help in relieving pain and fever. Antacids and anti-emetic drugs can also be prescribed to counter the side effects of medicines for treating acute fever.
Three main drugs are prescribed for treating fever including Acute Fever and these are:
Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is the preferred medicine to reduce the temperature of the body. Paracetamol is safer than other drugs and is especially safe to use in children. However, paracetamol is contraindicated in patients who have liver dysfunction.
Ibuprofen is an NSAID, which is prescribed to bring down the body temperature. However, it should only be used in patients above six months of age.
Aspirin is also used for bringing the fever down, especially in viral fevers, such as chickenpox, influenza, etc.
Other than using medicines to bring down acute fever, measures such as wearing loose cotton clothes, also can be undertaken to bring the temperature of the body down. Other than this, tepid water bath is an old time tested natural remedy to bring down body temperature. Cold water sponging is highly recommended in acute fever.