Is Fever Contagious?
Visiting a friend or family member who has a fever can often lead one to wonder, is fever contagious? This is a common question among both adults as well as children, which is understandable! It seems that in many circumstances we find that we can run a fever after exposure to someone who was also running a fever. This can create the impression that a fever is contagious. This, however, is not entirely true.
Strictly speaking, a fever itself is not contagious. A fever is a symptom of an underlying illness, usually a bacterial or viral infection. Whatever is causing the infection is likely to be contagious; however fever as a symptom is not. A fever is merely the body’s way of making itself less appealing to the infectious organisms by hiking up the temperature by several degrees.
What illnesses are likely to cause a fever?
Viruses are extremely common culprits behind a fever. Viruses are infectious agents made up of DNA or RNA and protein. They can only reproduce within a living host and can cause a wealth of different symptoms, depending on the type of virus. The common cold is a virus that typically causes a person to run a fever, have a congested or runny nose, a sore throat or cough, and practically feel achy all over. The flu is also caused by a virus and often produces symptoms similar to a cold but may also be accompanied by severely achy joints, a headache, nausea and/or vomiting, or diarrhea. Chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rubella are other common viral infections that can result in a fever, although most people are vaccinated against these illnesses from a young age.
Bacterial infections are more likely to cause a fever than viral infections, however it can be very difficult to tell the difference—even for a doctor. Bacterial infections are composed of only one cell and may appear as a ball, spiral, or rod shape under the microscope. The body is constantly playing host to a number of bacteria both inside and outside of the body, and many of them are actually beneficial to several processes within the body, particularly the digestive process. There are instances, however, when too much bacteria is allowed to grow in a concentrated area or when bacteria that normally resides in one portion of the body find its way into a different area. Whereas viral infections must simply run their course, bacterial infections usually continue to produce symptoms until antibiotics are administered.
How can a fever be reduced or treated?
In most cases, a fever should be allowed to run its course. It is a natural occurrence and is often times the most effective way to get rid of an infection. Fevers can be suppressed using over the counter medications, however the constant suppression of a fever throughout an illness could cause the illness to last longer than if the fever had been allowed to run its course. This is especially true with viral infections. Bacterial infections can be a bit more invasive and persistent than a viral infection, and therefore may require a prescription antibiotic in order to kill off the infection. When a fever has become very high, say over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and remains high for a long period of time, it could actually become dangerous and cause brain cells to die. In this case, it is recommended to try to bring the fever down as soon as possible, especially in young children. The best way to naturally reduce a fever is to take a lukewarm (not cold!) bath. This will force the tissues within the body to cool down. Never add alcohol to a bath or rub alcohol onto one’s skin in an attempt to relieve a fever. This could cause the body to cool too rapidly and possibly result in shock. If a high fever becomes persistent, it is recommended to phone the doctor and find out if it would be necessary to come in for an exam.
Now that you are educated about fevers, the next time someone asks you Is fever contagious? You can reply with confidence!