Fever is a natural defense mechanism against illness. Sometimes a fever can reach high temperatures: up to 42, 43 or 44 degrees. In these cases, fever can become dangerous. But to what extent is fever fatal and when should you call the doctor? Children can handle fever better than adults. This does not mean that the body temperature in children should be high. And this is different for babies up to 3 months old: their body temperature should certainly not become too high.
What is fever?
The brain contains the body’s thermostat: body temperature is regulated from the brain. The normal average body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius. An increase is when the body temperature is between 37.5 and 38 degrees. Above 38 degrees there is a fever.
Fever occurs with an infectious disease caused by, for example, a virus or bacteria, or with an inflammatory reaction. Because micro-organisms enter the body or an inflammatory reaction occurs somewhere, the body takes action to limit and repair the damage. This requires certain substances that work better at a slightly higher body temperature. The thermostat in the brain is therefore turned up and a fever occurs. In addition, fever has another useful function: many micro-organisms, but also cancer cells, for example, cannot withstand a higher ambient temperature, weaken and are therefore easier to eliminate.
Children are more resistant to fever
In general, children can cope with high fever better than adults. A child can be hangry and it is often worrying for parents to see that their child has a fever, but in most cases a fever does not cause any harm and is even useful in combating the infection. If we were to bring the fever down, the body would not be able to sufficiently fight the infection. A child must drink enough water and be given the opportunity to lose excess heat. Therefore, do not dress a child too warmly and do not overdress him or her. Older children can easily indicate whether they are hot or cold.
For children under three months, a body temperature of 38 degrees is the maximum. Above 38 degrees, a young baby has difficulty dissipating heat. Babies under three months of age should therefore always be seen by a doctor if they have a fever higher than 38 degrees.
Children up to the age of two often become ill and often develop a fever. This is because young children have not yet built up resistance and are therefore extra sensitive to viruses and bacteria. By properly treating any flu or cold, resistance is optimally built up. It is actually a good thing that young children are often ill. Children who grew up in a sterile environment during their young lives are much more likely to develop serious illnesses or chronic diseases later on.
42 degree fever
In case of fever due to an infection, the body temperature is raised via the brain and kept within certain standards. In general, the body temperature will not rise above 41 to 42 degrees fever. The internal thermostat takes care of this.
Be sure to contact a doctor in the following cases :
- In case of drowsiness
- For shortness of breath
- Drinking too little
- With recurring fever
Don’t wait too long for:
- Fever in combination with heart disease, lung disease or diabetes
- A serious illness or reduced resistance
43 or 44 degrees is dangerous
The internal thermostat keeps the body temperature at a maximum of 42 degrees. Sometimes this thermostat is disrupted and the body temperature rises. people often talk about hyperthermia. This can occur, for example, due to heatstroke or being locked in a closed car in the full sun. But hyperthermia can also occur with certain infectious diseases, such as tetanus. Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacterium that we mainly encounter in soil and street waste.
Hyperthermia can be fatal. If action is not taken quickly, convulsions, unconsciousness, disturbed breathing and ultimately sometimes cardiac arrest occur. Hyperthermia is treated with medications that quickly lower body temperature. So if a fever of 43 or 44 degrees is measured, it is important to immediately notify a doctor or call the emergency number.
By the way, your brain does not ‘cook’ or ‘burn’ as is often thought. No steam comes out of the ears, but the process is similar to meat being fried. From 43 degrees Celsius, the proteins in the brain begin to unfold. In principle, this process can still be repaired, but not later. When unconsciousness occurs and later breathing problems, the process is already well underway. Often there is already a fever of 44 degrees or hyperthermia. Sometimes the patient can be saved, but damage to the brain remains.
Also pay attention to the use of the thermometer : sometimes it is broken and indicates an incorrect body temperature or is used incorrectly. A thermometer that is used anally gives the best results. An ear thermometer is an excellent second choice, but may show slightly more deviation.