Monday, April 23, 2012

A Fascination with Fevers

L had a fever this week.  It started off the regular way, nothing dramatic.  Slowly, it ramped higher.  By the third day he was hitting 104, but I wasn’t too concerned.  M had hit 106 last month, and after lots of stress, xrays, and blood work, they sent us home with a prescription for chicken soup. 

So this month, when L’s fever hit its stride, I knew not to sweat it (ha, get it…a pun).  There was the brief moment of sheer panic on Day 5, when the thermometer read 107, but after a careful assessment of the situation , I decided the extreme temp was surely due to the thermal pjs and king size blanket he was wrapped in.  A quick adjustment to his surroundings brought the temp down to a manageable 105.8.

By Day 6, when his fever had climbed back up to 104 again, I decided to bite the bullet and take him to be seen.  I say “bite the bullet”, because half the time, I end up wasting both the doctor’s and my time with an unnecessary visit.

But this time my mother’s intuition was right on.  Flu!  When they came back with the positive swab results, I threw my hands up into the air and gave a hearty “Yessss!  He’s got the flu!!!”  It felt good to finally know my $125 was not being wasted on, “everything looks good, just take him home and give him plenty of fluids.”

One prescription of Tamiflu later (because the pneumococcal virus loves this kid’s lungs), and he was back at home gloating about not having to go to school for a few more days.

It doesn’t take much to get my mind going, and this fever triggered the NEED for me to know everything there is to know about fevers.  It’s not like this is the first high fever we’ve ever experienced.  My kids get high fevers annually.  But I decided that now was the time to get to the bottom of this mysterious phenomenon.

And here’s where the story becomes totally fascinating.

Picture this:  your brain has a thermostat in it, and it’s set to 98.6.  When the brain realizes there is an infection going on, it raises the set point, causing the temperature to climb higher.  That’s the time when you feel cold and want to cover up.  Once the battle is won and the set point gets dropped back down to 98.6, the body does its best to cool off quickly…and that’s why we sweat when the fever breaks!  I know, it rocked my world too.

“But what’s the purpose of raising the body temperature?” you may ask (ok, so I’m the only one who asked).  Is the brain trying to burn those little germs to a crisp?  That’s debatable.  What’s not debatable is that the increase in temperature allows the white blood cells to be fruitful and multiply.  It also allows those little fighters to travel through your body faster!

Taking fever reducers impedes this neat little system, so remember that the next time you take your Tylenol.  That’s why doctors advise you to take your fever reducer only if you’re feeling cruddy.  It’s a trade-off.

While I was surfing around, totally engrossed by this topic, I found a site that said childhood fevers, particularly those that are high, help create a stronger constitution in adulthood.  They prime the body to respond efficiently and effectively in adulthood.  Which is why you don’t usually see adults with high fevers.  And when it does happen, it’s often symptomatic of something far more serious than a virus.

I couldn’t find the link to that last bit of trivia, so it’s basically unfounded at this point.  But I don’t care.  I’m going to run with it.  And then I’m going to proceed to misdiagnose myself with a deadly disease next time I have a high fever.  Because that’s how I roll.

Am I the only one who TOTALLY wants to become a doctor now?


Jadzia@Toddlerisms said...

That last part is really interesting. And now I'm trying to remember every high fever I ever had during childhood!

Always Home and Uncool said...

You're right. I know I didn't know about the benefits of fever and how Tylenol and stuff like that should only be used sparingly until my doc told me with the kids.