A viral fever is the result of a viral infection. The fever in itself is not an illness, but it’s the body’s immune system producing antibodies to fend off infection and prevent the virus from colonising human cells. This causes the core body temperature to rise beyond the set point, which is approximately 37° Celsius or 98.6° Fahrenheit.
The severity of viral fever depends on the type of infection. A viral fever caused by a common cold is usually mild, and you can treat it with over-the-counter medications or cold compresses. Infections like dengue or viral pneumonia can lead to a high fever that may require enhanced medical care.
- Why does a viral infection cause fever?
- Viral fever – causes
- Symptoms of viral fever
- Treatment for viral fever
Why does a viral infection cause fever?
The hypothalamus is a structure located in the brain and is responsible for regulating your body temperature body temperature and some other functions. During an infection, immunological mediators are secreted by the white blood cells – an integral part of your body’s immune system. These mediators trigger the temperature-regulating centre of the hypothalamus. Consequently, the body’s core temperature rises.
Viral fever – causes
Individuals of any age can contract a viral infection and subsequent fever. . Here are the likely reasons for viral fever development:
- Viral infections due to close contact
You can contract a viral fever infection if you come in close contact with an already infected person. The infected person may forcefully disperse virus-containing droplets in the air through a cough or sneeze. If you happen to inhale the virus particles, the smaller particles can penetrate the lower respiratory tract, causing an infection. The common cold and flu are contagious viral infections that can lead to mild fever.
- Viral infections due to bites
Usually, insects and animals are hosts for a multitude of pathogens. Mosquitoes are carriers of some of the most severe-infection-causing viruses. They can transmit infections like dengue, chikungunya, etc. Animals like stray dogs can be hosts of lyssaviruses. When an infected animal bites you, the virus is transmitted through the animal’s saliva, resulting in rabies and a subsequent fever.
- Viral infections due to ingestion
Food can act as carriers for viruses such as the human Norovirus, hepatitis A, and the human Rotavirus. Food placed in unsanitary conditions, raw foods, and excessive handling of food are a few reasons for foodborne infections. Consuming unfiltered water can put you at risk since it may contain faeces and viruses like adenovirus, astrovirus, and hepatitis A, among others.
- Viral infections due to exchange of bodily fluid
Body fluids such as blood, saliva, vaginal secretions, semen, and wound discharge are made up of cells that can get infected with a virus. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be present in blood, saliva, breast milk, etc. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can target blood, semen, vaginal fluids, cerebrospinal fluids, etc. Needle stick injuries from unclean needles, sexual intercourse, or unsanitary blood transfusions can cause infection to spread from one individual to another.
Symptoms of viral fever
When the thermal balance point in your body is disrupted, skin vasoconstriction can prevent heat loss and cause chills. To get the heat back, the muscles in the body contract. Muscle contractions can cause muscle and joint pain. Fever is also characterised by symptoms like sweating, headaches, appetite loss, and more.
Treatment for viral fever
In most cases, a viral fever can be treated at home. You can alleviate the fever symptoms in these ways:
- You can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- You must replenish lost fluids by drinking plenty of water or electrolyte-containing fluids.
- You can lower your body temperature by taking a lukewarm bath.
If the body temperature rises beyond 39°C, you can develop a high-grade fever. In such cases, you must seek professional medical care to prevent possible hyperthermia. In hyperthermia, the body’s temperature rises beyond normal levels.
Which virus causes viral fever?
Note that there is no one virus that causes viral fever. Viral fever is a symptom of a viral infection. Regardless of the virus type, the immediate response after a virus enters the body is the production of antibodies to kill the virus. This elevates the body temperature and results in a fever.
When does viral fever mostly occur?
Different viral infections flourish in different seasons. Studies show that some viral infections (e.g., influenza) are more prevalent in low temperature or humid areas. Colder weather can increase transmission of viruses through air-borne droplets.
Can bacterial infection cause fever?
Yes. During a bacterial infection, the immune system follows similar protocols to that of a viral infection response, wherein the body’s core temperature rises.
I had a viral fever infection two months back. Can I get infected again?
Yes, you can. Fever can reappear within weeks to a month after recovery. This is because you cannot control which viruses are present around you. You may encounter an infected person in public or enclosed spaces.