The body temperature is, as the name suggests, the temperature of a human or animal body. Normally this should be between 35.8°C and 37.2°C in humans. But what if the body temperature is higher? What causes can this have and how can increased temperature be treated? These questions are answered below.
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What is elevated temperature?
First of all, it must be defined when a person suffers from increased temperature and when it begins to degenerate into fever. We speak of an increased temperature when the body temperature has not yet exceeded 38.0°C. This is the time when the body temperature is increased.
If the temperature is higher, one speaks of fever, high fever or very high fever. If the body temperature is 42°C, there is a risk of circulatory failure and only 0.6°C more leads to death in the human body (from 42°C irreversible protein coagulation).
An elevated temperature is not a disease in itself, but merely a symptom of a disease. In most cases, an infection is the cause of the increased temperature. It does not matter whether it is an infection caused by bacteria or viruses.
However, there are also cases where an infection is not the cause of elevated body temperature. If you suffer from sunstroke or heat stroke, your body temperature also rises.
Fluid deficiency or increased metabolic activity can also be a cause. After an operation, the body temperature can also rise, as the body has to adapt to the changes in the interior of the body caused by the operation, for example.
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Diseases with this symptom
Diagnosis & History
The typical and generally known “Put your hand on your forehead” in no way says anything about whether an increased temperature is actually present.
In order to obtain an accurate diagnosis, the exact body temperature must be measured using a clinical thermometer. This can best be done under the armpits, in the mouth or rectally. It is important to make sure that the body temperature varies according to the measuring point.
The most accurate is the rectal measurement and the most inaccurate is the measurement under the armpits, although this is the most popular method. It is also worth mentioning that the body temperature naturally fluctuates between one and two degrees Celsius during the day. The body temperature is lowest at night and highest in the afternoon.
However, it is often the case that in sick people, the body temperature rises especially in the evening. A symptom of the rise in body temperature is, for example, freezing or chills. As soon as the elevated temperature drops, the person starts sweating so that the body can cool down (perspiration).
In order to find the cause of the increased body temperature, however, a doctor’s visit is required.
An elevated temperature can lead to a further increase in body temperature in children and adults, resulting in mild to severe complications.
The heartbeat increases by about 10 beats per minute with each degree of fever temperature increase. If a high fever occurs in the further course of the disease, a racing heart can develop very quickly. As a result, the respiratory rate also increases. Also chills, caused by an extreme muscle contraction, occur as a complication in very high fever. Cold hands and feet due to a shift in the body’s own temperature regulation can often be observed during this process. This also applies in the same context to a reduced capillary refill. This can be recognized by the fact that whitish impressions do not recede directly due to pressure on the skin.
Lack of fluid due to excessive sweating all over the body and drinking too little can also lead to dehydration (lack of fluid).
Very high fever can lead to fever cramps with loss of consciousness and sudden muscle cramps, especially in children. If the fever in adults rises above 41 degrees, this can lead to a denaturation of the cell proteins. If such a high fever is not reduced, there is a risk of fatal circulatory failure. If high fever occurs at intervals, a drop in fever can lead to circulatory instability combined with dizziness when getting up and possibly also the risk of collapse. This also applies if the fever drops quickly.
Central nervous complications include perceptual disturbances, physical restlessness and confusion. The latter symptoms can develop into hallucinations. This is referred to as fever madness, also known as fever delirium.
When should you see a doctor?
Increased temperature and still no fever: Is that already a reason to go to the doctor? Does any upward temperature deviation need to be treated immediately?
Basically it has to be said that healthy people, i.e. people without a chronic illness, do not have to consult a doctor just because of an elevated temperature. An elevated body temperature even has a medical meaning: At an elevated temperature the pathogens of infections are eliminated more effectively. However, when the temperature is raised and suppressed, infectious diseases have a longer course. If you go to your doctor anyway, you risk having your doctor prescribe a temperature-reducing medication. Other doctors, on the other hand, only lower an elevated temperature if the patient suffers from other symptoms such as headaches.
Patients with organ damage or other chronic illnesses better go to the doctor at an elevated temperature. For them, an increase in temperature is a physical strain that should be avoided as far as possible.
Anyone who has an elevated temperature over a longer period of time, i.e. more than two days, or who has been experiencing it for a longer period of time, should in any case consult their general practitioner. This is all the more true when other symptoms such as headaches, diarrhoea or a purulent cough occur. Here a more serious illness, which absolutely needs treatment, can hide behind the increased temperature.