Signs and symptoms of Fever

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Anyone can develop fever at any stage of their life. However, some people with an underlying disease (immunocompromised, chemotherapy or transplant patients) or who have undergone surgical or endoscopic procedures, are more prone to suffer infections and present a greater risk of complications. In this respect, a detailed medical history is essential when diagnosing fever.

If you have fever, then you must take the following signs and symptoms into consideration:

Daytime and night-time fever thermometer

General characteristics of fever. Chills or shivering; fever pattern (at what time of day the fever appears) and duration (a few hours or several days).

Beer mug and cannabis

Medical background. Toxic habits (tobacco, alcohol, other recreational drugs), regular medicines, drug allergies, epidemiological background (visits to tropical countries), past illnesses (neoplasms, chemotherapy), patients who wear a urinary or central venous catheter, recent surgical interventions, endoscopic tests and vaccination status.

Walking person with lack of coordination, unsteady gait or ataxia

Generalised pain. Muscle pain (myalgia) is typical of viral diseases and may be accompanied by fever.

Increased intracranial pressure, headache and brain tumour growth

Headache. Headache is a common complaint of people with fever; however, if it is very intense and coincides with other symptoms such as a decreased level of consciousness and severe vomiting, then it could be due to a central nervous system infection.

Person vomiting in a toilet

Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms. When fever is the result of a visceral abdominal process it is usually accompanied by either continuous or fluctuating abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and may sometimes present with symptoms of yellow discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes (jaundice) and occasionally with changes in bowel movement frequency (diarrhoea or constipation).

Person with persistent cough

Respiratory symptoms. If the fever is caused by an upper respiratory tract process, then it usually presents with a runny nose, nasal congestion, dry cough and/or pain when swallowing (odynophagia). If it is due to a respiratory condition affecting the lower tract (acute bronchitis or pneumonia), then it tends to be accompanied by a productive cough and sometimes pleuritic chest pain (i.e., it worsens with breathing movements).

Standing person with abdominal pain

Urinary symptoms. Fever that presents with symptoms of discomfort while urinating, lower back pain or pelvic pain is generally the result of a urinary infection.

Central nervous system in pain

Neurological symptoms. Infections of the central nervous system are typically severe and produce a characteristic set of symptoms in addition to fever: intense headache, decreased level of consciousness, focal neurological deficit and even epileptic seizures. In the most severe cases, these infections are accompanied by small purple lesions which are mainly observed on the lower extremities.

Man with skin blemishes

Skin eruptions. Fever sometimes manifests with rash-like skin eruptions (reddish in colour and of varying extension), especially in children who often suffer from contagious viral infections. These infections mainly occur in unvaccinated (or partially vaccinated) patients (whether children or adults).

What is the first thing to do?

When someone feels hot and cold or has chills, the first thing to do is place a thermometer under their armpit and check their temperature. If it is higher than 37.7 °C, then they have fever. If it is less than this value but the symptoms mentioned above persist, remeasure their temperature after half an hour.

Substantiated information by:

Mar Ortega Romero

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018


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