Fever in Adults (cont.)
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Fever in Adults Causes
Illnesses caused by viruses are among the most frequent causes of fever in adults. Symptoms can include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, hoarseness, and muscle aches. Viruses also may cause diarrhea, vomiting, or an upset stomach.
For the most part, these viral illnesses will improve simply with time. Antibiotics will not treat a viral infection. Symptoms can be treated using decongestants and anti-fever medications bought over the counter. If diarrhea or vomiting occurs, then the person needs to be encouraged to drink fluids. Gatorade or sports drinks will help replace lost electrolytes. If fluids are not staying down, then medical care should be sought. Viral illnesses can last as long as one to two weeks.
The influenza virus is a major cause of death and serious illness in the elderly. Symptoms include headaches and muscle and joint aches, as well as the other common viral symptoms, including fever. Vaccines against seasonal influenza as well as H1N1 influenza are available. Also, antiviral medications can be administered to fight the influenza virus immediately after the symptoms start. This illness usually occurs during the winter.
Bacterial illnesses causing fever can affect almost any organ system in the body. They can be treated with antibiotics.
Fungal infections can affect any organ system. Often a physician can identify these infections through a physical examination. Sometimes further testing is required and in rare instances, fungal fevers may require a biopsy to diagnose the infection. An antifungal medication will usually treat the infection.
Animal exposure fever
Certain people who work with animals can be exposed to rare bacteria that can cause fevers. In addition to the fever, the person may have chills, headache, and muscle and joint aches. These bacteria can exist in livestock, in unpasteurized dairy products, and in the urine of infected animals.
Anyone who travels, especially outside the United States, may develop fever after exposure to various new foods, toxins, insects, or vaccine-preventable diseases.
The only vaccines required by the U.S. and other countries for travelers at this time are for yellow fever and meningitis; these requirements depend on when and where people travel. Childhood vaccines such as those against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and polio should be current prior to travel. Vaccines against hepatitis A, meningitis, and typhoid can be obtained before people travel to an area where exposure to those diseases is likely. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can advise people on the current vaccines that are recommended or required for travel to various countries.
When traveling, consumption of contaminated water, uncooked vegetables, or unpasteurized dairy products can cause a low-grade fever and traveler's diarrhea. Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), loperamide (Imodium), and certain antibiotics can help reduce symptoms but in some people may prolong the disease. The symptoms of abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, headache, and bloating should go away in three to six days. A fever higher than 101 F (38.3 C) or the presence of blood in the stool is an indication to go to a doctor immediately.
Insect bites are a common way that infections are spread in some countries. Malaria is a serious infection that can occur after a mosquito bite. The bitten person may have fevers that come and go every few days. A blood test must be done to make the diagnosis. In certain infected areas, a traveler can take medication to prevent malaria. Lyme disease is spread by the bite of a tick. This is common in areas of the U.S. where the deer tick is found. Any infection caused by an insect bite should be evaluated by a doctor.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/17/2015
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Fever of unknown origin (FUO) was defined in 1961 by Petersdorf and Beeson as the following: (1) a temperature greater than 38.3°C (101°F) on several occasions, (2) more than 3 weeks' duration of illness, and (3) failure to reach a diagnosis despite one week of inpatient investigation.