Fever is one of the signs of common flu. With fears of COVID-19 pandemic running high, a mild change in body temperature can make you feel jumpy. You need to know that fevers can be of various types. Acute spells of fever often cross 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Such instances call for needful medical attention without any delay. But, what do you do when your fever is not at an acutely high level – i.e., not more than 101 degrees F? What if your body temperature is only mildly high? Such milder increase in temperature is known as low grade fever. It becomes essential to know what needs to be done in case of such a low grade fever.
At normal circumstances, body temperature stands at 98.6 degrees F. But, this is not the case with all. Some may have a mildly lower body temperature and for some people the normal can be higher than 98.6 degrees. Several established agencies of medical research have assessed the range of normal temperatures. Based on evidences provided by such agencies, the normal temperature is found to vary between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. An increase in body temperature is essentially a good sign. It denotes that your system is fit enough to face risks of infections or sickness. When your body puts up a fight in your favor, it shows up as a fever – i.e., increase in body temperature.
Medical science has not clearly defined the phenomenon called low grade fever. Hence, this condition exists without a proper clinical benchmark of body temperature – i.e., as established to indicate an acute spell of fever. Also, there are no widely followed ranges of temperature in case of low range fever. Some clinical studies claim that temperatures ranging between 98.6 degrees and 100.4 degrees F are commonly labelled as low grade fevers. But, why zero-in 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit? It remains as a threshold temperature to qualify if someone has a fever.
What can trigger low grade fever?
It is easier to attribute a not-so intense sick condition as a trigger for low grade fevers. But, in reality this is far from true. Yes! The intensity of fever does not depend on how easily an infection spreads or how potent is the infecting agent – say, a bacterial strand or virus.
So, what is the reason for someone to experience a low grade fever? The answer rests in what we call as normal body temperature. Each of us has a different normal temperature; similarly, each of us does have our own fever-temperature. When your normal body temperature is less than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit – say 97 degrees, a common fever may only make it go up less than 100 degrees. This condition is often reported as low grade fever.
Apart from these, infections of virus are observed as a common trigger for a spell of low grade fever. In some people, infection in their urinary tract has been seen as a cause for such a fever. This condition is commonly triggered by infections of bacterial strands. This condition can be isolated as a urinary tract infection if you also experience pains during urinating, discoloration of urine, etc.
Infections in your respiratory tract can also lead to low grade fever. Blockages in the windpipe (trachea) due to bronchitis or pneumonia can also lead to a low grade fever. These conditions may last for a longer time; often accompanied by tremors and parched throat conditions. Common cold may show up as low grade fever; other signs include decreased appetite, coughs, soreness of throat, runny or blocked nasal pathways. Such attacks by virus may need a lot of rest as well as intake of a lot of liquids. As a low grade fever may be the best possible defense your body erects against an invasion, you can try to bear it till it ceases.
Teething among babies aged 5 to 8 months old may also cause a low grade fever. This is often experienced with frequent spells of crying as well as being in an irritated state of mind. This is more normal among infants. But, if the fever has a reading of more than 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit, you may need to consult a qualified child specialist as soon as possible.
A few drugs may also result in a mild increase in your body temperature. This is also termed as drug-induced fever (or, more plainly drug-fever). This may occur when you start a new medication plan; especially, in the first week of consuming new drugs. Some of the medications which are likely to trigger low grade fever are muscle relaxants such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, etc. and antibiotics like penicillin or cephalosporin. Antibiotics widely known to cause this condition belong to beta lactam genre of drugs. As soon as you start a new medication plan, you need to inform your treating doctor if you experience any discomforts.
Who is likely to be more affected by low grade fever?
The low grade fever is more common among the elderly. As you become old, your normal body temperature is likely to decrease by a few degrees. As your base temperature gets reduced, a fever may only show up as a low grade version of a “normal” fever. It is also a reason why younger people or children are less susceptible to low grade fever.
If an elder at your home has a condition resembling a low grade fever, what to do? The first, right step is to measure it. Not once; but quite frequently. You may be aware that your body temperature never stays the same during the course of a day – for both women and men. For women – especially during their menstrual cycles – variations in body temperature can be very high within a day. So, you cannot plainly tell the treating doctor that you had been having fever over the last 4 days or so. Instead, you need to take a reading of your temperature at multiple points in time. It is also a good practice to keep a log of your temperature readings.
Elderly people can make a visit to a clinic or doctor’s office only if it is truly needed. If you only have a mild increase of body temperature (and no other signs), you are advised to take a telehealth consultation or appointment. Elderly patients can be more proactive and can avoid stepping out of their homes. They can protect themselves from being needlessly exposed to risks of COVID-19. However, if elderly patients do have other signs – say, respiratory problems along with a bout of fever, it is highly recommended to have them treated in an urgent care facility or at an emergency room.
People living with autoimmune medical conditions – such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis – are known to have an increased level of body temperature. Among those with rheumatoid arthritis, it is quite common for them to have frequent spells of low grade fever. Your treating doctor may advise you to take a lot of fluids as well as take NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Some people with a swollen thyroid gland may also report frequent episodes of low grade fever. For them, it is often accompanied by weariness, pain in their muscles, etc. This medical condition is known as thyroiditis.
Those with cancers in lymph nodes may also have inexplicable spells of low grade fever. In such cases, you are likely to witness other symptoms such as enlargement of your lymph nodes, pain in your bones and joints, persistent weariness, etc. In some people with leukemia or lymphoma, symptoms such as respiratory problems, decrease in appetite, excessive sweating (especially during the night times), etc. are observed.
People living with anxieties or excessive stress may develop a condition called fever of the psychogenic genre. These fevers resemble a lot with low grade category. These are more pronounced among patients living with chronic muscular pains, tiredness, etc.
How to bring your body temperature back to a normal level?
If you live in a hot ambience or climate, anti-inflammatory drugs (for example – ibuprofen) can help cool down your body’s temperature. Another equally useful tip is to drink ample amounts of liquids or water. Frequent drinks can help your body to stay well-hydrated. In general, if your fever persists for more than 2 days, it is highly recommended to consult a qualified medical practitioner. Also, low grade fever can signify different conditions based on your age.
For babies aged 3 months or less, a mild increase in body temperature can mean a major or a relatively acute spell of infection. If the baby is showing signs of irritation or diarrhea accompanied by cough and / or cold, it is strongly recommended to take an appointment with a pediatric specialist. What if it is only a mild fever, but it persists for more than 2 days? In such cases also, you are advised to take your baby for a consultation with a child health specialist.
In children, if a low grade fever lasts for more than 2 days, you are advised to see a doctor. But, if your child is taking liquids or fluids, actively engaged in playful activities and is maintaining eye-contact with parents, presence of a mild fever is not a matter of serious concern. But, if your child is avoiding eye contact, suffering from a spell of diarrhea, appearing to be in an irritated frame of mind, etc. – you may need to have your baby checked by a trained child specialist.
If an increase in body temperature is less than 103 degrees Fahrenheit, it is usually not taken as a serious medical condition. However, if this condition persists for long, you are advised to see a qualified medical practitioner. Also, stay aware of a few other signs such as vomiting, weariness, respiratory problems, frequent headache, rashes on skin, being in a confused state of mind, muscular pains, etc.
Treatment of low grade fever
Low grade fever may often go off on its own. You may try a few over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. However, the best way to treat them is to wait for them to get away. The condition can be best treated without medications through a lot of rest and by drinking a lot of water or fluids. Among OTC drugs, you can consider taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen, etc. If you child is having a low grade fever, you may try using acetaminophen or its equivalents. However, it is not a good practice to administer aspirin to children aged less than 12 years – especially, if the child is coming off from a flu-type of syndrome. Also, if you are treating your child with naproxen, you need to talk to a doctor or a child specialist prior to starting a course.
For younger adults or teenagers, it is generally safe to treat low grade fever with medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen or naproxen.
In sum, you may treat low grade fever with OTC drugs in the first 2 days of its incidence. But if the fever lasts more than 2 days, it is high time to see a doctor. Also, it becomes a relatively serious condition if low grade fever shows up along with other signs such as pain in chest, soreness of throat, episodes of vomiting, etc.