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This article is about the medical condition. For other uses, see Fever (disambiguation).

An analog medical thermometer showing a temperature of

38.7 °C or 101.7 °F
ICD-10 R50.
ICD-9 780.6
DiseasesDB 18924
eMedicine med/785
MeSH D005334

Fever (also known as pyrexia or controlled hyperthermia[1]) is a common medical sign

characterized by an elevation of temperature above the normal range of 36.5–37.5 °C
(98–100 °F) due to an increase in the body temperature regulatory set-point.[2] This
increase in set-point triggers increased muscle tone and shivering.

As a person's temperature increases there is generally a feeling of cold despite an

increasing body temperature. Once the new temperature is reached there is a feeling of
warmth. A fever is one of the body's immune responses which attempts to neutralize a
bacterial or viral infection. A fever can be caused by many different conditions ranging
from benign to potentially serious. With the exception of high-grade fever, treatment is
often not needed, however ibuprofen is effective at lowering the temperature.

Fever differs from uncontrolled hyperthermia[1], usually just referred to as hyperthermia,

in that hyperthermia is an increase in body temperature over the body's thermoregulatory
set-point, due to excessive heat production and/or insufficient thermoregulation.

• 1 Definition
o 1.1 Types
o 1.2 Hyperpyrexia
o 1.3 Hyperthermia
• 2 Signs and symptoms
• 3 Differential diagnosis
o 3.1 Diseases called "fever"
• 4 Pathophysiology
o 4.1 Pyrogens
o 4.2 PGE2 release
o 4.3 Hypothalamus
o 4.4 Usefulness
• 5 Management
o 5.1 Medications
• 6 Etymology
• 7 In other animals
• 8 References
• 9 Further reading

• 10 External links

[edit] Definition
Temperature Classification
Core (rectal, esophageal, etc.)
Normal 36.5–37.5 °C (98–100 °F)[3]
Hypothermia <35.0 °C (95.0 °F)[4]
Fever >37.5–38.3 °C (100–101 °F)[1][5]
Hyperthermia >37.5–38.3 °C (100–101 °F)[1][5]
Hyperpyrexia >40.0–41.5 °C (104–107 °F)[6][7]

A wide range for normal temperatures have been found.[5] Fever is generally agreed to be
present if:

• Temperature in the anus (rectum/rectal) is at or over 37.5–38.3 °C (100–101 °F)[1]


• Temperature in the mouth (oral) is at or over 37.7 °C (99.9 °F)[8]

• Temperature under the arm (axillary) or in the ear (otic) is at or over 37.2 °C
(99.0 °F)

In healthy adult men and women the range for oral temperature is 33.2–38.2 °C (92–
101 °F), for rectal it is 34.4–37.8 °C (94–100 °F), for tympanic membrane it is 35.4–
37.8 °C (96–100 °F) and for axillary it is 35.5–37.0 °C (96–99 °F).[9]

People develop higher temperatures with activities but this is not considered a fever as
the set-point is normal. Elderly people have a decreased ability to generate body heat, so
even a low-grade temperature may represent a serious underlying illness.

[edit] Types

The pattern of temperature changes may occasionally hint at the diagnosis:

• Intermittent fever: Elevated temperature is present only for some hours of the day
and becomes normal for remaining hours, e.g. malaria, kala-azar, pyaemia, or
septicemia. In malaria, there may be a fever with a periodicity of 24 hours
(quotidian), 48 hours (tertian fever), or 72 hours (quartan fever, indicating
Plasmodium malariae). These patterns may be less clear in travelers.
• Pel-Ebstein fever: A specific kind of fever associated with Hodgkin's lymphoma,
being high for one week and low for the next week and so on. However, there is
some debate as to whether this pattern truly exists.[10]
• Continuous fever: Temperature remains above normal throughout the day and
does not fluctuate more than 1 °C in 24 hours, e.g. lobar pneumonia, typhoid,
urinary tract infection, brucellosis, or typhus. Typhoid fever may show a specific
fever pattern, with a slow stepwise increase and a high plateau.
• Remittant fever: Temperature remains above normal throughout the day and
fluctuates more than 1 °C in 24 hours, e.g. infective endocarditis.

A neutropenic fever, also called febrile neutropenia, is a fever in the absence of normal
immune system function. Because of the lack of infection-fighting neutrophils, a bacterial
infection can spread rapidly and this fever is therefore usually considered a medical
emergency. This kind of fever is more commonly seen in people receiving immune-
suppressing chemotherapy than in apparently healthy people.

Febricula[11] is a mild fever of short duration, of indefinite origin, and without any
distinctive pathology.

[edit] Hyperpyrexia

Hyperpyrexia is a fever with an extreme elevation of body temperature greater than or

equal to 41.5 °C (106.7 °F).[12] Such a high temperature is considered a medical
emergency as it may indicate a serious underlying condition or lead to significant side
effects.[13] The most common cause is a intracranial hemorrhage.[12] Other possible causes
include sepsis, Kawasaki syndrome,[14], neuroleptic malignant syndrome, drug effects,
serotonin syndrome, and thyroid storm.[13] Well infections are the most common cause of
fevers as the temperature rises other causes become more common.[13] Infections
commonly associated with hyperpyrexia include: roseola, rubeola and enteroviral
infections.[15] Immediate aggressive cooling to less than <38.9 °C (102.0 °F) has been
found to improve survival.[13] Hyperpyrexia differs from hyperthermia in that in
hyperpyrexia the body's temperature regulation mechanism sets the body temperature
above the normal temperature, then generates heat to achieve this temperature, while in
hyperthermia the body temperature rises above its set point.[12]

[edit] Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia occurs from a number of causes including heatstroke, neuroleptic

malignant syndrome, malignant hyperthermia, stimulants such as amphetamines and
cocaine,idiosyncratic drug reactions, and serotonin syndrome.

[edit] Signs and symptoms

Ancher, Michael, "The Sick Girl", 1882, Statens Museum for Kunst

A fever is usually accompanied by sickness behavior which consists of lethargy,

depression, anorexia, sleepiness, hyperalgesia, and the inability to concentrate.[16][17][18]

[edit] Differential diagnosis

Fever is a common symptom of many medical conditions:

• Infectious disease, e.g. influenza, HIV, malaria, infectious mononucleosis, or

• Various skin inflammations, e.g. boils, pimples, acne, or abscess
• Immunological diseases, e.g. lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, inflammatory
bowel diseases
• Tissue destruction, which can occur in hemolysis, surgery, infarction, crush
syndrome, rhabdomyolysis, cerebral hemorrhage, etc.
• Reaction to incompatible blood products
• Cancers, most commonly kidney cancer and leukemia and lymphomas
• Metabolic disorders, e.g. gout or porphyria
• Thrombo-embolic processes, e.g. pulmonary embolism or deep venous

Persistent fever which cannot be explained after repeated routine clinical inquiries, is
called fever of unknown origin.

[edit] Diseases called "fever"

As fever is a prominent symptom of many diseases, in humans and animals, it will often
appear in the common appellation of diseases.

In humans

• Puerperal fever
• Scarlet fever
• Typhoid fever
• Rheumatic Fever
• Malaria, which was once called "marsh fever"
• Viral hemorrhagic fevers
o Ebola fever
o Dengue fever
o Yellow fever
• Drug-induced fever, which is technically a form of hyperthermia

In animals

• East Coast fever (an African disease of cattle)

• Malignant catarrhal fever (a worldwide disease of cattle)
• Rift valley fever (an African disease of sheep)
• Classical and African swine fevers (diseases of pigs)
• Milk fever, an oddly named disease of cattle; body temperature is not elevated in
this disease

[edit] Pathophysiology

Hyperthermia: Characterized on the left. Normal body temperature (thermoregulatory

set-point) is shown in green, while the hyperthermic temperature is shown in red. As can
be seen, hyperthermia can be conceptualized as an increase above the thermoregulatory
Hypothermia: Characterized in the center: Normal body temperature is shown in green,
while the hypothermic temperature is shown in blue. As can be seen, hypothermia can be
conceptualized as a decrease below the thermoregulatory set-point.
Fever: Characterized on the right: Normal body temperature is shown in green. It reads
"New Normal" because the thermoregulatory set-point has risen. This has caused what
was the normal body temperature (in blue) to be considered hypothermic.

Temperature is ultimately regulated in the hypothalamus. A trigger of the fever, called a

pyrogen, causes a release of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). PGE2 then in turn acts on the
hypothalamus, which generates a systemic response back to the rest of the body, causing
heat-creating effects to match a new temperature level.

In many respects, the hypothalamus works like a thermostat.[19] When the set point is
raised, the body increases its temperature through both active generation of heat and
retaining heat. Vasoconstriction both reduces heat loss through the skin and causes the
person to feel cold. The liver produces extra heat. If these measures are insufficient to
make the blood temperature in the brain match the new setting in the hypothalamus, then
shivering begins, to use muscle movements to produce more heat. When the fever stops,
and the hypothalamic setting is set lower, the reverse of these processes (vasodilation,
end of shivering and nonshivering heat production) and sweating are used to cool the
body to the new, lower setting.

This contrasts with hyperthermia, in which the normal setting remains, and the body
overheats through undesirable retention of excess heat or over-production of heat.[19]
Hyperthermia is usually the result of an excessively hot environment (heat stroke) or an
adverse reaction to drugs. Fever can be differentiated from hyperthermia by the
circumstances surrounding it and its response to anti-pyretic medications.

[edit] Pyrogens

A pyrogen is a substance that induces fever. These can be either internal (endogenous) or
external (exogenous) to the body. The bacterial substance lipopolysaccharide (LPS),
present in the cell wall of some bacteria, is an example of an exogenous pyrogen.
Pyrogenicity can vary, as in extreme examples some bacterial pyrogens known as
superantigens can cause rapid and dangerous fevers. Depyrogenation may be achieved
through filtration, distillation, chromatography, or inactivation.


Cytokines (especially interleukin 1) are a part of the innate immune system, are produced
by phagocytic cells, and cause the increase in the thermoregulatory set-point in the
hypothalamus. Other examples of endogenous pyrogens are interleukin 6 (IL-6), and
tumor necrosis factor-alpha.
These cytokine factors are released into general circulation where they migrate to the
circumventricular organs of the brain due to easier absorption caused by the blood-brain
barrier's reduced filtration action there. The cytokine factors then bind with endothelial
receptors on vessel walls, or interact with local microglial cells. When these cytokine
factors bind, the arachidonic acid pathway is then activated.


One model for the mechanism of fever caused by exogenous pyrogens includes LPS,
which is a cell wall component of gram-negative bacteria. An immunological protein
called lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP) binds to LPS. The LBP–LPS complex
then binds to the CD14 receptor of a nearby macrophage. This binding results in the
synthesis and release of various endogenous cytokine factors, such as interleukin 1 (IL-
1), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and the tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In other words, exogenous
factors cause release of endogenous factors, which, in turn, activate the arachidonic acid

[edit] PGE2 release

PGE2 release comes from the arachidonic acid pathway. This pathway (as it relates to
fever), is mediated by the enzymes phospholipase A2 (PLA2), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-
2), and prostaglandin E2 synthase. These enzymes ultimately mediate the synthesis and
release of PGE2.

PGE2 is the ultimate mediator of the febrile response. The set-point temperature of the
body will remain elevated until PGE2 is no longer present. PGE2 acts on neurons in the
preoptic area (POA) through the prostaglandin E receptor 3 (EP3). EP3-expressing
neurons in the POA innervate the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH), the rostral raphe
pallidus nucleus in the medulla oblongata (rRPa) and the paraventricular nucleus (PVN)
of the hypothalamus . Fever signals sent to the DMH and rRPa lead to stimulation of the
sympathetic output system, which evokes non-shivering thermogenesis to produce body
heat and skin vasoconstriction to decrease heat loss from the body surface. It is presumed
that the innervation from the POA to the PVN mediates the neuroendocrine effects of
fever through the pathway involving pituitary gland and various endocrine organs.

[edit] Hypothalamus

The brain ultimately orchestrates heat effector mechanisms via the autonomic nervous
system. These may be:

• Increased heat production by increased muscle tone, shivering and hormones like
• Prevention of heat loss, such as vasoconstriction.

The autonomic nervous system may also activate brown adipose tissue to produce heat
(non-exercise-associated thermogenesis, also known as non-shivering thermogenesis),
but this seems mostly important for babies. Increased heart rate and vasoconstriction
contribute to increased blood pressure in fever.

[edit] Usefulness

There are arguments for and against the usefulness of fever, and the issue is controversial.
There are studies using warm-blooded vertebrates[22] and humans[23] in vivo, with
some suggesting that they recover more rapidly from infections or critical illness due to
fever. A Finnish study suggested reduced mortality in bacterial infections when fever was

Theoretically, fever can aid in host defense.[20] There are certainly some important
immunological reactions that are sped up by temperature, and some pathogens with strict
temperature preferences could be hindered.[25] Fevers may be useful to some extent since
they allow the body to reach high temperatures, causing an unbearable environment for
some pathogens. White blood cells also rapidly proliferate due to the suitable
environment and can also help fight off the harmful pathogens and microbes that invaded
the body.[citation needed]

Research[26] has demonstrated that fever has several important functions in the healing

• Increased mobility of leukocytes

• Enhanced leukocytes phagocytosis
• Endotoxin effects decreased
• Increased proliferation of T cells[27]
• Enhanced activity of interferon[27]

[edit] Management
Fever should not necessarily be treated.[28] Most people recover without specific medical
attention.[29] People are generally advised to keep adequately hydrated. Oral rehydration
solutions or water are generally used for this purpose. Excessive water may lead however
to hyponatremia. Some limited evidence supports the use of tepid sponging.[30] If the
temperature reaches the level of hyperpyrexia aggressive cooling is required.[13]

[edit] Medications

The antipyretics ibuprofen is effective in treating a fever.[31] It is more effective than

acetaminophen / paracetamol in children however both may be used together,[32] safely.[33]
The effectiveness of acetaminophen by itself is questionable.[34] Ibuprofen is also superior
to aspirin,[35] which is not usually recommended in children due to the risk of Reye's

[edit] Etymology
The print depicts Kiyomori, suffering from fever, as he confronts Ema, the king of hell,
and the ghosts of Kiyomori's victims.

Pyrexia is from the Greek pyretos meaning fire, well febrile response, is from the Latin
word febris, meaning fever, and archaically known as ague.

[edit] In other animals

Fever is an important feature for the diagnosis of disease in domestic animals. The body
temperature of animals, which is taken rectally, is different from one species to another.
For example, a horse is said to have a fever at 38.5 °C, while a cow is said to have a fever
at 39.6 °C.[citation needed]

In species that allow the body to have a wide range of "normal" temperatures, such as
camels, it is sometimes difficult to determine a febrile stage.