What does an elevated body temperature signal? The most common causes

What does an elevated body temperature signal? The most common causes
Photo source: Getty images

Body temperature can indicate chronic fatigue syndrome, but also common colds or flu. Any viral or bacterial respiratory disease. It is also present in inflammation in various parts of the body. It indicates infectious diseases, but also many other problems. The temperature can also increase with hormonal changes during pregnancy.

Elevated body temperature is otherwise known as subfebrile. It is a body temperature ranging from 37 to 38 degrees Celsius. Elevated temperature occurs in several types of illnesses. From common cold, viral respiratory illness to some infectious and inflammatory diseases.

Often it is accompanied by other symptoms, in which case a specialist examination by a doctor should be considered. If it is only a short-term condition, there is no need for an urgent examination. Subfebrile illness can be monitored in the home environment. And the examination is considered according to the presence of associated symptoms.

Elevated body temperature is more pronounced in diseases that have a longer or looser course. Fever, which is a temperature already above 38 degrees Celsius, indicates a more serious disease, usually of bacterial origin.

It is often possible that a rise in body temperature occurs first as a symptom of an illness. Later, if the illness is not treated sufficiently, the body temperature rises to a fever. In serious cases, even above 40 degrees Celsius.

An increase in body temperature is characteristic of various infectious respiratory diseases, for example, in:

  • Influenza
  • pneumonia
  • inflammation of the nasopharynx
  • tonsillitis, i.e. tonsillitis
  • sinusitis and sinusitis
  • tuberculosis
  • colds
  • bronchitis

In various infectious and inflammatory diseases of the upper or lower respiratory tract, an elevated body temperature occurs along with other symptoms. Mostly cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat.

A rise in body temperature is typically associated with:

  • shivering, i.e. chills, by which the body tries to raise the body temperature
  • Fatigue
  • weakness
  • lack of appetite
  • pain in the body, especially in the muscles and joints
  • headache

Some of these problems, such as the common cold, can be managed without treatment by a general practitioner. But if the symptoms do not subside for a long time, it is necessary to go for an examination. Some forms, such as tuberculosis or pneumonia, could go into a chronic stage.

In that case, they already seriously threaten the health of the person and the organism. Therefore, it is better not to underestimate the elevated temperature if other symptoms are also present. For example, if the elevated body temperature lasts more than half a year.

When does the body temperature decrease?

The body temperature rises as the body tries to fight the foreign microorganism. It does this better if the body temperature is within 38 degrees Celsius. That is why the treatment of body temperature, lowering it, is recommended only above 38.5 degrees Celsius.

Medication, thermometer, fever
Medication is given only when fever is present. Source: Getty Images

Drugs that are given against fever are called antipyretics. These drugs often have a combined effect. In addition to reducing body temperature, they also reduce pain. They also have an analgesic effect.

There are also other combination drugs, where there are several active substances for several symptoms. These are intended to lower the body temperature, reduce pain. Subsequently, they stimulate the body or also relax the airways. However, this is symptomatic treatment - the symptom is treated, not the cause.

However, the quickest way to reduce the body temperature is to reduce it physically. This means applying packs to the body. Or one can take a shower or a lukewarm bath.

More information regarding lowering body temperature is given in the magazine article.

Body temperature rises even with fatigue

This is especially the case if it is associated with non-specific symptoms. Most often with fatigue, mild headaches, muscle or joint pain. In this case, it may also be a chronic fatigue syndrome.

The best thing to do is to rest and take it easy. Do not do strenuous activities and avoid stress. If possible, one should also slow down at work and take time to rest and recover. After some time, these symptoms may gradually subside.

Informative table on body temperature and its values

Value in degrees Celsius Name Information
less than 29 Severe hypothermia cold skin unconscious at 28 °C heart rhythm disturbances respiratory arrest death
29-32 moderate hypothermia slowing of reflexes below 32°C disturbances in consciousness, may awaken to pain below 31 °C body loses ability to shiver (unable to warm up) below 29 °C risk of heart rhythm disturbance
33-35 mild hypothermia confusion, fine motor disturbances, tremors below 34 °C speech impairment, rapid breathing
35,9-36,9 normal body temperature normothermia
37-38 Elevated body temperature subfebrile the body is trying to fight pathogens
38,1-40 fever febrile lowering of body temperature is recommended
40-42 overheating of the organism hyperpyrexia
above 42 death

Oncological diseases

Very often, increased body temperature is also mentioned as one of the symptoms of various types of cancer and tumour diseases. These can arise anywhere in the human body.

Sometimes it is not a continuous elevated temperature. There may be periods when it is higher without an external cause, and other times when it is lower. Therefore, other symptoms that are characteristic of a particular disease should be observed. Alternatively, go for an examination. The doctor will carry out various blood laboratory or imaging tests.

For example, an elevated body temperature is also found in bone cancer, blood cancer, which is known as leukaemia, laryngeal cancer, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, as well as tumours of the colon, oral cavity, pancreas, stomach, oesophagus, but also in lung cancer and other cancers.

This applies to benign tumours, but also to their malignant form. In this case, the tumours are malignant and can therefore be said to be cancerous in the true sense.

Infectious causes

Many infectious diseases also cause an increase in body temperature. For example, mumps, rubella, infective endocarditis, measles, tetanus, polio, salmonellosis, jaundice and Lyme disease. Enterobiasis can also cause an increase in body temperature. This is also the case with lice.

Other typical childhood diseases that affect children at a young age or in the period after birth. In some cases, they can also affect adults. This is if they have not overcome one of the common infectious diseases during childhood and have not developed antibodies to it. Which is typical of chickenpox.

In general, in many infectious diseases, regardless of their type and location, there is a higher body temperature and later a fever. This is the case, for example, with gonorrhoea, yeast infection, chlamydial infection or even syphilis. Thus, even with sexually transmitted diseases.

Or if a person is infected with HIV and has AIDS. In this case, it is an acquired immune deficiency. The person is susceptible to any infectious or inflammatory disease.

Apart from a raised temperature, other symptoms or changes in a person's health should always be observed. And accordingly, appropriate medical treatment and a specialist should be sought. The first choice is a general practitioner for children or adults. He can then recommend other investigations.

For other inflammations

model colon appendicitis
Appendicitis is one of many causes. Source: Getty Images

A rise in body temperature is also very common in inflammation. For example, in inflammation of the ovaries, veins, mammary gland, ear canal or middle ear. Also in inflammation of the appendix, uterus, urinary tract, larynx, kidneys, in inflammation of the myocardium (heart muscle) or pericardium (heart membrane).

Also in inflammation of the colon, gallbladder, and for example gallstones. In general, various inflammations in the digestive, excretory, vascular and genital systems are manifested by an increase in temperature.

Other causes of increased body temperature

Elevated temperature often occurs even in diseases which outwardly show quite different symptoms. It is only a secondary symptom of the disease. It often occurs at a later stage of development. This is the case, for example, in arthritis, constipation, herpes zoster or shingles. Also in Crohn's disease.

The doctor can determine the possible cause by taking blood or urine samples or by other symptoms or examinations (X-ray, ultrasound). Generally, the body reacts with an increased body temperature to the presence of a parasite, inflammation, infection or a change in health status. This may not be immediately apparent. It is, however, taking place inside the body.

Elevated body temperature as a symptom of pregnancy or during pregnancy?

woman pregnancy sunshine grass
Elevated basal temperature is an uncertain sign of pregnancy. Source: Getty Images

Hormonal changes in pregnancy increase the basal temperature. The body temperature measured in the vagina (basal) can be elevated by several tenths of a degree Celsius in the morning. It usually ranges from 36.7 to 37.3 degrees Celsius.

Basal temperature also increases during ovulation.

A slight increase in body temperature can be one of the sure signs of pregnancy. In addition, fatigue, weakness, morning sickness, vomiting can be associated.

The likelihood is increased by the omission of menstruation and a positive pregnancy test. But as a sure sign of pregnancy is the capture of the embryo or fetus on ultrasound examination.

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