Fever is the sign of the response of the body’s defense system to an underlying infection. Almost all types of infections are associated with fever. It is one of the common symptoms of viral and bacterial infections that cause cold, flu, pneumonia and other infections of the respiratory tract, meningitis, tuberculosis, severe skin infections such as cellulites, bone infections, urinary tract infections, and infections of the gastrointestinal tract.
Fever is sometimes associated with inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and vasculitis. It is often one of the early noticeable symptoms of cancer.
Fever is usually treated with acetaminophen (paracetamol) and antipyretic ibuprofen. Aspirin is occasionally used for lowering the body temperature.
Medications to Treat Fever
Acetaminophen or Paracetamol
Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is the most popular fever medication. By modifying the activity of the heat-regulating center of the brain, this antipyretic drug lowers the body temperature. Acetaminophen drugs are available over-the-counter. They are available in the form of tablets and liquids.
Acetaminophen is considered safe for children. It is usually given to children when the body temperature is above 101.3-degree Fahrenheit. The dosage of the drug varies according to age and body weight of a child. Usually, 40 to 650 mg of the drug is recommended for children, whereas the recommended dosage of the drug for adults is between 325 and 650 mg. Adults can take acetaminophen orally every four to six hours. Children can take it every six hours. Maximum tolerable dose of acetaminophen is 4 grams.
Acetaminophen rarely causes side effects. However, large doses of the drug or prolonged use of acetaminophen is linked to liver damage.
Acetaminophen should not be taken with drugs that stimulate secretion of liver enzymes. These drugs tend to reduce the effectiveness of acetaminophen by stimulating its metabolism. The cholesterol reducing drug cholestyramine tends to reduce absorption of acetaminophen. High doses of acetaminophen should be avoided by people on blood thinning medications.
Ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is widely recommended for treating fever. Studies have shown that it is more effective than acetaminophen in alleviating fever in children. Sometimes physicians recommend alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen for better results. By impairing activities of enzymes that induce synthesis of prostaglandins, ibuprofen reduces fever. The dosage of ibuprofen recommended for children varies according to the body weight and age of a child.
Ibuprofen is available in the form of tablet and liquid. Adults and children above 12 years of age can take over-the-counter ibuprofen drugs every four to six hours. Children below 12 years of age can take the medication every six to eight hours. To prevent stomach upset, ibuprofen should be taken with food or milk.
People on lithium or aminoglycosides, should consult their physicians before taking ibuprofen. By inhibiting excretion of lithium and aminoglycosides, ibuprofen may raise their levels in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of developing side effects associated with high levels of these substances. Ibuprofen may reduce the efficiency of blood pressure lowering drugs. When taken along with blood thinning medications, ibuprofen may increase the risk of easy bleeding by excessively thinning the blood.
Possible side effects of ibuprofen include abdominal pain, headache, dizziness, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, ringing in the ear, heartburn or drowsiness.
Aspirin is rarely used as a first line medication for reducing fever. It is not recommended for treating fever in children and adolescents. Aspirin works in the same manner as ibuprofen.
Aspirin can be taken every four to six hours to treat fever. However, the total daily dose of the drug should not excess 4 grams. The side effects of aspirin are same as that of ibuprofen.