Fever is a symptom of coronavirus, so here's what you need to know about it - ABC News

Fever is a symptom of coronavirus, so here's what you need to know about it

Father checking daughter's forehead for fever
A fever is a symptom of an illness, not the disease itself.(Getty Images: Rebecca Nelson)

Fever, along with a cough, sore throat and shortness of breath, is known to be one of the more common symptom of coronavirus.

But this doesn't mean that everyone with coronavirus will necessarily develop a fever.

In fact, president of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Harry Nespolon, said only about 64 per cent of people with coronavirus will have a fever.

"If you've got a fever then you might have COVID-19, but if you don't have a fever it doesn't mean that you don't have it," said Dr Nespolon.

What is a fever?

A normal body temperature is 37C, anything above this is technically considered a fever.

Your core body temperature is kept fairly constant, even though you can get very slight fluctuations across the day and night.

It would seem to make sense that the higher your fever, the more unwell you will be. But this is not the case.

Someone can have a 38.5C fever and be really unwell, whereas someone else can have a temperature of 41C and not even look sick.

"There's no direct correlation between how symptomatic people are and their temperature necessarily," Dr Nespolon said.

Although most people running a 41C fever have usually got a whole lot of other symptoms as well.

A fever is your body's inflammatory response to a foreign invader, which could include viruses like coronavirus or bacteria.

"So that's your immune system working in really simple terms," Dr Nespolon said.

We don't know for sure what the function of a fever is. The theory is that having a fever is meant to sort of control the virus or other kind of infection your body is fighting.

"It's not a fabulous theory," he said, and one of the reasons for this is that people's responses to fever can be very different.

Fevers in little people

For children under two, fevers can also lead to fits or febrile convulsions that are very frightening for parents.

"Of itself, a single febrile convulsion has very little meaning," Dr Nespolon said.

And in small kids, often that's something really obvious like an ear or throat infection.

However, if your child has a second convulsion, you can't always put that down to fever, so it needs to be investigated further.

Or if the fit goes for more than a few seconds, you should be taking your child to hospital.

If your kid's fever doesn't have an obvious origin it could be because they've got a urinary tract infection caused by a plumbing problem, which again will need to be investigated further.

What to do if you or someone in your family has a fever

If a fever is making you or someone else in your family feel unwell you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring your temperature down, Dr Nespolon said.

In the case of a small child, you could check their temperature again in 15 to 20 minutes, and also strip them down, for example to a singlet and nappy so they are more easily able to lose heat.

But particularly if you or your family member is over two, it's not that important to know exactly what temperature you or they are running at.

"I think the most important thing is people being sensible about it," he said, and again remembering that fevers are a symptom, not a disease in themselves.

But if it's a high fever, you have other symptoms, and you're not sure what's causing them, then you really do need to have it checked out.

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