Is fever after infection part of the illness or the cure?

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An increase in temperature above the normal range of 35.6°C-38.2°C (Ryan and Levy 2003) can indicate the presence of infection or sepsis. When the body detects infection, a series of responses to control infection are initiated that result in a rise in systemic temperature. Research suggests that this rise in temperature can be regarded as a cure, in that it is part of the autonomic response to remove infection and create a favourable environment for antibiotics. Nevertheless, it remains common practice to try to reduce fever with medication and physical cooling methods. This article explores the physiological changes that occur during bacterial sepsis that result in increased temperature, and discusses the pros and cons of administering antipyretic medication. The aim is to enable nurses to understand and support patients who present with fever.

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