A barrage of virus-causing illnesses are circulating in Jamaica right now.
These include respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and common cold viruses, which all cause symptoms like cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue. Many viral illnesses have similar symptoms that can make it hard to determine what specific virus is causing the illness.
The immune response to viral illnesses can also contribute to the similarity of symptoms. When the body detects a viral infection, the immune system responds by releasing chemicals to fight the virus. These chemicals can cause inflammation, which leads to symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. In other words, you feel "pop down".
Furthermore, some viral illnesses can cause multiple symptoms at the same time. For example, dengue fever (which is also circulating presently) can cause fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and rash. These symptoms can also occur in other viral illnesses, making it difficult to determine the cause of the illness based on the symptoms alone. To determine the specific virus causing the illness, we use various diagnostic tests such as blood tests and nose and throat swabs.
Most viral illnesses are self-limiting, which means they will resolve on their own with time. We treat the symptoms of the viral illness to alleviate discomfort until the virus is cleared out of the body.
Fever is a common symptom of many viral infections. It is important to know how to treat fever properly to alleviate discomfort and prevent further complications. It is important to note that fever medications only treat the symptom of fever, not the underlying viral infection.
The first step in treating fever is to monitor your temperature regularly. We measure a fever accurately using a thermometer. A normal body temperature ranges from 97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C). A fever is when your body temperature rises above 100.4°F (38°C). I strongly encourage every person to have a thermometer in your household.
If you have a fever, it is important to rest and stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, like water, fruit juices, and electrolyte solutions, to avoid dehydration. Dress in lightweight and loose-fitting clothing to help regulate your body temperature. Use a damp washcloth or take a lukewarm bath to cool your body down. Avoid using cold water or ice baths as they can cause shivering and raise your body temperature.
Fever medication is commonly used to reduce fever and relieve discomfort. Paracetamol is a popular fever medication that is available over the counter. It is generally considered safe for adults and children when taken according to the recommended dose. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs ) like Diclofenac and Ibuprofen are also used to treat fever. NSAIDS, however, can be dangerous if taken when you have Dengue Fever.
While most people with dengue fever recover without any serious complications, in some cases the illness can progress to a more severe form known as dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be life-threatening.
NSAIDs can increase the risk of bleeding, which is already a potential complication of dengue fever. When you have dengue fever, the virus can cause damage to the blood vessels, which can lead to bleeding under the skin, in the nose, and in other parts of the body. Taking NSAIDs can make this bleeding worse, which can lead to serious complications, such as internal bleeding and shock.
If you are diagnosed with dengue fever and experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately:
Severe abdominal pain
Bleeding from the nose or gums
Pale, cold, or clammy skin
Rapid or weak pulse
These symptoms could indicate that you are developing a more severe form of the illness, and prompt medical attention is essential to prevent serious complications.
Finally, it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of viral illnesses in the first place. This can include washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and wearing a mask in public places to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. By taking these steps and following the recommended guidelines for treating fevers, you can help protect yourself and those around you from these common illnesses.
Dr Tal's Tidbit
Fever is a common symptom of viral infections and can be managed with fever medication and other home remedies. It is important to monitor your temperature regularly, rest, stay hydrated, and seek medical attention if you experience severe or prolonged fever or other concerning symptoms, like bleeding. By taking steps to prevent the spread of these illnesses we can all do our part to protect ourselves and those around us.
Dr Taleya Girvan has over a decade's experience treating children at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, working in the Accident and Emergency Department and Paediatric Cardiology Department. Her goal is to use the knowledge she has gained to improve the lives of patients by increasing knowledge about the health- care system in Jamaica. Dr Tal's Tidbits is a series in which she speaks to patients and caregivers, providing practical advice that will improve health care for the general population. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Instagram @dr.tals_tidbits