The message from health officials this season is not to panic when you have a fever. This is indeed, a ‘season of fevers’ and fever could be an indication of a large number of problems in the body, they say. There is no need to stir up fear on account of this, the thing to do is to see a doctor, do the lab tests and be treated for the right infection.
“Epidemiologically, if you analyse the trends of diseases in the State, September is where it all begins, when the weather changes. Typically, we get a large number of cases of ‘fever’ from the fourth week of September, right through October and up to early November,” Dr. S. Elango, Director of Public Health, says. There is no cause for panic, he explains, hastening to add that it is still prudent to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Here are some cardinal signs of some kinds of fevers and the endemic diseases they are symptoms of, he says: If there is fever with shivering, test for malaria; if it comes with dysentery and abdominal pain, suspect typhoid; if the fever is accompanied by change in the colour of the conjuctiva (eyes), test for leptospirosis or jaundice; when severe retro-orbital (behind the eyes) pain colour is noticed along with rashes on the skin and fever, it is likely dengue.
In younger children, fever with joint pain and swelling, may be indicative of rheumatic fever, while the same symptoms in those between 20 and 35 years, could indicate chikungunya.
Fever with cough and sneezing is a sign of respiratory infection, and if after seven days, the patient continues to have respiratory distress, it could be a case of A (H1N1).
Rex Sargunam, paediatrician, says that this year, there have not been many fever cases, but many children with coughs and colds, he adds. “It is usual for the season. With children, especially the small ones, parents come to the doctors almost immediately. That is good. Only with older kids, do they try their hand at Paracetamols, before they see a doctor,” he says.
Dr. Elango insists on prevention first. Prevent the infection as much as possible by avoiding vectors like mosquitoes (cleaning overhead tanks and getting rid of breeding areas at home). However, if you have a fever, treat it. “Go to the doctor; do not buy medicines over the counter at a pharmacy. The key is to treat the cause, not merely the symptoms.”
C. Rajendran, director, Institute of Internal Medicine at Madras Medical College, says, “Technically, for Chennai, fever is not seasonal at all! There is some virus all the time, including the ordinary viral fever that does well with simple medication.”
However, he says that it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Fever may be one of the least troublesome illnesses, but again, any disease can begin as a fever.