I'm sure you've all had a time where you've had to take sick days from work or school, and when you returned people say "Oh you should be caught up on everything, you got a sick day!"
Do people realize that when you're really sick, it's hard to do anything?! Seriously, it took me ten minutes this morning just to get dressed. And I only have a fever and upset tummy...I can't imagine what it's like for people who have it worse.
So, to take my mind off of the aches and being hot and freezing at the same time, I thought it'd be neat to figure out what the heck a fever is anyway and why it does what it does. Maybe, if I make it scientific, it'll be less terrible? It's worth a shot at least.
What causes a fever? It looks like fevers are caused by a little thing called a pyrogen, which in various ways tells your hypothalamus in the brain that your internal body temperature needs to be higher. Kind of like increasing the thermostat and then having the heat kick on. The hypothalamus then sends signals out to the body telling it to do anything possible to increase internal temperature, including increasing muscle tone and shivering. Your blood vessels may also constrict to prevent heat loss, which is why you often get headaches with the fever.
What does fever do anyway? From what I've been reading (and I'm sure my nursing friends could correct or affirm this), the body's immune system functions much better at an increased body temperature, thus getting rid of infections much more efficiently. The higher temperatures supposedly allow different anti-bodies to be released more quickly and can also kill infections that have picky temperature preferences.
Why is my stomach upset? This one was pretty easy to understand. When we're sick, our stomachs get upset because they are trying to get rid of anything we ate or drank that may have been the cause of our fever in the first place (think food poisoning here). You also have a tendency to only be able to process bland, simple carbs such as rice, toast, and crackers because the body is not able to focus on digesting more complex proteins and fats since it's resources are tied up elsewhere defending the body.
Why do I ache? This is one I really wanted to learn the answer to, as it is possibly more annoying than the hot/cold feeling or the stomach upset. Whenever I get sick, my weakest points hurt the most: my back, hips, and knees. It drives me crazy! I'm not 100% positive on the information I've found on this one, but here's what I found: when our immune response is activated, we use a chemical called a cytokine to "coordinate the army" so to speak. They do several jobs when fighting infection, but one of them is to cause us to produce an enzyme. The enzyme produces chemicals called prostaglandins, which do many things including increasing inflammation and causing the spinal nerves to become more sensitive. This increased inflammation and increased pain sensitivity causes aching joints, making what might normally be mild pain/discomfort in areas of the body that are already weak feel much, much worse. So that explains why my lower back, hips, and knees always hurt the most, since I have a lot of problems with them.
Well, I'm more informed but no less achy...so I guess I'll just continue eating my toast, drinking sprite, taking NSAIDs, and trying not to move.
Good thing I have a textbook from graduate school nearby that needs to be read (NOT).