When I compare myself to other people with Cystic Fibrosis, I realize I run a fever more often than they do. Can you explain why? Are there effective ways to alleviate the discomfort associated with bouts of fever?
Fever is a sign indicating inflammation in the body. Although fever can be linked to a tumour or an inflammatory illness, it is most often caused by a microbial infection. The main germs that cause infections and fever are viruses (unaffected by common antibiotics) and bacteria (sensitive to antibiotics). People with cystic fibrosis are not more prone than others to viruses such as colds, the flu or gastroenteritis. These viral infections usually bring on a light to moderate fever that lasts no more than two or three days.
Because of the abnormalities associated with their disease, however, people with cystic fibrosis are very prone to the bacterial infections of the respiratory system that often follow initial viral infections. These infections (sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia) may cause higher, prolonged fever requiring antibiotic treatment. These bacterial infections sometimes occur without serious fever, probably because people with cystic fibrosis have a more developed immune system. These enhanced defence mechanisms prevent the bacterial invasion of the circulatory systems, where they are most likely to bring on a fever. On the one hand, the frequency of a fever can be partially explained by the condition of the immune system. On the other hand, persons whose lungs are more seriously affected will suffer infections that can trigger a fever more often. Although some bacterial infections don’t cause fever, it is still important to treat them thoroughly with antibiotics.
Fever can be treated with antipyretic (fever reducing) medications until the infection causing the fever has been cured. The two main medications used are acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, Atasol). For cystic fibrosis, acetaminophen is preferred because Aspirin has more side effects. It may irritate the stomach and in the long run cause ulcers; it thins the blood (so is not recommended for people who cough up blood), and is linked to rare, but serious reactions in association with certain viral infections in children. Rest and plenty of fluids are also recommended for fever.