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Nutritional Management during Fever

Nutrition during fever

“Fever! A time when the body temperature is high, but still, we feel cold”

I’m suffering from fever – One of the major reasons for most of the sick leaves by employees. It is also a symptom of underlying health issues.

At present scenario, if an individual is down with fever, he/she seems to be scary, as it may be one of the symptoms of COVID-19. Now it is utmost important for all to understand the diagnosis, causes and dietary management during fever.

Fever is a very common problem from which almost all of us suffer whenever there is a change of season. It is a defense mechanism of the body to fight any infections.

It is a sign that our body is working against the infection which is caused by the virus or bacteria. Diet also plays a very important role in management of fever.

Are you sure you are down with fever?

Fever is an illness accompanied by increased temperature, usually associated with chilled sensations and restlessness. During fever, the temperature is at or above on of these levels.

  • 100.4°F (38°C) measured in the bottom (rectally)
  • 99.5°F (37.5°C) measured in the mouth (orally)
  • 99°F (37.2°C) measured under the arm (axillary)

Are you aware of the causes?

Fever occurs when an area in your brain called the hypothalamus— also known as your body’s “thermostat” — shifts the set point of the normal body temperature upward. You may shiver to generate more body heat, eventually resulting in an elevated body temperature.

Elevated body temperature accompanied with sweating, shivering, appetite loss, dehydration, weakness and headache might be caused by:

  • Virus & bacterial infection
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Extreme sunburn
  • Certain inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis — inflammation of the lining of your joints
  • A malignant tumour

Fever is not a disease, but a sign of any infection or inflammation. Some of the metabolic effects of fever are;

  • Increase in the BMR which is almost 7% for every degree rise in temperature.
  • Decreased glycogen stores from the adipose tissue.
  • Increased breakdown of proteins due to infection.
  • Accelerated loss of body fluids owing to increased perspiration and excretion of wastes.
  • Increased excretion of sodium and potassium.

Following are some tips to follow when you are down with fever.

Nutri-nibbles for Fever Management:

  1. The diet should be more of fluid given at frequent intervals during the first few days of fever. The fluid intake must be liberal to compensate for the losses from the sweat and to permit adequate volume of urine for excreting the wastes and also to maintain the electrolyte balance.
  2. The body loses a lot of fluids through perspiration and excretory wastes. This lost water-content should be replenished by consuming plenty of water. The portions should be small and as frequent as 6-8 servings per day.

Tip: Herbal teas such as tulsi/mint/peppermint tea, soups liquid porridges are preferred during fevers as it has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

  1. Readily digestible bland food must be included for better digestion with rapid absorption. Depending on the patient's need, the food can be soft or normal consistency.

Tip:  Khichidis, idlis, porridges (oats, rava, rice or ragi) and homemade soups contain essential vitamins and nutrients. Take diluted fruit juices (unsweetened) during the fevers to boost the immunity.

  1. Protein intake must also be increased due to the increased loss of tissue proteins during fever.

Tip: High quality proteins such as milk (low fat), egg, and moong dhal/mashed dal porridge.

  1. Include dry fruits and nuts and decrease the sugar intake. As immune functions get slower in the presence of excess sugar.
  1. For quick recovery, the diet usually prescribed is high calorie, high protein, low fat and light fluid diet.

Tip: Initially the interval of feeding should be 2 hours. Later, on improvement, it can be made into 4 hours interval or 4 meals a day. Ensure that the patient is given fresh, hot, homemade food.

  1. In order to battle the ailment, a high protein diet supplying 1.25-1.5g protein/kg of body weight should be consumed. Protein supplements can be incorporated in the form of liquids. Sufficient intake of vitamins, sodium, and potassium (micronutrients) is necessary.

Tip: Fish is an excellent source of protein. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which fight inflammation and boost immune function.

 Wrapping up!

Fever increases the energy demand of the body. Also, during an infection, fewer nutrients are absorbed from food. 

  • Make sure to take proper rest.
  • Take a sponge bath with room temperature – cool water to bring the fever down and make them feel comfortable.
  • For prolonged fever, consult the doctor immediately.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Indu

Indu Vaishnavi R, Dietician

Indu Vaishnavi is a Consultant Dietitian (Gold Medalist) with 10+ years of experience as a Corporate Nutritionist and Certified Food Safety Auditor. She is also counselling clients for lifestyle disorders through her online platform. She has expertise in conducting nutrition presentations, health talks and webinars. Apart from being a Nutritionist, she has a keen interest in painting, creative craftworks and exploring nutritious recipes. 

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