I am sick. It’s really unfortunate as I had plans for my week off, but here I am, sitting in a pool of formally white tissues now covered in an array of tinted mucus. With my collection of antihistamines, decongestants, and anti-inflammatory drugs, I started to wonder about what was happening to my body’s immune system. Was it still fighting for me or did it bail, leaving a stream of dirty Kleenex’s in its path?
While the flu and the common cold are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract, the infected (and their doctors) generally agree that the flu is much harder to endure and to treat. Currently I have a lot of the classic symptoms including coughing, headache, chest discomfort, myalgia and some serious fatigue; getting to my kitchen is an epic accomplishment.
What worries me most is that I have no fever, a staple of the flu if there ever was one. Also, the fact that my body temperature is cooler than what’s considered normal is getting me a bit nervous as my temperature dipped to 96.1 F this morning and only climbed to 98.1 F somewhere mid afternoon.
Body temperature is ultimately controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Think of it as the bodies’ thermostat. Normally, body temperature fluctuates during the day with cooler temperatures in the morning and slightly higher in the afternoon, with the average norm being 98.6 F or 37 C.
When an infection is detected in the body, the hypothalamus can reset the body to a higher temperature by actively generating heat and then retaining it. This is otherwise known as a fever, and it’s caused by an increase in muscle tone, the onset of shivering, the release of hormones like epinephrine, and the prevention of heat loss via vasoconstriction.
A lack of fever is particularly concerning because medical practitioners generally believe that fever is the bodies’ natural defense against infection, although it should be noted that non-infection causes of fever do exist. Most viruses and types of bacteria that cause infection tend to thrive at 98.6 F, which isn’t great news for those with feverless flu symptoms.
What’s even more alarming is that swine flu, a dangerous strand of the virus, doesn’t produce fever either causing the hypochondriac part of my personality to flare up. The absence of a fever suggests that either my body stopped fighting the infection helplessly surrendering to the disease, or that I may simply have a cold. Regardless of which of these is the true scenario, I will be seeking advice from a medical professional, as being sick is not fun my friends, not fun at all. –by Liz Belilovskaya