One of the most common symptoms of lupus, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), is running a fever. According to Dr. Donald Thomas Jr., author of the Lupus Encyclopedia, approximately 50 to 60 percent of lupus patients develop a fever. In fact, fever is one of the earliest signs of the autoimmune disease.
In the early stages of lupus, many patients report having similar symptoms as the flu. However, unlike the flu, lupus is often accompanied with other symptoms like dry eyes, mouth sores, hair loss, weight loss (and gain), etc.
Running a fever is considered as a normal symptom of SLE, but when should it be a cause of concern?
Lupus patients typically experience a chronic, low-grade fever
A healthy human being's temperature should be 37 degrees Celsius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Though temperature varies from one person to the other, this temperature is considered as universally normal. If the temperature goes up to about 37.5 degrees Celsius or 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit, it is considered to be a fever.
For a person living with lupus, if the temperature goes up by one or two degrees from the normal temperature, he or she is said to be running a chronic low-grade fever. If there are no other symptoms such as mouth sores or muscle aches, then the fever might be a sign of another disease. If, however, it goes beyond 38.9 degrees Celsius or 102 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a cause for worry, especially if other lupus symptoms are present.
Lupus patients experience a fever with infections and flares
A lupus patient can lead a normal life with the right treatment and lifestyle, but patients are still exposed to flares. The patient will most likely run a fever when he or she experiences a flare. In lupus, the body’s immune system attacks various cells in the body, causing them to fail. This makes lupus patients vulnerable to getting infections.
The medications that are usually given to these patients, which include large doses of aspirin, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and immunosuppressive drugs, also expose them to various infections, like respiratory and urinary tract infections Symptoms of an infection such as nausea, diarrhea, breathing troubles, swelling and cramping are often accompanied by a high fever.
In lupus patients, the immune system is not able to differentiate a healthy cell from a non-healthy cell. This makes identifying infections in lupus patients complicated. According to studies, infections are among the number one causes of death in lupus patients.
When a patient is exposed to other serious symptoms, see a doctor
Usually, the drugs prescribed to patients suppress the fever. While a patient might feel sick and show other signs, a temperature should be in the normal range.
A fever in lupus will often lead to a loss of fluids through diarrhea and vomiting. These two conditions dehydrate bodies at a rapid rate. When a patient experiences dehydration, it can also be a sign of a dangerous response in the patient's immune system. Patients should ensure that they take in enough fluids to keep their body hydrated.
How to avoid a fever in lupus patients: Preventing infections and lupus flares
Treating infections in a lupus patient can be complicated and difficult, especially because certain medications cause severe reactions in patients. Also, it might be safe to say that the number one cause of a fever in lupus patients is an infection. However, flares may also cause a fever. If patients can avoid infections and reduce their risk of getting one, they might be able to keep their at bay. Reducing flare triggers can also help reduce a fever.
Here are a few things patients can do to reduce their temperature:
- Stay away from anyone who has an infection: This goes without saying. If you know someone has an infection, stay away from them You do not want to increase your chance of getting sick.
- Observe Hygiene: Infections and poor hygiene go hand-in-hand. Patients can keep infections away by observing simple routine of hygiene, like washing their hands. Making sure your hands are thoroughly cleaned, along with your surroundings, can help you avoid infections
- Prompt treatment of bruises and cuts: Patients are prone to cuts and bruises, which can pick up germs when they come into dirty surfaces. If you have a cut or a bruise, treat it immediately.
- Immunization: Make sure to get all your vaccines when you need them. Consult with your doctor about the available immunizations that you need.
- Stay healthy: Eat a balanced diet and exercise when you can. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you are improving your immune system.
- Consult a doctor before certain procedures: There will be times when a lupus patient needs a surgical or dental procedure done on them. These two will expose them to infections. The patient should consult his or her doctor before undertaking such procedures. The doctor will prescribe a preventive antibiotic that they can use to prevent such infections.
- Avoid Germs: Germs are everywhere, and they are the number one cause of infections. Lupus patients should avoid any item that is capable of harboring germs,dirty kitchen sponges and rags.
- Avoid stress: Avoiding stress is also helpful, especially if the person is battling a chronic disease like lupus. Lupus patients can talk to their doctors to recommend a safe drug that can help them manage stress or talk to a professional, such as a counselor.
- Stick to the prescribed medication: Altering the way a doctor has prescribed medication can be bad for the patient. If you feel the need to change any drug or include another supplement or herbal treatment, check with your doctor first.
- Avoid sunlight: Prolonged exposure to sunlight, fluorescent, and halogen lights is harmful for lupus patients. If you have to be exposed to the sun, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 70 and wear protective clothing.