I slide the plastic thermometer out of my mouth and peer at the little digital screen: “99.5” flashes back at me. Again. And once again I reach for the bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol and choke down a couple of capsules, hoping they’ll help ease this “icky fever feeling” festering in my head.
Having a low-grade fever isn’t that big of a deal, right? But when you have one every day, and your normal body temperature is around 97.6, it can make you feel pretty crappy. What’s going on? Why do I have a fever nearly all the time? Surely a constant fever, even if low, can’t be good for a person (nor can taking Tylenol every day).
At a recent appointment with my rheumatologist, I asked him about my fevers and he didn’t have any answers, really. He didn’t think my RA was causing them and then advised me to bring it up with my primary care doctor. Well…hmmph. With no real answers, I left the clinic disappointed and still confused.
Why confused? Before my appointment, I had done a little researching online to see if there was any sort of RA-fever relationship. I found some results confirming the connection from a few different health sites, such as Everyday Health, Healthline, Mayo Clinic, American College of Rheumatology.
According to Everyday Health, “Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can include fever along with aches and stiffness. You might find it connected to a flare or a far more regular occurrence.”
Everyday Health’s website also states, “Low-grade fever is one of many common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms you may experience. Some people have fevers frequently, while others may feel slightly feverish yet do not attribute it to their rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly, not everyone responds to fever medication in the same way.”
Personally, I’ve been having these low-grade fevers daily, and I can’t even remember when I first started noticing this trend–a year ago? Two years? More? No idea. I feel like it’s been going on for quite a while, though. Several questions go through my head: Have I been having fevers the entire 18 years I’ve had RA? Does the Extra-Strength Tylenol even work when I take it?
Is there a way to make this stop?
According to the Everyday Health article, some RA patients’ fevers are not helped by over-the-counter fever-reducing drugs; patients just have to put up with them. It makes me wonder if this is why I feel generally crappy/blah/fatigued/sickish most of the time. And why does my rheumatologist say my fevers aren’t from RA after I’m finding this information online? Being his patient for nearly 10 years, I usually always trust what he tells me. Confused, I do more digging.
Healthline’s website also states that one of the symptoms of RA includes low-grade fever. The article goes on to identify inflammation as one of its causes as well as an increase in metabolic rate in patients with RA. Hmm. If my metabolic rate is increased then why can’t I lose weight? More questions! Well, weight loss is a different frustrating issue (Fat and Feverish–my new memoir title?).
I do realize human bodies are extremely complicated and that having a body with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy to figure out. I wouldn’t mind a few solid answers on this “fever thing,” though. I’m getting really tired of feeling like someone whacked me with a baseball bat every day. Continually shelling out hard-earned money for acetaminophen is also annoying when I should be buying organic spinach or something.
The good news…
The good news about all of this is that low-grade fevers don’t seem to be alarming, dangerous, or all that uncommon, according to Healthline:
“Normal body temperature ranges from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to over 99 degrees. Fevers under 101 degrees are not considered serious in adults and are also not uncommon in RA patients. If your fever rises above 101, contact a doctor so that the underlying cause can be determined. If you have RA, make sure the doctor you see knows this. Be prepared to tell [him or her] what medicines you’re using for RA treatment.”
Okay, so I’m probably not dying. That’s good. There are also probably more complicated, detailed reasons for the RA-fever connection. Hopefully the few sources I mentioned above at least help give me (and you) a bit of a start to finding some answers and relief.
My next step is to make an appointment with my internist primary doctor and talk to her about these pesky fevers; I hope she’ll have a helpful answer and solution. In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep expanding my lovely Tylenol bottle collection.