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Fever, Sweats, and Hot Flashes (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Fever


Acyclovir is the drug of choice in the treatment of herpes simplex or varicella zoster viral infection. Ganciclovir has activity against cytomegalovirus. Both agents can be used prophylactically in the management of patients at high risk for these infections. Foscarnet is useful in the treatment of cytomegalovirus and acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex virus.

Paraneoplastic fever

When available, the best management of tumor-associated fevers is treatment of the underlying neoplasm with definitive antineoplastic therapies. In the absence of effective antineoplastic therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a mainstay of treatment. Naproxen may preferentially control paraneoplastic fever relative to other NSAIDs or acetaminophen. Response to naproxen has been considered diagnostic of tumor fever; however, efficacy of naproxen and other NSAIDs for infection-related fever is a common clinical observation. Release of tumor fever may respond to treatment with a structurally different NSAID.

Drug-associated fever

The occurrence of fever is predictable for some drugs, such as biologic response modifiers, amphotericin B, and bleomycin. For many other drugs, drug fever is a diagnosis of exclusion. Drug-associated fever responds to cessation of the offending agent, when possible. Fever and related symptoms with biologic response modifier administration is type-, route-, dose-, and schedule-dependent. These factors may sometimes be altered for fever control without sacrificing efficacy. Fever may also be attenuated by the use of acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, and steroid premedication. The same may be true for fever associated with some cytotoxic agents and antimicrobials (i.e., amphotericin).[6,7,10] It is common clinical practice to administer meperidine to attenuate severe chills associated with a febrile reaction, although empirical data confirming its efficacy are not available.

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a rare but potentially fatal syndrome that may develop during treatment with neuroleptic drugs for conditions such as psychotic disorders, delirium, nausea, and vomiting. It is marked by fever, rigidity, confusion, and autonomic instability, as well as by elevations in white blood cell count, creatinine phosphokinase, and urine myoglobin. NMS should be considered in the differential diagnosis of the delirious patient receiving neuroleptic agents who develops rigidity and whose condition does not improve on neuroleptics (e.g., haloperidol). Treatment of NMS includes discontinuation of neuroleptic agents, supportive measures, and occasionally, administration of bromocriptine or dantrolene. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Delirium for more information.)

Blood product–associated fever

Suspected febrile reactions can be minimized by the use of leukocyte-depleted or irradiated blood products, when clinically appropriate. Common clinical practice includes premedication with acetaminophen and diphenhydramine.[8]

Nonspecific Interventions for Palliation of Fever

Along with treatment of the underlying cause, comfort measures are helpful in alleviating the distress that accompanies fever, chills, and sweats. During febrile episodes, increasing a patient's fluid intake, removing excess clothing and linens, and tepid water bathing/sponging may provide relief. Results of a pediatric randomized placebo-controlled trial of sponging with ice water, isopropyl alcohol, or tepid water, with or without acetaminophen, demonstrated that all combinations enhanced fever control. Comfort was greatest in children receiving a placebo or sponging, followed by those who received acetaminophen combined with tepid-water sponging. Sponging with either ice water or isopropyl alcohol, with or without acetaminophen, resulted in the greatest discomfort.[15] During periods of chills, replacing wet blankets with warm, dry blankets, keeping patients out of drafts, and adjusting ambient room temperature may also improve patient comfort.


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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