Can Stress Cause A Fever?

Everyone experiences stress to some level and some degree in their life. Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies and our minds. From weight gain to sleep issues, energy zaps and living ‘on edge’, stress can also cause our immune system to take a dive and contribute to long term issues like heart disease. The biggest question we’re going to address here is can stress cause a fever? Indeed, it can. Let’s find out why.

What Is A Psychogenic Fever?

A stress fever, or otherwise known as a psychogenic fever, can happen when our bodies and minds are under a great amount of stress. It is a physical response where our body temperature rises and is sometimes called stress-induced hyperthermia. Unlike hypothermia, when body temperature rapidly decreases, hyperthermia shows increases in our core temps without any other condition present like inflammation or injury.

Psychogenic fevers, or stress fevers, are diagnosed when our bodies rise over the normal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The body can rise in temperature, creating this phenomenon, in the presence of acute (sudden) stress as well as chronic or prolonged stress.

Can Stress Cause A Fever? The Swole Kitchen

Why Do Stress Fevers Happen?

Doctors don’t exactly know, but there’s been a lot of speculation and belief around how the brain and body communicate to one another when the body is threatened, even by stress. While fevers are commonly associated with illness, the common cold, or something more serious, we can see spikes in body temperature as a physical response to the stress we’re experiencing. Our entire body temperature rises when our we’re not under physical injury or inflammation.

A study conducted in 2020 in the Journal of Science founds that the natural stress response (in rats) affects the hypothalamus. This is the area of the brain that controls body temperature, and if that area is affected, then overall body temp was seen to rise. [R]

However, the unsureness comes from not clearly understanding if stress fevers and body temperature rising from stress is created by the brain, rises in stress hormones, or the endocrine system response to stress. That being said, stress fevers can happen at any age and often have been found to occur more in women than in male subjects that have been observed. To put this into perspective, in a 2009 study, nearly 70% of patients observed who experienced psychogenic fevers were female. [R]

How To Tell If You Have A Psychogenic Fever

As stated, a psychogenic stress fever can be caused by acute or chronic stress. In order to appropriately diagnose, other factors like injury or other physical causes of a fever, like an infection, must be ruled out.

Symptoms of Stress Fever:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Feeling hot, sweaty, or flushed
  • Body chills or aches
  • Fatigue
  • Energy zaps

It is important to also rule out that a psychogenic fever is not a cause of an underlying condition. If you do experience stress fevers often, we recommend keeping a journal or a log of when it happens, how long it lasts, and what temperature your body is rising to. 

Can Stress Cause A Fever? The Swole Kitchen

How To Treat A Psychogenic Fever

If you’re experiencing stress fevers then the best thing you can do is figure out what is causing your stress and how to effectively reduce it. Unlike fevers that we experience when we’re sick or have an injury, OTC drugs like ibuprofen or Tylenol aren’t recommended, as they don’t work for this.

While most fevers will go away on their own, you may want to take up some new techniques to relieve stress in your life, whether it is a small behavior like breathing exercises, taking a walk outside, or bigger techniques like quitting your job or leaving a toxic relationship.

Another way to help with reducing body temperature would be making sure that you’r hydrated, drinking a cold cup of water, placing a cold washcloth or icepack on your neck, wrist, or abdomen, taking a step into a cooler environment, taking the day off of work and resting, and trying to give the body a bit of a break ‘from the norm’. Essential oils, talking to a friend, or even taking a nap may help as well.

Can Stress Cause A Fever: Takeaway

In short, stress isn’t good for the body (most of it anyways). When your body is responding to acute or chronic stress, you may experience a stress fever, or more clinically known as a psychogenic fever. In order to reduce stress fevers we recommend trying to figure out what is causing you the stress and how to effectively minimize it with relaxation techniques. If you do feel like something else is wrong, and your stress fevers are chronic, then we recommend taking a trip to your local physicians office to rule out underlying issues or causes altogether.

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Tags: Wellness