Fever is an elevation of body temperature above normal. Fever is not a disease by itself, but a symptom produced in response to an inflammation or infection caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses etc. Fevers may be acute or chronic. Chronic fevers are low-grade long duration fevers like tuberculosis. Acute fevers last for a shorter duration but the body temperature is high. For example, influenza, chicken pox, typhoid, malaria etc. The monsoon season brings with itself a number of acute fevers like influenza, the common viral fever and the more dreaded ones like dengue, chikungunya, foot & mouth disease etc.
For every 1 degree F rise in body temperature, the metabolic rate increases by 7%. Hence the energy requirement is high. Also, the body is in a catabolic state, leading to breakdown of tissues. Besides fluid, there is loss of minerals too. To compound the situation, fevers are associated with poor appetite which further compromises nutritional status.
Thus, fevers and malnutrition form a vicious cycle; malnutrition increases the vulnerability to infection by compromising the immune system, and infections further deteriorate nutritional status.
Key nutrients required for an efficient immune response include protein, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, iron, vitamin D, selenium, vitamin B6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements of these nutrients may be given as the diet may not be able to meet the increased nutrient requirements in lieu of poor appetite, increased losses and poor absorption.
The Perfect List Of Foods To Eat And Avoid During Fever
1. Since the body is in a catabolic state, protein intake should be increased to minimize tissue breakdown. Proteins of high biological value such as eggs, milk, curd, paneer, soft cheese, cereal-pulse combinations should be taken. However, milk may have to be avoided in case there is diarrhea.
2. Include plenty of probiotics, as antibiotics destroy the gut microflora and wreak havoc on your digestion. Curd can easily be your best bet, being an abundant source of probiotics. You may also require probiotic supplements.
3. High fiber foods like whole wheat may have to be avoided in case of diarrhea. The high calorie requirement can be met by including rice, khichadi, suji upma, idli, chila, poha etc.
4. Choose fresh seasonal fruit rich in vitamin C, which is a strong antioxidant and strengthens immunity. Remove peels if you have diarrhea or gastric trouble.
5. Avoid eating raw vegetables as they are hard to digest and can increase risk of further infection. Prefer to eat well cooked veggies, soups, vegetable purees or boiled leafy greens.
6. Hydrate yourself well with electrolytes to prevent dehydration and further complications. Include plenty of fluids like clear soups, nariyal pani, nimboo pani, chicken broth, weak teas, herbal teas, buttermilk, namkeen lassi etc. These help to restore the electrolyte balance and replenish the lost minerals.
7. Easily digestible fats like butter, full fat milk, and whole egg may be included.
8. The diet should be preferably soft and easy to digest and shouldn’t burden the digestive system. Start with a soft diet by including soups, broths, khichadi, porridge, daliya, vegetable oats, upma, poha, dal-chawal, curd.
9. Take small and frequent meals instead of taking three large meals that are difficult to digest.
10. Steer clear of colas, carbonated drinks, caffeine, unpasteurized milk, alcohol, tobacco, red meats, shellfish, packed juices, fried fatty foods like samosas, pakoras etc, chemical irritants like spices, condiments, pickles, chutneys, creamy soups, pastries/ cakes etc.
Most importantly, do not try to treat fevers on your own by popping pills. Do visit your doctor if fever last more than three days, watch out for new symptoms and conduct necessary blood investigations too.
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