What are the features of fever in sepsis/septic shock?

Updated: Oct 07, 2020
  • Author: Andre Kalil, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Answer

Fever is a common symptom, though it may be absent in elderly or immunosuppressed patients. The hypothalamus resets in sepsis, so that heat production and heat loss are balanced in favor of a higher temperature. An inquiry should be made about fever onset (abrupt or gradual), duration, and maximal temperature. These features have been associated with increased infectious burden and severity of illness. However, fever alone is an insensitive indicator of sepsis; in fact, hypothermia is more predictive of illness severity and death.

Chills are a secondary symptom associated with fever, developing as a consequence of increased muscular activity that produces heat and raises the body temperature. Sweating occurs when the hypothalamus returns to its normal set point and senses the higher body temperature, stimulating perspiration to evaporate excess body heat.


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