Can bad air quality cause a fever?

The below article talks about bad air quality and if it causes fever, how to overcome poor air quality and reduce the impacts it has on your physical health, next steps, and some frequently asked questions. 

Can poor air quality cause a fever? What do I do about it?

While poor air quality is not directly attributable to an increase in body temperature, the side effects of long-term exposure to toxic air particles and pollutants may cause diseases or infections, that show their initial signs as a body fever. Protecting yourself from poor air quality will reduce the chances you fall sick and thus reduce the risk of having a high body temperature. 

Some measures you could take include installing an air purifier, wearing masks and other protective measures, limiting exposure during projected poor air quality levels, limiting exposure to vehicular emissions, chemical fumes, etc., installing proper ventilation systems, avoiding exposure during peak traffic hours, etc. 

What do you need to know about fevers? 

A fever is a temporary or a short-term increase of the body temperature, often triggered by an illness, infection, or a disease. A fever indicates that your body is trying to fight an external source of sickness. While a slightly elevated temperature may not be a cause of concern for adults, in kids and babies this could be the sign of the body fighting an infection. 

Fevers do not last for long and can be treated or lowered with over-the-counter medicines for a few days, if it gets very uncomfortable. However, a fever would usually move away on its own and is a key factor to recognising that your body is warding off infections and diseases. 

A fever can be measured orally, rectally, under the arm, or through the ear. Depending on the age of the individual and the severity of the disease or infection, body temperatures can reveal many things including when you can manage a fever at home or when you need to meet a medical professional. 

Below is a table that shows the normal temperatures for different ages, depending on where it is taken from:

Source: Medical News Today, 2020

0 – 2 years3 – 10 years11 – 65 years> 65 years 
Oral95.9 – 99.5 °F95.9 – 99.5 °F97.6 – 99.6 °F96.4 – 98.5 °F
35.5 – 37.5 °C35.5 – 37.5 °C36.4 – 37.6 °C35.8 – 36.9 °C
Rectal97.9 – 100.4 °F97.9 – 100.4 °F98.6 – 100.6 °F97.1 – 99.2 °F
36.6 – 38 °C36.6 –38 °C37 – 38.1 °C36.2 – 37.3 °C
Armpit94.5 – 99.1 °F96.6 – 98 °F95.3 – 98.4 °F96 – 97.4 °F
34.7 – 37.3 °C35.9 – 36.7 °C35.2 – 36.9 °C35.6 – 36.3 °C
Ear97.5 – 100.4 °F97 – 100 °F96.6 – 99.7 °F96.4 – 99.5 °F
36.4 – 38 °C36.1 – 37.8 °C35.9 – 37.6 °C35.8 – 37.5 °C

There are various factors that can affect a person’s body temperature, regardless of whether the body is fighting off an infection or a disease. Some of these factors are:

  • The way fever is measured (orally, rectally, armpit, through the ear)
  • Age and sex 
  • What time its being measured at, since body temperature keeps changing throughout the day 
  • The kind of activity the individual was involved in right before measuring the fever 
  • Fluid and food intake levels 
  • For women, body temperature keeps changing depending on where they are on their menstrual cycle. 

Air Quality and Fevers 

Air quality levels have been dropping globally, and this has had a major impact on the lives of global citizens. With projections of air quality levels reaching hazardous levels in various countries including those like India and Bangladesh, citizens have been falling sick more frequently as a result of their increased exposure to airborne toxic pollutants and particulate matter. 

Poor air quality can be attributed to various factors such as uncontrolled vehicular emissions, organic fuel burning, waste burning, and other anthropological activities with large scale emissions such as from industries and power plants. These emissions have played a large role in the phenomenon of global warming and the rampant destruction of air quality worldwide. This process started right during the industrial revolution and has continued exponentially since, and thus has had a major impact on physical and mental health of citizens globally. 

Short-term diseases and irritations caused by poor air quality like increased headaches, breathing difficulties, allergy attacks, acute bronchitis, skin irritations, etc. manifest eventually as far severe cases of glaucoma, cancer, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), etc. Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, burning and itching eyes, itchy throat, headaches, itchy skin, stuffy nose, migraines, etc. can be directly attributed to exposure to airborne pollutants and fever is quite often an accompanying symptom that shows that the body is trying to fight off the external invaders that make your immune systems weak. 

Therefore, poor air quality can be attributed to the rapid transmissions of viral fever across larger populations as this is usually one of the first symptoms that point to larger underlying issues that poor air quality could trigger. For example, studies have shown that poor air quality along with COVID-19 has been found to aggravate the number of deaths by 11% (TOI, 2021). 

Poor air quality has been found to aggravate minor conditions such as acute bronchitis and other diseases, due to which fever may be the symptom that persists in a manner that shows that the usual symptoms are being aggravated to cause more seriously damaging diseases or infections. 

Protecting yourself from poor air quality 

Outdoor air quality is an important factor that plays into the well-being of one’s physical health. While there is no way to completely protect yourself from poor air quality, here are some preventative measures you can take to avoid or reduce the impacts it could have on your physical health:

  • Periodically check air quality forecasts to ensure that you stay indoors during peak hours of poor air quality. 
  • Limit your exposure to poor air quality especially during traveling or being in traffic.
  • Wear masks to reduce the intake of airborne pollutants into your bloodstream through the respiratory system
  • Wear protective glasses or sunglasses to protect your eyes from long-term exposure to air pollution as pollutants can enter your body through your eyes as well
  • Using alternatively fueled items such as hand-powered or electrically powered devices. 
  • If you have been diagnosed with asthma, make sure to carry your inhaler at all times and make a note to stay away from heavily polluted areas
  • Stay away from tobacco smoke and ban indoor smoking.
  • Ensure proper indoor air quality through proper ventilation and exhaust fans, or by installing an air purifier. 
  • Get rid of unwanted chemicals such as strong cleaning agents, paints, air fresheners, hairsprays, varnishes, etc. 
  • Use natural products wherever and whenever possible, especially for cleaning and maintenance purposes
  • Ensure that all ventilation systems are periodically monitored and cleaned, this also includes changing or cleaning the filters in your air purifier
  • Have periodical assessments of indoor air quality with help from consulting professionals from an environmental monitoring company 
  • Get air purifying plants as they are a natural and eco-friendly solution to cleaning the air and producing fresh oxygen
  • Invest in air quality monitors, sensors, or alarms that can measure indoor air quality at all times and alert you when the air quality is poor or when a certain pollutant’s concentration has increased. 

Protecting yourself from poor indoor air quality 

Indoor air quality can be monitored and maintained by installing air purifiers. A good air purifier can improve life quality by stripping the air of allergens such as pollen, mold spores, smoke particles, airborne contaminants, dander, etc. However installing a good air purifier requires that it meets several criteria including being budget-friendly, child-friendly, energy-efficient, effective, and silent. Below are a few recommendations on air purifiers that could suit your needs:

  • Coway AP – 1512HH is an indoor air purifier with air quality monitoring, automatic timers and sensors, filter indicators, and an energy-efficient model. It is effective in rooms up to 361 sq. feet and has a 4 stage filtration system. It works quietly, is budget-friendly, and provides real-time indication of the air quality through LED lights amongst other interesting features. 
  • Blueair Blue Pure 211+ is 3 stage filtration indoor air purifier. Suitable for larger rooms up to 540 sq. feet and is quiet due to the advanced filters that perform at high levels of efficiency with lower noise. This purifier is ideal for large bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and offices. All filters are recyclable and need to be replaced periodically depending on usage. 
  • LEVOIT Air Purifier is an affordable large room air purifier with a True HEPA filter and a 360° air intake. It can be controlled through an app for a truly hands-free experience. With a capacity to clean up to 403 sq. feet, it gives the cleanest air possible by getting rid of dust, fur, lint, airborne contaminants, etc. It is capable of measuring air quality, providing real-time readings, and can automatically control the fan speeds to meet the needs of the room. Smart control of the purifier allows for remote control of the device and can provide alerts about the device efficiency, filter life, ability to create schedules, etc. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best way to measure body temperature?

There are many ways you can measure a person’s body temperature. The most effective ways depend on the individual’s age. If there is an extremely high or low reading, it is best to take more readings periodically, to monitor changes in the person’s health. Oral and rectal thermometers provide the most accurate body temperature readings (Mayo Clinic, n.d.). Depending on the age, below are the best ways to ensure efficient measuring of body temperature:

Source: Medical News Today, 2020

AgeSuggested method
0 – 3 months Rectal
3 months to 3 yearsRectal, Ear, Armpit
4 – 5 years Oral, Rectal, Ear, Armpit
> 5 years Oral, Ear, Armpit

If you have a fever, when do you need to go to a doctor? 

  • A fever along with symptoms of stiff neck, confusion, or irritability.
  • If a fever stays for longer than 2 hours of home treatment at higher than 103.5 °F or 39.5 °C. 
  • A fever that lasts for longer than 2 days 
  • High fever with a rash
  • Fever with irritation to light 
  • Fever with dehydration which can be identified through less amount of urine, sunken eyes, dry skin, etc.
  • Presence of seizures. 
  • Fever with accompanying symptoms of flu, earaches, wheezing, other breathing difficulties, joint pains, body aches, chills, etc. 

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

How to improve the air quality in your basement?

400 AQI: Good or Bad?

150 AQI: Good or Bad?

References 

Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Fever. Viewed on 11-26-2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/10880-fever 

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Fever. Viewed on 11-26-2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20352759 

Medical News Today. (2020, January 18). What is a normal body temperature range? Viewed on 11-26-2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323819#_noHeaderPrefixedContent  

Times of India (TOI). (2021, November 7). Air pollution levels rise: How do pollution levels cause viral fever? What are the symptoms to be concerned about? Health News. Viewed on 11-26-2021. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/air-pollution-levels-rise-how-do-pollution-levels-cause-viral-fever-what-are-the-symptoms-to-be-concerned-about/photostory/87555361.cms 

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