When one is dealing with a bacterial infection, a fever is one of the indicators that an illness has already happened. Generally, people feel weak and lousy when pyrexia hits. But maybe you’ve experienced a decreased intensity of the symptoms’ effects in the morning, while at night, your fever worsens, sometimes to an unbearable degree.
Nope, there’s nothing wrong with you when you begin to experience this change in fever intensity. So before you buy medicine for fever, read on. Research done by scientists has proven that there is an explanation for this unusual phenomenon. A number of variables are taken into consideration: Chronobiology, cortisol, epinephrine, and the hypothalamus.
Dr. Richard J. Martin, head of the pulmonary division at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, says that this unusual occurrence can be explained by chronobiology, or the study of how the time of day influences bodily function.
In observing asthmatic patients, Dr. Martin noted that as much as 75% of them experienced breathing difficulty once a week at night. 50% to 60% reported these occurrences 3 nights a week.
When one of his patients died after a nocturnal asthma attack, Dr. Martin decided to get down to the bottom things. According to researchers, two very important hormones contribute to this: cortisol and epinephrine.
Cortisol and epinephrine
According to the research, cortisol and epinephrine (more commonly known as adrenaline), are the body’s natural anti-asthma hormones. It is effective in combating the ailment, that hospitals give patients artificial doses to counter severe asthma attacks.
Asthma aside, cortisol is a steroid hormone that produced by the body to help deal with stress. What is the connection of this naturally produced steroid and chronobiology? The body’s cortisol levels rise in the early hours, then peaks at 7 a.m., according to an online health article on Cigna. The surplus of cortisol in the morning aids the body’s fight against infections.
It also states that the body’s cortisol production drops to low levels at night, including the early phases of sleep. This is when the body begins to fight the threat at a higher intensity than in the morning. The body’s reaction to this cortisol drop explains why those with fevers notice the difference in experience between the day and night.
The hypothalamus also plays a part in why fevers are worse at night. According to Dr. Emmanuel Rodriguez, it is the body’s thermometer, regulating it by sending short bursts of hormones to important organs, so it stays at 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees in Farenheit).
But when you have a fever, Dr. Rodriguez notes that the hypothalamus resets the body’s temperature to one higher than normal. Also, he states that the functions of the body (breathing, pumping blood, muscle movements) build up the body’s temperature as the day progresses. When someone has a fever, one’s body temperature is already above normal as it heats up. Ergo, at night, the body’s already elevated temperature peaks at much higher levels, also explaining why one’s fever is much worse at night.