Fever is an elevation of temperature above normal and results from an imbalance between the heat produced in the body and the heat eliminated from the body.
Types of Fever
1. Acute fevers of short duration
Acute fevers of short duration, such as influenza, typhoid, chicken-pox, pneumonia. In such cases the diet should be planned with the objective of eliminating any exertion on the part of the patient in taking his food. For the first two or three days the diet should be fluid or semi-fluid and small feeds given at frequent intervals of two to three hours. Sufficient intake of fluids and salt is essential. If the illness continues for more than a few days, high-protein, high-calorie food should be provided. Milk should be the main sustaining item of the diet and nearly one liter should be given daily.
This will provide easily digestible proteins. Diet could include daily, more than one egg and plenty of fresh fruit juice. At least two to three liters of fluids should be taken daily. As soon as the temperature comes down a bland diet containing plenty of protein and energy should be given. In case of typhoid fever, low fiber foods such as white bread, refined cooked and dry cereals, egg, cheese, tender meat, fish, potatoes and simple desserts may be given.
2. Long, continued fever
Long, continued fever, as in tuberculosis. Pulmonary tuberculosis, in inflammatory disease of the lungs; followed by a wasting of the tissues, exhaustion, cough and fever. It is necessary to take care of the dietary intake, particularly of proteins and to ensure that the energy is sufficient to meet the extra-requirements caused by the fever. This minimizes weight loss which is quite common in such continued fevers.
It is very important to include calcium in the diet to promote the healing of the tuberculosis lesions. At least a liter of milk should be included daily. Iron supplementation may be necessary if one suffers from hemorrhage. In case of vitamins, since the conversion of carotene to Vitamin A is poor, it should be supplied in the form of retinol through the diet. In addition a Vitamin A supplement may be necessary. Ascorbic acid deficiency is normally found and, therefore, an additional amount of citrus fruits or ascorbic acid supplementation is essential.
3. Intermittent Fevers
Intermittent Fevers, as in malaria-during this type of fever there is an increased rate of metabolism, increased restlessness and hence the demand for calories increases. There is a decrease in the glycogen and adipose tissue stores. There is also an increase in the catabolic processes. Loss of body water increases due to excessive perspiration and excretion from the body.
The diet in fevers depends upon the severity of conditions and the length of convalescence.
If temperature is high and tissue destruction is great, calorie requirement increases up to 50 percent. Restlessness also increases the caloric requirement.
About 100 gm or more of protein daily is required during prolonged fevers.
Glucose stores are filled up again by a liberal intake of carbohydrate. Any sugars such as glucose, honey and cane sugars may be used.
The energy intake may be greatly increased through the use of fats, but fried foods, rich pastries and other foods difficult to digest should be avoided.
A sufficient intake of sodium chloride is obtained by the use of salted foods. Iron supplement should be given to correct anemia.
Fevers increase requirement of Vitamin A and ascorbic acid. Vitamin B-complex requirement also increases so as to help proper absorption of increased calorie intake.
The fluid intake should be liberal to compensate for the losses from the skin and to permit adequate volume of urine for excreting wastes.
Foods which are soft, easily and readily digestible and bland should be given to make digestion easy and absorption rapid. Small quantities of food at intervals of two to three hours will provide adequate nutrition without overloading the digestive system.
Foods to be avoided
Strongly-flavored, highly-spiced and fried foods and rich pastries.
Foods to be included
Milk, egg, tender meat, cereal preparations, with milk, fruit juice, vegetable soups like tomato soup, protein-rich beverages, custards.