Alcohol withdrawal fever is a dangerous condition that occurs when someone who has been drinking a lot suddenly stops or cuts down on their alcohol intake. Usually, treatment includes medicines to handle withdrawal symptoms and emotional support to aid in the recovery process from alcoholism and alcohol abuse. (1)
Understanding the signs of this condition is important for anyone who may be at risk of developing it after stopping alcohol consumption.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Fever?
Alcohol withdrawal fever is a condition that occurs due to the body’s reaction to sudden alcohol cessation from extended periods of substance use. It can happen in individuals who have been consuming a large amount of alcohol for an extended period. (2)
Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate temperature, causing a spike in body heat during withdrawal. This condition, often accompanied by other withdrawal symptoms, underscores the importance of seeking professional help and medical supervision when attempting to quit alcohol, as it can be a sign of more severe withdrawal complications.
Why Does Withdrawal Cause Fever?
Initially, alcohol consumption increases GABA, which is why people feel a sense of relaxation and calmness while drinking. (3) However, continued consumption suppresses this same neurotransmitter, requiring them to drink more to become intoxicated. Glutamate is another excitatory neurotransmitter within the brain that alcohol suppresses similarly. (4)
When a person stops drinking, these neurotransmitters become hyper-excited, triggering the unpleasant physical symptoms associated with withdrawal and becoming bad effects of alcohol.
The most critical risk factor for severe withdrawal symptoms, including alcohol withdrawal fever, is the quantity of alcohol consumed before quitting.
Alcohol withdrawal fever is also known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Severe withdrawal symptoms can constitute a medical emergency, and the condition can be fatal if left untreated.
When individuals with alcohol dependence decide to stop drinking, they may face various risks, including the development of alcohol withdrawal fever. This elevation in body heat can be accompanied by other withdrawal symptoms like:
These symptoms can be alarming and, in severe cases, even life-threatening. (5)
It’s crucial for those attempting to quit drinking to be aware of these risks and seek professional medical guidance and supervision. Alcohol withdrawal can be unpredictable, and some individuals may experience more severe symptoms than others.
Medical professionals can provide the necessary care and treatment to manage these risks and ensure a safer and more comfortable transition to sobriety. This underscores the importance of seeking help from healthcare providers who specialize in addiction treatment when deciding to quit alcohol.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Alcohol withdrawal fever typically subsides within a week after the last drink, but it can sometimes linger for a longer period. (6) It’s crucial to monitor the individual’s temperature and vital signs closely during this time.
Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) (7)
- Elevated body temperature
- A rapid heart rate
- Sweating, chills, and clammy skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Delirium tremens, also known as the DTs or alcohol withdrawal delirium (8)
- Confusion, disorientation, restlessness, and irritability
- Hallucinations, nightmares, and alcohol withdrawal seizures
How to Reduce the Risk of Developing an Alcohol-Related Fever
Reducing the risk of developing an alcohol-related fever is an important consideration for individuals seeking to quit or cut down on their alcohol consumption.
Here are some strategies to minimize the risk of experiencing alcohol fever and other withdrawal symptoms:
- Gradual Reduction: Abruptly quitting alcohol after heavy and prolonged use can increase the risk of withdrawal symptoms, including alcohol fever. Gradually reducing alcohol intake rather than quitting suddenly can help the body adjust more smoothly to reduce alcohol levels and improve mental health. This method, known as tapering, should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
- Medical Supervision: It’s advisable to seek medical supervision when attempting to quit alcohol, especially if you have a history of severe alcohol use or have experienced withdrawal symptoms before. Healthcare providers can assess your medical conditions and develop a personalized plan that may include medications to manage withdrawal symptoms.
- Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms. Ensure you stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. This can help regulate your body temperature and minimize the risk of fever.
- Balanced Nutrition: A balanced diet can support your body during the detox process. Eating nutritious foods can help maintain your energy levels and overall well-being.
- Manage Stress: Stress can contribute to alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Engage in stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help keep stress levels in check. (9)
- Professional Treatment: Seeking professional treatment at a rehab facility or detox center can provide a structured and supportive environment for individuals aiming to quit alcohol. These facilities offer medical supervision, therapy, and counseling to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.
By taking these steps, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of developing an alcohol-related fever and other potentially severe withdrawal symptoms.
How to Treat Fever Caused By Alcohol Detox
Fever resulting from alcohol detox can be concerning, but it is manageable with the right approach. Here’s a condensed but detailed guide on how to treat alcohol detox-induced fever:
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, clear broths, or herbal teas, to help your body maintain its temperature and prevent dehydration, which can worsen fever.
- Rest: Allow your body to recover by getting adequate rest. Fatigue can often accompany alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and rest is essential for the healing process.
- Cool Compress: Applying a cool, damp cloth to your forehead or the back of your neck can help reduce fever and provide some relief.
- Acetaminophen: If the fever becomes uncomfortable or distressing, you may consider taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to lower your body temperature. (10) However, it’s crucial to follow dosing guidelines and avoid alcohol entirely when using such medications.
When to Seek Medical Attention:
- High Fever: If your body temperature becomes exceptionally high (above 103°F or 39.4°C) and doesn’t respond to home remedies, seek immediate medical attention. (11)
- Severe Symptoms: If you experience severe or worsening alcohol withdrawal symptoms alongside fever, such as hallucinations, seizures, severe anxiety, or delirium tremens, consult a healthcare professional immediately.
- Persistent Fever: If the fever persists for more than a day or two, despite home treatment, consult with a doctor. It may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
- Concerns or Questions: If you have any concerns or questions about the fever during alcohol detox, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a healthcare provider. They can provide guidance and recommendations based on your specific situation.
Seeking medical advice is essential when dealing with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, especially when they involve fever, as it may indicate a more complex issue. With appropriate care and support, individuals can effectively manage fever during alcohol detox and work toward a healthier, alcohol-free life.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options
Treating alcohol withdrawal fever often involves a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and therapy. However, the management of alcohol withdrawal includes inpatient and outpatient treatment options.
Talk with a medical professional about a withdrawal assessment to determine which option is best for you.
Inpatient treatment for acute alcohol withdrawal can help reduce symptoms’ intensity and duration by providing medical supervision. It involves close monitoring of vital signs and blood chemistries, which allows doctors to respond quickly if life-threatening complications arise.
In some cases, it may include pharmacotherapy medications, including anticonvulsants such as gabapentin, or benzodiazepines, such as:
Supplementation with vitamins and minerals may also help correct any deficiencies. (12)
An outpatient setting for alcohol withdrawal is an effective option for those with mild to moderate symptoms. This type of care consists of visits to the provider daily and support from family or friends who can remain vigilant during this period.
It also involves a comprehensive approach that includes sedative drugs to help with the symptoms as well as testing and treatment for any medical issues that are side effects of alcohol dependence.
This is a process of helping someone with an alcohol use disorder to stop drinking safely and manage the withdrawal symptoms. Medical detoxification helps reduce the risk of severe health complications associated with alcohol withdrawal. It often takes place in a hospital or rehab facility.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
MAT combines behavioral therapy and medications to help people recover from alcohol use disorder. Three pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed to treat alcohol use disorder are:
- Naltrexone (13)
Acamprosate is a synthetically made compound similar in structure to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and neuromodulator taurine, two vital components for healthy neurological functioning. (14)
Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help people modify their behaviors and thoughts related to alcohol use. (15) It also helps people develop coping strategies to avoid alcohol and manage cravings.
Support groups are an excellent way for individuals to find support and understanding while recovering from an alcohol use disorder. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a self-help group that provides support and motivation to help people stay sober.
Zinnia Health: Your Partner in Safe and Effective Alcohol Detox
When a loved one is dealing with alcohol addiction, there are several ways to extend your support. Engaging in empathic conversations allows them to share their struggles openly. Encouraging them to seek professional help, whether through therapy, psychiatry, or rehab facilities, enhances their chances of recovery.
It’s essential to provide support without enabling destructive behavior, like supplying money for alcohol or exposing them to tempting situations. Creating a safe and alcohol-free environment, perhaps by designating specific “alcohol-free zones” or keeping alcohol out of their reach, contributes to their recovery.
Simultaneously, remember to prioritize self-care as aiding someone with alcohol addiction can be emotionally challenging, and your well-being is essential in providing unwavering support on their path to recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol dependence, Zinnia Health can help. We provide safe and comfortable detoxification services and aftercare plans designed to reduce the chance of relapse. We work with many healthcare providers, and our professional team can answer any questions 24/7 via our helpline at (855) 430-9439.