What is Alcohol Withdrawal Fever? Uncommon Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Can drinking alcohol make you hotter? Most people will say that it does – but we don’t mean in the sense of making people seem more attractive. Flushing skin, hot flashes, and increased sweating are common side effects of alcohol consumption (i.e.: alcohol blankets) that pass once alcohol has exited your system. The temperature-raising side effect associated with alcohol withdrawal, however, is not as harmless. Alcohol withdrawal fever is one of the less commonly addressed symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Knowing what it is could potentially save your life.   

What is Alcohol Withdrawal Fever?

Fever is a relatively common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. In most cases, fevers are low-grade (do not exceed beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and can be attributed to some sort of indirect infection or illness. 

Instances where a fever has no determinable cause and persists for an extended period of time can indicate that the alcohol detox process has taken a nasty turn. This symptom is associated with the most severe type of withdrawal commonly known as delirium tremens (DTs).

Is Fever During Alcohol Withdrawal Dangerous? 

Fever can be beneficial to a detoxing alcoholic by indicating a related illness such as a kidney infection caused by dehydration. However, if an alcohol withdrawal-related fever persists for more than 72 hours it is often considered a medical emergency. The danger does not actually lie with the fever itself, which is more of an accessory symptom, but because of the other symptoms that accompany delirium tremens such as:

  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Hallucinations (audial and visual)
  • High blood pressure
  • Extreme confusion and agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Treatment for delirium tremens can take close to two weeks of hospitalization. It typically involves IV fluids to prevent dehydration and medication to treat seizures or other DT symptoms.

The Cause of Alcohol Withdrawal Fever

As is the case with most nasty withdrawal effects, they are usually brought on by quitting a substance cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms only occur when the body has developed physical dependence, however. When this happens, the neurochemistry of the brain has been permanently disrupted due to the brain not having functioned normally for quite some time.

It is estimated that about 50% of alcoholics experience withdrawal symptoms when they eventually stop drinking. The effects, albeit unpleasant, are often relatively mild. These symptoms include headache, high blood pressure, or nausea and vomiting. Long-term heavy drinkers, however, have the highest risk of developing delirium tremens, which could land them in the emergency room. The likelihood of this occurring is low, only 5% of alcohol withdrawal ends up being this severe.

In the case of alcohol withdrawal fever, it is not serving fever’s usual purpose of heating the body to kill bacteria. Instead, it is a result of a dramatic shift in brain and nervous system activity. Excessive drinking suppresses neurotransmitters and forces them to work in overdrive to continue functioning. When you suddenly cause stop drinking, your neurotransmitters can take a while to catch up, slow down, and return to normal. This in-between period where your body is working extra hard to overcome a substance that isn’t there is what causes withdrawal and, in particularly bad cases, alcohol withdrawal fever.

Fever & Alcohol Withdrawal: What To Do Next

Seek medical help right away if you are undergoing alcohol detox and experience fever for more than 72 hours. High-grade or long-lasting fevers could be alcohol withdrawal fever caused by dangerous delirium tremens. This condition isn’t something you should try to wait out by yourself. Our medical detox treatments can help mitigate the worst of DT symptoms and make your alcohol withdrawal as comfortable as possible. Contact us today to see which of our alcoholic recovery options are best for you. 

Hotline (855) 459-2880