How To Treat Cotton Fever: Home Remedies Reviewed!

I had a meth addict tell me once that she injected tap water into her vein because she felt like crap and another meth addict told her it would cure her cotton fever.  What's cotton fever you ask?  I had no idea, until I looked it up.  In my specialty of hospitalist medicine, I don't see a whole lot of meth addicts admitted into the hospital, unless they need treatment for cellulitis or endocarditis.  They usually end up dead in their homes or on the streets before they ever make it into the hospital.

According to Wikipedia, the syndrome of cotton fever arises from the endotoxin produced by the bacteria Enterobacter agglomerans which is colonized on cotton plants.  Heroin addicts may use cotton to filter their heroin before injection into their veins.  This process allows for the introduction of endotoxin into the bloodstream, producing the fever like response.  In addition, unsanitary injection methods can introduce skin flora (bacteria) into the blood stream and produce bacteremia and possibly sepsis that can mimic the cotton fever response to endotoxin, making it impossible to know if the fever is from the endotoxin or from a raging case of severe sepsis about to kill a patient with shock.

What are the signs and symptoms of cotton fever?    Cotton fever symptoms may appear within a few minutes of injection with a fever nadir of 101-105 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour after injection.   Cotton fever rarely requires treatment and will go away in several hours to a day or so.  Antibiotics will occasionally be prescribed.  I suspect if a meth addict with fever gets admitted to the hospital, all of them will get antibiotics until blood cultures can be shown to have no growth.  

The internet is the wild, wild west of home remedy treatments for just about everything one can imagine, including cotton fever.  What are some unscientific at home remedies I discovered on the internet that some folks say will help treat cotton fever ?
  • Take really hot baths for nearly an hour.  This is apparently used by some for opiate withdrawal too.  Although I suspect this home remedy puts folks at risk for drowning and heat stroke!  In my book, drugs plus hot water equals dangerous!    
  • Take aspirin or Tylenol.  It's always hard to know if the fever is a true bacterial infection or just a reaction.  
  • Drink a lot of water to "ride it out" and to use sterile cotton or q-tips instead of filters to try and prevent the reaction.  If you're going to shoot up, make sure you read drug addict internet forums to learn all the important hints for getting your safest buzz possible.
  • Get a blanket and "hunker down".   Nothing like a little cotton fever to ruin a great high.
  • Relax and stay calm.  I think this might be hard to do in the middle of massive headaches and vomiting.
  • Go to the ER if you're not better in 24 hours.  This is smart advice.
  • Hold your jaw tight with your hands.  I don't get this one.  
Also, consider seeking help to overcome the drug addiction.  Unfortunately, many don't before it's too late.  That's the nature of addiction and why so many addicts never make it to recovery.  So how did my interaction with a meth addict go with regards to cotton fever?  There's good intuition and bad intuition.  

Bad Intuition:
"What's cotton fever?" I asked. I honestly had no idea. "I have no f***in idea", she said."Really?" I said.  "That tap water you injected into your veins that your friend said would cure your cotton fever probably has bacteria in it.""Oh, really?" she said. "Yeah, I would say it's probably not a  good idea to do that again",  I said.
Good Intuition
"Do you have any interest in quitting meth?" I said.
"All meth addicts are f***d in the head. Of course I want to quit", she said.
Some of this post is for entertainment purposes only and likely contains humor only understood by those in a healthcare profession. Read at your own risk.

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5 Outbursts:

  1. 2 years ago when doing a quick med history:

    Me; have you ever been in hosptial?
    HIM; yup - last year
    Me; for what?
    HIM; Beaver Fever
    Me; Huh? (trying to surpress smile)
    HIM; you know, back-packers fever, giardiasis - knocked the hell out of me for a couple of months.

    Should have paid more attention in micro class.

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  2. Wow. I transcribed a report the other day where a heroin addict injected lemon and orange juice to "break up the heroin." A colleague of mine told me it was because they were addicted to the needle. "Cotton fever," perhaps?

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  3. cotton fever is no joke. i have had it about six times. the first time i did my thing and nodded off and woke up sick and thought i slept long and was in withdrawal mode, but i really nodded for twenty minutes and it was cotton fever. i laughed the first time i heard that term, but wont laugh again, it it a mightmare in hell. so over the time i have had it six time and it is bad. i was next to my fireplace under seven blnkets freezing, with high fever, teeth shattering so bad, one actually chipped, yes i got it fixed lol then i wa vomiting and had shallow breathing, this was the most severe time, i found that since i am a pill head as well, pop three vics or percs your fever will break and u wil n fine till next time ad life as a user, really is it worth it, tryin to quit b safe

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  4. i had cotton fever last night. second time i have had it in my 6 years of heroin addiction. it is the worst feeling ever. freezing, teeth chatter, tons of blankets over me. winter pj's in the summer. nothing makes you warm, and at the same time i was sweating so bad my bed was sooking wet. that experience was enough to make me quit injecting drugs, i would rather go through the withdrawls than ever experience that again.

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  5. OMG I quit shooting dope about 16+ years ago and I was particularly susceptible to cotton fever... My sons father was in pharmacy school (and using) he told me ASPIRIN (4 or 5 of them will cure cotton fever in 15 or 20 min. I also had it more when I was pregnant. I thought what good is aspirin when I'm doing dope, but it works every time. ASPIRIN ASPIRIN ASPIRIN

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