What is cotton fever?

Cotton fever is a condition that is associated with intravenous drug use. Although there are few medical or professional and peer reviewed articles that document cotton fever, it is well known among intravenous drug users. The symptoms of cotton fever occur after an intravenous drug like heroin is injected using cotton as a filter. It is established that cotton fever is caused by unsanitary drug injection practices, particularly an endotoxin released by the bacteria Pantoea agglomerans which lives in cotton plants.

Many cotton fever sufferers are self-diagnosed based on their knowledge of drug-related illness. It is a common misconception that the cotton fibers used to filter intravenous drugs enter the blood stream and cause the illness. It is well established it is the presence of bacteria entering the blood stream is what causes the flu-like symptoms. Since many intravenous drug users use household cotton like cotton balls or Q-tips to filter their drugs, the bacteria found in these non-sterile cottons increase the risk of bacteria entering the blood stream.

What are its symptoms?

Symptoms of cotton fever may occur as little as 20 minutes after injection. These symptoms resemble the common flu and worsen over time. Symptoms include:

  • Fever (101.3-104.5 F)
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Malaise
  • Intense Joint Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid heartbeat or Tachycardia
  • Extreme chills
  • Uncontrollable shaking

How to treat cotton fever.

Cotton fever is usually not serious enough to require hospitalization. However, in extreme cases, cotton fever can resemble sepsis and can be misdiagnosed as such if hospitalization is required. Usually cases of cotton fever do not require hospitalization because they clear up rather quickly.

Treatment resembles what you would do for a fever or flu such as using a fever reducer like Advil or Tylenol and soaking in a warm bath. Extreme cases that last longer than few days might require an antibiotic. Typically, symptoms subside within 24 hours.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug addiction, Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help.  If you need advice on next steps call our 24 hour helpline or chat live with us now.