What Exactly is Cotton Fever?
Cotton fever is a term that gets thrown around pretty frequently in the drug world. Despite hearing it often during active addiction, you may not really know what it means. There are 10,000 definitions, each one a little different from the last.
Associated with IV drug use, it’s thought to result from injecting tiny particles from whatever is used as a filter. These are things like cotton balls, Q-Tips, and cigarette filters. Although injecting particles from these filters is a real concern for active addicts, they’re not the cause of the condition.
So, what’s the real cause? Well, it’s most likely an infection brought on by Pantoea agglomerans. This is a bacterium found on cotton plants, not in cotton itself.
In fact, in the 1940’s cotton pickers began to exhibit similar symptoms. They weren’t IV drug users, but rather people who had frequent contact with cotton plants and, subsequently, Pantoea agglomerans.
In recent years, there’s been new evidence that suggests cotton fever is actually a form of sepsis. This is due, in large part, to the fact that its symptoms are incredibly similar to sepsis symptoms. What are the symptoms, you ask? Let’s get to that.
Cotton Fever Symptoms
- Fever (usually lasting no longer than twenty-four hours)
- Extreme Shakes
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Muscle & Bone Pain
How to Get Rid of Cotton Fever
Like many problems of active addiction, cotton fever treatment options seem to be a mix of common sense advice and urban legend. Some of the most common methods of treatment include:
- Seeking Medical Help – This should be obvious! If you’re experiencing symptoms, go to the hospital. While it usually isn’t deadly, there’s no way to tell what the exact outcome will be. If cotton fever really is a mild form of sepsis, then medical attention is absolutely necessary.
- Taking a Hot Shower – This is used by many heroin addicts to help ease withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms mimic opiate withdrawal so taking a hot shower may help mitigate some cotton fever symptoms.
- Drinking a Lot of Water – Like taking a hot shower, this is more to help ease the symptoms. However, drinking a lot of water won’t do much to rid the body of any infection.
- Letting it Run its Course – while I don’t endorse doing nothing, this is an option. Many addicts view cotton fever as an unfortunate side effect of active addiction and won’t attempt any sort of treatment unless they have to.
Anytime you experience a high fever for more than 24 hours, it is wise to seek medical attention. This is particularly important when addiction symptoms such as nausea and migraines accompany it. These are possible signs of an infection and could need immediate treatment in order to prevent it from progressing.