What the Heck 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, I never really knew what it meant. I’d heard about 10,000 definitions, each one a little different from the last.
Cotton fever is 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 cotton fever.
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 cotton fever 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.
Let’s turn our attention to some frequent cotton fever symptoms.
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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. Find some cotton fever treatments below:
- Seek Medical Help – this should be obvious! If you’re experiencing cotton fever, 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.
- Take a Hot Shower – this is used by many heroin addicts to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Because cotton fever mimics opiate withdrawal, taking a hot shower may help mitigate some cotton fever symptoms.
- Drink a Lot of Water – Like taking a hot shower, this is more to help ease some cotton fever symptoms. However, drinking a lot of water won’t do much to rid the body of any infection.
- Let 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.