Cotton fever is a form of pulmonary infection which is often contracted by IV drug users who use cotton to filter their hits. It is most-likely caused by the E. Agglomerans bacteria which grows in cotton and not by actual cotton fibers. Typical symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Fever
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms usually go away within 3-4 hours but if they persist, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms can be treated using antibiotics, but in most cases it's best to just let the fever run its course.

Oftentimes desperate heroin users will collect old cotton filters and boil them to gather the heroin residue for an extra hit. This is the easiest way to contract cotton fever and is not likely to be worth the risk. Bacteria cannot be destroyed simply by boiling the drug solution.

To avoid contracting cotton fever, do not re-use cotton filters or cotton which has been exposed to moisture. However, the only sure way of not ever contracting cotton fever is to just avoid using cotton to filter your hits. A safer way of filtering a solution for IV injection is to use a micron filter which will remove much finer particles and also eliminate the risk of contracting cotton fever.

I contracted cotton fever before I'd even heard about the condition. Soon after taking a considerably weak hit of heroin one night I started feeling extremely cold even though I was indoors and it was the middle of summer. I also started shaking uncontrollably and felt like I had a high fever.

At first I thought that perhaps I was one of the few unlucky individuals to receive heroin cut with quinine, but that was very unlikely especially since my roommate who had pushed off out of the same batch was feeling fine. Luckily the symptoms went away after about 3 hours and the only remaining thing that bothered me was the idea that I had just blown $40 that night on a rather pathetic amount of horse and I didn't even get high.


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