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Friend or Foe? The benefits of fever

Friend or Foe? The benefits of fever

Fever, we’ve all had one at some point or another. The most common narrative is to take a Tylenol or use a cold compress to reduce fever. The herbal community also has remedies such as white willow bark, echinacea and yarrow. But why is that? Is it inherently harmful or could we be preventing a natural and beneficial process from occurring?

Fever is part of the healing process

Many illness-causing microbes and viruses thrive at normal body temperature. When we get a fever, the rise in temperature can kill or limit the pathogen making you ill. It also strengthens the body’s immune system by creating a rapid spurt of white blood cells, which attack illness-causing pathogens.  A growing body of research shows that letting a fever run its course may reduce the length and severity of such illnesses like infections, colds and flu.

Taking Tylenol or fever-reducing herbal medicines has been shown to produce longer recovery times as it reduces these natural immune functions of the body. There may even be other benefits to running a fever. A study published in the February 2004 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who ran a fever during their first year were less likely to develop allergies later in childhood than children who did not. This suggests the potential that there are more benefits of experiencing fever then we know of.

When to worry

The body has an internal mechanism that regulates the body’s internal temperature so that within normal environmental conditions it never reaches more than 37.8° – 40° C. Most fevers won’t exceed this temperature, but if they do you will want to judge the danger based off of how sick you feel.  Only a fever over 42° C can cause brain damage and very rarely occurs from infection. Of course, there can always be exceptions so we recommend checking with your healthcare provider if unsure.

When the body reaches temperatures of 42° C or higher it is usually a result of being left in a hot environment such as a sauna or hot car too long. Of course, if a high temperature accompanies other serious medical concerns such as meningitis or infections that won’t heal, so its important to seek medical attention if you suspect its more then just a mild infection or virus. Keep an eye or for symptoms such as an unusual skin rash, severe headache, aversion to light, confusion, unclear eye contact or severe lethargy, or stiff or painful neck or you continue to get sicker it’s a strong sign you need to seek medical help.

To treat or not to treat?

There is nothing inherently wrong with a fever. Treating a one is really treating the discomfort of the fever and does limit the bodies healing capabilities. However, a fever can result due to underlying illnesses that may need to be treated. If you suspect you may have more then a mild cold, flu or infection you and are experiencing other serious symptoms along with a high fever it’s a pretty sure sign something might be seriously wrong.