Disco, cat scratch, and pediatric…all very misunderstood and all equally capable of causing a profuse sweat! As uncomfortable as fevers can be, nature has designed fever to function as a positive adaptation of immunity. From mammals to reptiles, having the capability to raise body temperature provides a quicker resolution of infection. So when should a fever be treated and when should it be left to nature?
A study published in Pediatrics, Vol. 107, No. 6, June 2001, pp. 1241-1246 questioned parents and found well over 50% of them were very worried about the potential harm of fever in their children. Almost half considered 102°F to be a “high” fever, and 7% thought that a temperature could rise to greater than 110°F if left untreated. Ninety-one percent (91%) of parents believed that a fever could cause harmful effects; 21% listed brain damage, and 14% listed death.
This study highlights the wide range of common misconceptions in how fever is understood. In my opinion we are much too quick to treat fever because we just don’t understand the benefits. Fever is a natural expression of the human body that gives us an advantage to quickly eliminate an infection. Without going into boring biochemistry, the purpose of fever works when an aspect of the immune system signals the brain to reset the normal temperature to a higher degree. This has the advantage to make it difficult for an opportunistic organism (virus and bacteria) to replicate. A higher temperature also raises the rate at which the immune system functions. A quickly mobilized immune system is a strong one!
I feel we need to reexamine the art of allowance and see fever as an intelligent part of the immune system and not as a illness as so many people see it. Treating a fever is acceptable when a fever reaches 104 degrees F. If someone has a fever this high chances are the infection needs medical attention. Anything under 104 should be monitored but not necessarily treated with fever reducers. A fever will not melt you or your child’s brain, I assure you of that.
In a study reported in Pharmacotherapy, December 2000; 20: 1417-1422, the researchers compared the duration of illness in those who received aspirin or acetaminophen (paracetamol) for relief of fever with those who did not and found that flu sufferers who took one of the anti-fever medications were sick an average of 3.5 days longer than people who did not take either of the drugs. On average, flu symptoms lasted 5.3 days in those who did not take aspirin or acetaminophen, compared with 8.8 days in people who took the anti-fever drugs.
The science community has ongoing studies that are still trying to figure out what benefits fever has for host immunity “if any” as one paper eluded . I feel that nature has good reasons that even if the human intellect cannot fully grasp, we must respect nature in its wisdom until our intellect has had a few billion years to work out the kinks. Until then, trust the wonders of the body and be respectful of its processes.