Fevers- a bane for busy parents rushing to get the kids off to school, and themselves to work. Worry-making in their speed and intensity, many turn to the medicine cabinet to see what can take the fever away fastest. Fevers are also a conundrum for those parents wanting to take a more natural approach to their family's medical care: to Asprin or not to Asprin? Well, I'm just a bit behind the times, but earlier in January (1/11/2011), there appeared in NY Times titled, "Lifting a Veil of Fear to See a Few Benefits of Fever." While much of the article was relegated to describing the quagmire of antipyretics (anti-fever meds), figuring out effective doses with what has on hand for the immediate situation of a sick child, there was also a pleasing amount of updated information dispelling the fever-as-boogey-man perspective that is so pervasive.
Towards the end of the article,I was pleased to see a quote by Dr. Janet Serwint, professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins, who said, “I personally think there should be much more education about this at well visits,” going on to say that she believes parents should learn about “the helpfulness of fever — how fever actually is a well-orchestrated healthy response of our body.”
Finally, some vindication for our doctors since time immoral who have praised and made use of the fever response in acute illnesses! These ideas are anything but new. These concepts were known all the way back in Hippocrates' time, who proclaimed, "Give me a fever, and I can cure the child." The fever was a necessary part of the process, not a negative side effect to be stamped out as quickly as possible.
The fever process is carefully regulated by an important, central part of the brain (hypothalamus), which is told via our immune system that there are pathogens on board. This causes our brain to re-set our temperature, first causing the sensation of chills (brain says, "we're too cold"), then as the immune system deals with the illness, the hypothalamus eases up and a fever develops then breaks ("we need more heat," then "ok, enough heat; we're done with the fever thing, time to sweat it all out").
Without the fever process, our immune defense is crippled in dealing with otherwise relatively benign illnesses. Without proper and complete immune responses, our body is less able to respond quickly and efficiently to the next round of similar bug going around later that year, or the next since it was never able to properly learn how to deal with the illness the first time around.
On the cautionary side (we are, after all, dealing with people here, particularly children), there is the concern about high fevers (over 104-105 degrees Fahrenheit) inducing seizures. These cases should soon find themselves in urgent care, although epilepsy and subsequent brain damage has been dispelled as possible effects from high fevers. Again, the hypothalamus which tells the body to heat up has its own internal system that puts the breaks on the fever process before we enter danger zone.
So, the next time you come down with a fever, consider all the sides and potential self-treatments (contact your local Naturopathic Doctor for more information!), and for many benign acute illnesses (those things going around every year), rest and chicken soup may be just what the doctor (who has the most up-to-date and comprehensive knowledge on treatments) ordered!
Thank you for reading. I appreciate all those comments and suggestions I have received thus far. I always welcome your responses.