Why Fever is Good for You

IS IT OK TO GET A MASSAGE WITH A FEVER, SHOULD YOU STAY AWAY FROM WORK, IS FEVER A BAD THING?

If your child or friend has a fever, what do you say to them - that it's dangerous and they must get rid of it? What do you do if you have a fever yourself - say you are sick, your body isn't working properly and you set about 'fixing' the fever with drugs? New research backs up what natural health practitioners (and many mums) have said for years.

The research[1] looked at an immune cell, a lymphocyte called CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell which can destroy cells infected by viruses as well as tumor cells. They injected mice with with an antigen (a foreign molecule that triggers the production of an antibody by the immune system) and observed how the CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells activated to react to the antigen. They then increased the temperature of half the group of mice by 2 degrees celcius. They found this half of the group of mice produced more CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells than the control group which means they had a better immune response to the same antigen.

The researchers were from Roswell Park Cancer Institute where, in 2007, it was found that heating mice up to a body temperature of 39.5 degrees celcius doubled the migration of leukocytes, white blood cells, from the blood stream to the lymph tissue where they can combat infection. Heat increases the density of sticky molecules on the surface of blood vessels in the lymph nodes, which then catches more white blood cells from the blood as it rushes past. This means there is greater immune system function with the white blood cells when mammals experience fever.

So there is more than one reason why fever is part of an effective immune response and why you shouldn't try to 'fix' a natural function of the body by lowering mild fevers if you have average or good health. But if a fever continues for 48 hours or gets above 39.5 degrees celcius then there could be a problem that requires intervention. And additional symptoms such as your neck becoming stiff could lead you to seek medical advice earlier. If the body wasn't in a balanced state then the fever may not be co-ordinated well and goes beyond the body's limits to control or there could be a more seious cause for the fever. So when it starts to take on those features then you need to seek intervention as it may be needed to avoid serious consequences.

If you want to strengthen your body to be less likely to get infections that you can't handle in the first place, see our nutrition page for a start.

[1] Thomas A Mace, Lingwen Zhong, Casey Kilpatrick, Evan Zynda, Chen-Ting Lee, Maegen Capitano, Hans Minderman & Elizabeth A. Repasky. Differentiation of CD8+ T cells into effector cells is enhanced by physiological range hyperthermia J Leukoc Biol November 2011 90:951-962;

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