Fever is a natural response of the body’s immune system to infections or other illnesses.
When the body detects the presence of harmful microorganisms or other foreign substances, it releases chemicals called pyrogens, which signal the brain to raise the body’s temperature.
This increase in temperature can help the body fight off invading pathogens by stimulating the production of white blood cells and other immune system components.
Infections are caused by invading microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites, which can disrupt normal bodily functions and cause various symptoms, including fever.
It may be better to let a mild fever run its course instead of automatically reaching for medication, new University of Alberta research suggests.
In a new study, researchers found that untreated mil fever helped fish clear their bodies of infection rapidly, controlled inflammation and repaired damaged tissue.
Moderate fever is self-resolving, meaning that the body can both induce it and shut it down naturally without taking medication.
This natural response is evolutionarily kept across the animal kingdom, and every animal examined has this biological response to infection.
Some species, such as fish, reptiles, and insects, will even risk predation and decrease their reproductive success to move to temperatures in their environments that bring on a natural fever.
In the study, fish were given a bacterial infection and their behavior was then tracked and evaluated using machine learning.
The team found outward symptoms were similar to those seen in humans with fever, including immobility, fatigue, and malaise.
The research showed that natural fever offers an integrative response that not only activates defenses against infection but also helps control it.
Fever helped to clear the fish of infection in about seven days—half the time it took for those animals not allowed to exert fever.
Fever also helped to shut down inflammation and repair tissues that had been injured.
The team suggests that the findings could also help veterinarians and livestock producers manage illness in the animals they work with.
They can take advantage of this natural fever response and the tools they have generated to identify animals that are sick or that may need a vaccination booster.
Ultimately, the study’s goal is to strike a healthy balance between treating fever and benefiting from it.
In the long term, the goal is to determine how to best take advantage of our medical advances while continuing to harness the benefits of natural mechanisms of immunity.
Therefore, it is suggested that humans should resist reaching for over-the-counter fever medications at the first signs of a mild temperature.
Although the health advantages of natural fever to humans still have to be confirmed through research, the mechanisms driving and sustaining fever are shared among animals, and it is reasonable to expect similar benefits to happen in humans.
Taking medication for a mild fever may take away the discomfort felt with the fever, but it’s also likely giving away some of the benefits of this natural response.
So when do you need to use medications to treat a fever?
In most cases, fever is a natural response of the body’s immune system to fight off infections or other illnesses.
However, there are some situations where using drugs to treat fever may be necessary. Here are a few examples:
High fever: If a person’s fever is very high, typically above 103°F (39.4°C) in adults or 102°F (38.9°C) in children, it can be dangerous and potentially cause seizures or other complications.
In these cases, using drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower the fever can be beneficial.
Discomfort: While fever itself is not usually harmful, it can cause discomfort and other symptoms such as headache, body aches, and chills.
If a person is experiencing significant discomfort, using medication to relieve those symptoms can be helpful.
Underlying medical conditions: People with certain underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system may be at greater risk of complications from fever.
In these cases, it may be recommended to use drugs to lower the fever and reduce the risk of complications.
It’s important to note that even in these situations, it’s generally recommended to let a fever run its course for at least a little while before using medication.
This allows the body to mount an effective immune response to fight off infections. If you’re unsure whether or not you should use medication to treat a fever, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional.
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The study was conducted by Daniel Barreda et al and published in the journal eLife.
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