April 10, 2023

Fevers are Good (Wait, what?)

Fevers are Good (Wait, what?)

With the latest round of “crud” circulating, I’d like to touch on how we view illness.  What I’m about to say may seem a tad cavalier, but when applied with a bit of common sense it is really a very safe and beneficial approach to wellness. 

Our society tends to view any deviation from a steady state as a situation that requires immediate intervention.  Have a runny nose?  Take an antihistamine. Sore back?  Here, have some ibuprofen.  98.7° temperature?  Good golly, take some Tylenol.   

Designed to heal

It is in our nature as humans to feel that we can take nature’s design and improve it. History has shown time and time again that the more we “mess with” things the more we MAKE a mess of things. Our bodies were DESIGNED to heal themselves. We were born with the ability to deal with adversity within our bodies. Our bodies’ responses are not accidental or a malfunction. If we have inflammation, it is not due to an ibuprofen deficiency. If we have a fever, it is not due to a Tylenol deficiency. If we have diarrhea, it is not due to a Mylanta deficiency.

All these things I mention are examples of our society’s obsession with symptoms. Symptoms are not the problem. Sometimes symptoms indicate a problem, but they are almost NEVER the problem itself! More often than not, symptoms are our body’s way of dealing with a problem.  

Why do we get fevers?

I submit to you an example. Why do we get fevers when we are sick? A fever brings our body temperature up above its normal temperature of 98.6° F. We shake, get headaches, shiver uncontrollably, feel cold—it’s unpleasant. This must be a malfunction, right? No! This rise in temperature makes our body less hospitable to invading pathogens who have, over the course of evolution, optimized THEIR ideal operating temperature to match ours. It is not a malfunction. It is our immune system doing its job. Does it feel lousy laying in bed shivering? Yes! Does it crush our heart and soul to watch our child experience this discomfort? Absolutely! But consider the consequences of taking a fever reducer. If we force the body temperature to lower, then we make it more difficult for our immune system to kill off whatever is invading the body. We will potentially become MORE sick or stay sick LONGER—I would argue that that is worse than a relatively short fever. In addition, the battles the body experiences against pathogens strengthen its defenses, making our immune systems even more capable of overcoming future challenges!

Consider this next time fever hits.  Should you exercise caution and listen to your health care provider when they tell you it IS time to intervene? Of course.  I am NOT suggesting you ignore all fever.  Fever can be life threatening if high enough or if it occurs alongside certain health conditions, but a mild fever is normal.  If your child has a fever, especially if they are under 6 months of age, I recommend you monitor their temperature often and refer to your primary care provider as to when it is and is not necessary to intervene.  Regardless, you should be diligently ensuring that you or your child are remaining properly hydrated and maintaining electrolyte balance throughout the experience.  

Here is a good reference for how to safely and reasonably address fevers.  

Support your body! Give it what it needs to do its job. It will, in turn, take care of you!

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