Fighting Flu? Fever Can Be Your Friend
Like most families we have had the cold/flu go around are house a few times already this year. When our little ones get sick the first instinct is to make them comfortable and recover as quickly as possible. I try all home remedies first before resorting to over the counter medications and I am happy to tell you why…
When the flu strikes and fever spikes, it’s perfectly natural to reach for fever-reducing medications. Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen; they’re all pain relievers that also help reduce fever (antipyretic). Most people reach for one of these medications to reduce the discomfort of flu-related achiness and high temperatures.
But it may be doing more harm than good.
Fever is one of the body’s most effective strategies for fighting off infection. Most bugs that cause infection—including bacteria and viruses—can only thrive in the body within an extremely limited temperature range. Not surprisingly, this range is very close to normal body temperature. In its wisdom, the immune system orchestrates abnormally high body temperatures to kill off the invaders and enable other components of the immune system to destroy the infectious agents.
Fever is uncomfortable. And fevers that climb too high, for too long, can be downright dangerous. But most fevers are normal—and appropriate—responses to infection. When we take fever-reducers, such as common aspirin, at the first sign of infection, we may actually be prolonging the infection, or making it more likely that we will pass the infection along to others.
And according to new research published recently in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, taking fever-reducing medications is likely responsible for significantly more cases of influenza transmission each year. By extension, taking fever-reducers is also to blame for more deaths from flu than would occur if people allowed flu-related fevers to run their course. In fact, the researchers from McMaster University estimate that antipyretics may increase seasonal flu cases by 5% in the United States each year. That would mean up to 1,000 more deaths from flu annually, just because infected people reached for aspirin or another drug.
As a society, say investigators, we need to reevaluate the long-held belief that fever is always bad and needs to be controlled. “People are often advised to take fever-reducing drugs and medical texts state that doing so is harmless,” said researcher Paul Andrews, in a press release. “This view needs to change.”
What are your home remedies you use to comfort your loved ones?
Earn DJD, Andrews PW, Bolker BM. Population-level effects of suppressing fever. January 2014 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2570. Proc. R. Soc. B 7 March 2014 vol. 281 no. 1778 20132570