We all know when we have a fever, but do we really know what’s going on behind the scenes? In the simplest terms, a fever is a controlled rise in core body temperature. It is usually a symptom of infection such as the cold or flu. Your core body temperature can be determined from rectal axillary or oral sights, a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius and 100 degrees Fahrenheit is typically considered a fever, whereas a high fever is above 40.5 degrees Celsius. Prolonged or truly high fever can lead to dehydration, delirium, febrile seizures, and complications of diseases that cause fevers such as the flu to lead to severe conditions like pneumonia. In this article, we will be dealing with the fundamental misconceptions about fever, its importance, and what to do when you have one.
Basic Misconceptions About Fever
There are misconceptions that people may have about fever, these misconceptions are;
Fever is Harmful
One major misconception about fever is the misunderstanding that fevers are very harmful to us as humans but this is not true. In 1980, a leading pediatrician named Barton Schmitt propagated the term “fever phobia” to describe the lucid desire of many parents to reduce fevers in their children as quickly as possible. Although many years have passed since Schmitt’s phrase caught on, fever phobia is still in existence.
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics shows that 91 percent of parents surveyed thought that a fever can cause dangerous effects, with 56 percent of them feeling scared about the potential harm of fevers for their young ones.
Should any of this matter? It is often not compulsory and may not even be wise to be too quick to rush to the medicine cabinet when you have a little fever. “Nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t medicate the fever,” says Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
A fever, not unexpectedly, shows that a person’s body is battling some kind of infection, such as a simple cold, or the flu. It is not a sickness or a disorder in itself that should be feared rather is just a sign. In fact, a fever may do some good.
A study published in the February 2004 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children who ran a fever during their first year were less likely to develop allergies later in childhood than children who did not have a fever.
Fever Is An Infection
It is also a popular misconception among most people that a fever is an infection. According to the AAP, a fever can help your body fight off infection. Most illness-causing microbes do best at the body’s normal temperature. A fever raises the temperature beyond which certain microbes need to reproduce again and at this point, these microbes will be unable to multiply. A fever also pushes your immune system into high gear, fostering the rapid development of white blood cells.
A small but growing body of research shows that allowing a fever to run its course may limit and lower the extent and severity of such sicknesses as colds and flu.
As for the concern among parents that fevers can have endangering effects, these cases are very rare. The brain has an inbuilt regulatory mechanism that hinders fevers caused by infections from getting higher than 105 or 106 degrees. Most times, your body temperature must get above 108 degrees to cause damage. Temperatures this high are caused only by special conditions, such as central nervous system disorders
Importance Of A Fever
Fever Help In The Strengthening Of Immune Cells
According to the Government of Ontario, flu causes about 12,200 hospitalizations and 3500 deaths in Canada annually. As a result of these scary associations, many individuals have myths and misconceptions about fevers. For example, fevers are not always harmful and may help the body’s immune system. Brain damage and seizures caused by fevers are very rare and usually stopped within five minutes with no lasting adverse effects. Despite its reputation, did you know fevers might actually be a sign that you’re actively getting better?
To understand how fevers might be helpful, we need to take a look at a bit of the physiology behind fevers. We start with sepsis or infection by toxic bacteria. Fever is a common response to sepsis due to pyrogens, or substances that these toxic bacteria release, our body’s physiological response to pyrogens with an increased temperature called a febrile temperature during this purge and also stimulate the immune system proteins called cytokines (Cytokines are small secreted proteins released by cells and have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells). While cytokines have various immune functions, one relevant to the topic at hand is their ability to prolong fevers through an inflammatory response. The prolonging of this fever helps the body’s immune cells.
It Helps In Strengthening The Body To Fight Infection
Fevers are very useful as a tool for strengthening our body for fighting against infection.
So now that we have a prolonged fever, how can fevers actually help our body mechanism is the use of heat shock proteins, heat shock proteins, or HSPs for short, which can be produced in response to environmental stressors like an increased febrile temperature within a cell HSPs help correct misfolded proteins and limit cell death, prevent excessive aggregation of proteins, and process antigens like the proteins that trigger cytokine release. All of these immune functions help our body cells live longer and fight infection. fevers are also able to stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are required for protecting the body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders.
Fevers can also upregulate the production of Macrophages (A type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills microorganisms, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells), which photosynthesize or ingest and destroy foreign invaders. This means the body’s immunity is being upregulated and your body can fight better against infections.
When you’re sick, your body might instigate a fever. It can be part of the body’s reactivated response to an infection. But exactly how that fever helps the body fight infections has long been a mystery. New research in mice shows that fever helps immune cells more quickly reach and take aggressive action against harmful germs.
Increased Blood Immune Circulation
In addition to cellular changes, like HSP response, vascular changes have been recorded in animals to show that after a fever, many organ systems have increased blood flow by means of capillary dilation. This is associated with increased blood immune function like having more of the white blood cells or leukocytes that we discussed earlier, being present to aid an immune response. In this way, increased blood flow is one mechanism possibly associated with fevers.
Well, none of these mechanisms on their own is enough to explain fevers, they give a good idea of the range of tools that are at play when you do have a fever. viewing things from this perspective, it’s clearly seen that fever shows the potential to be helpful by helping your body’s immune system gear up to fight illness and also increase blood flow.
Please do note, however, the physiology behind fevers is highly debatable and research still has yet to be elucidated for the entire mechanism behind this.
Though we’ve been mentioning the standard pyrogenic fever, it’s important to note not all theories are good. For example, if a fever exceeds 39.4 degrees Celsius, there can be some serious adverse health implications. These all depend on an individual’s age condition, and most importantly, the underlying illness behind the fever. In severe conditions, a fever can cause a stroke or febrile Status Epilepticus, so it is also essential to consult your doctor when you start to feel extreme discomfort from a severe fever.
A fever is an often prevalent symptom of a sickness, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, fevers seem to play a key role in combating infections. So should you deal with a fever or let the fever run its course? what exactly should you do when you have a fever?
- Place a cool tower over your head to help your body regulate its temperature.
- Drink a lot of fluid since your body might feel dehydrated.
- Call or visit the doctor if the fever is followed by a severe headache, stiff neck, shortness of breath, or other abnormal signs or symptoms.
However, most doctors only recommend coming in if the fever is higher than 39.4 degrees in adults and 38 degrees and toddlers or in severe temperatures. Remember, most of the time, the fever is a symptom of another infectious disease that the body tries to fight off with its own immunity, but there are always extreme conditions that require caution. It’s always best to seek medical attention from a healthcare professional if you’re unsure if your fever or underlying illness causing the fever is safe or not. Remember that your Health is Your Wealth!!!