Health Questions and Answers

Question: Is a fever good for anything, or is it just to make me feel miserable?


Today, many investigators believe that fever is beneficial in fighting disease. Decades ago, before the discovery of antibiotics, experimentation revealed that syphilis could be cured by inducing fevers by infecting a patient with malaria. (Although successful, unless you want a letter from a lawyer, you probably shouldn’t use this form of treatment.) Higher temperatures increase the activity of neutrophils and lymphocytes and decrease the levels of serum iron, a substrate that many bacteria need to reproduce. Other studies indicate that fever may be detrimental in patients with tetanus, streptococci, and pneumococci.

Reference: Baker MD, Fosarelli PD, Carpenter RO: Childhood fever: Correlation of diagnosis with temperature response to acetaminophen. Pediatrics 80:315-318, 1987

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