Health Questions and Answers

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

Answer:

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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