Does A Fever Help Fight Infection?
Fever is said to be condition of the body when its core temperature goes over 38 deg Centigrade. The normal core body temperature of adult and healthy human beings is considered to 37 deg ºC. The latitude of +/- 1ºC is given on the normal core temperature which shows slight variations between individuals and also depends on age, physical activity status, time of the day when it is recorded etc. Whenever the temperature of the human body goes above 38ºC (100ºF), medical practitioners call it a fever.
Hypothalamus, a small organ situated at the bottom of the human brain, acts like a thermostat and is primarily responsible to maintain the core body temperature. The maintenance of core body temperature is essential to keep the vital functions of the body operating smoothly. The core temperature of the human body rises due to a chemical substance found in blood stream called pyrogens. Production of pyrogens is triggered by the immune system whenever the body is attacked by unfriendly micro organisms like bacteria, virus, fungi etc which threaten to damage the healthy tissues. The pyrogens, moving through the blood stream and alerting other defense mechanisms of the body, combine with certain receptors present at the hypothalamus which raises the body temperature.
It is widely contended that the rise in core body temperature inhibits the multiplication of attacking virus or bacteria in the body. Most of these invading micro-organisms are found to be very sensitive and thus its growth in elevated body temperature is difficult. Even though there is lack of unanimity, a wide section of medical doctors contend that the fevers are not always harmful. Fever is a signal that the immune system of the body is working well and is geared to fortify the body against invading pathogens. In the age before antibiotics were invented, fevers were regarded as the mighty engine that the nature brings to the world for the conquest of her enemies.
One school of medical practitioners thus warns against the use of medicines to bring down the fever caused by common seasonal infections like cold or flu, unless it is absolutely necessary. By popping ibuprofen or acetaminophen medications, we are not allowing the natural immune system to work with full efficiency. They would advise to endure the uncomfortable effects like body ache, irritation etc. usually associated with fevers due to common infections like flu or cold. Instead, they recommend controlling the fever by taking lots of fluids in our diet during fever.
In case of fevers where the core body temperature rises beyond 102ºF, it is necessary to consult a medical practitioner for proper medical advice. Since the sustained core body temperature beyond 102ºF is likely to make a detrimental effect on the functioning of other vital organs like kidney, liver etc, it is essential to consult physician to avoid complications. It will also be important to mention that the normal core body temperature in the elderly or senior citizens tends to become lower with advancing age and they should immediately seek medical help when their fever goes over 100ºF.