Benefits of fever
Many people doubt that fever is useful, or simply do not know that it is.
It is no coincidence that nature has permanently developed this function in warm-blooded animals. Its benefits far outweigh its temporary and apparent disadvantages.
Natural accompaniments of fever
To meet the increased energy demand, the body initiates appropriate and precisely regulated changes, which are naturally inherent in fever and are not harmful to the body in themselves:
- Increased respiratory rate – the child is breathing faster
- Increased cardiac output – the child’s heart beats faster and more intensively
- Increased fluid demand – the child’s mouth is dryer, he feels thirstier
- Increased electrolyte requirements – perspiration through the skin
- Increased energy demand – the muscles are producing the heat, there can be trembling, shaking, shivering
- Increased oxygen demand, carbon dioxide production
- There is a temporary negative energy balance (127)
This shows that the whole body is involved in establishing and maintaining the process; targeted, regulated, precisely coordinated.
The big question is, can we trust internal regulation? How dangerous or useful is fever?
The answer is: fever is useful.
Fever alone is not harmful moreover even beneficial, unlike unduly used antipyretics, which can strain the body, cause liver and kidney damage, and cause additional side effects. A positive attitude towards fever is important because it can help reduce the unwarranted, unnecessary use of antipyretics.
Contrary to common belief, fever alone does not damage the brain, does not burden the heart and circulation more than an average workout, does not cause coagulation of blood proteins, and is not a cause of childhood febrile seizures.
It has spread and become commonplace over many millions of years (3). So, it does not pose a threat to the body that creates it in a well-controlled manner.
With a few exceptions, fever provides several benefits to the host in terms of immunity and survival (13). Fever enhances protection against intrusive agents. The fact that fever occurs in all warm-blooded and heterothermic animals indicates that it is an evolutionarily valuable, useful process (1).
When pathogens enter someone’s body, various defence mechanisms are activated. Thus, fever is not a disease, but a symptom that indicates a healthy response to the disrupted integrity of our body, to the disruption of its state of equilibrium. There can be several causes for fever. Most often and mainly in childhood it appears as part of the response to an infection, to the penetration of a pathogen (bacterium or virus) and helps the body fight the disease.
At higher temperatures (fever) the chemical processes in our body accelerate, the metabolism speeds up and the living conditions of pathogens deteriorate, their ability to reproduce decreases, so our immune system can function faster and more efficiently. The immune response will be faster and more complete, we will fight infections faster and more successfully, so in infections, fever is clearly beneficial and does not need to be alleviated. The regulation of the immune system and body temperature are closely and coordinatedly related. We wrote about this in a separate chapter.
Some research shows that fever helps to recover faster in simple, everyday illnesses (145)
In case of infections, healing is faster and more complete if accompanied by fever. Serious infections caused by certain bacteria have significantly higher rates of complications and mortality if fever does not develop or is suppressed (14)
Older patients were seven times more likely to die of community-acquired pneumonia without fever (15).
Fever protects against recurrent infections, enhances the maturation of children’s immune systems.
Simple illnesses with fever in the early stages of childhood protect against later allergies. If a child has several febrile infections, later the allergic rate will be lower.
In childhood, between 6-7 years of age, there are few simple infectious disease that do not cause fever or at least an increase in heat. Fever also indicates that defence has been activated. Fever itself is therefore not a disease but a sign that the body is putting up immunological defence.
Many people report that their child is “leaping” after a high fever disease. That is, they are advancing in some of their attributes. For example, their bad appetite has improved or hs gotten over the „terrible twos”, got better at some kinds of movement, speech, or intellectual ability. Even for these alone it is worth enduring the difficulties of a feverish condition.
A positive attitude towards fever is important in the context of antibiotic resistance because it can help reduce antibiotic abuse (124) and not indicated, unnecessary use of anti-fever drugs (antipyretics).
You can find the corresponding numbered references here: ReferencesVersion update: 1 February 2022