BENEFITS OF FEVER & CONSEQUENCES OF FEVER REDUCTION OR SUPPRESSION
There are few medical fears more deeply ingrained than the fear of fever! Yet why is this? I am routinely asked by anxious parents what to do for a child running a temperature of 101 or 102 degrees. World renowned pediatrician, Dr. Robert Mendelson, author of the fabulous book, How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor, says that the single hardest thing to do when your child is sick is “nothing”. Simply let them be sick and let the illness run its course without suppressing its symptoms —- most particularly fever.
As loving and caring parents it hurts to watch our children go through illness. We naturally want to help our children feel better when the inevitable fevers, flu, colds and various illnesses arise in childhood, and thus, many will reach for popular over-the-counter remedies to suppress fever and alleviate symptoms in the belief that these products are reliable, effective, and safe. We need to ask ourselves a couple of important questions. Just how safe are these concoctions? And, are we doing more harm than good by masking symptoms and suppressing fever, rather than letting it run its course? Think for a moment; does it make sense that fever has critical functions in fighting illness that we have lost sight of or do not even begin to understand?
There is plenty of scientific evidence validating the benefits of fever in fighting viral/bacterial infections and helping the body heal and repair itself. The always-in-the-back-of-our-mind notion that untreated fevers will lead to seizures and brain damage is a continual worry for the parents of sick children. In the vast majority of cases, fever is something to be embraced, not feared and seen as an adversary. It is our body’s number one ally in its war against illness & invaders, and it lets us know that our immune system gearing up for battle.
WHAT ABOUT THE MEDICAL TREATMENT OF FEVER — WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE?
Just a few short decades ago the drug of choice for suppressing or lowering fever was aspirin. That is, until it was linked to Reye’s syndrome (an often fatal disease affecting the brain and liver) when given to children with viral infections like colds, flu, or chickenpox. Note that danger to the brain and liver is the primary reason doctors switched from recommending aspirin to recommending acetaminophen (Tylenol) to squelch fevers. It is still the doctor’s drug of choice. This, however, is quite problematic because acetaminophen is the number one cause of ACUTE liver failure today (see our web page on ANTI-INFLAMMATION DRUGS)!
Dr. Robert Mendelson, world-renowned pediatrician and author of numerous books including Confessions of a Medical Heretic & How To Raise A Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor says this: “Doctors do a great disservice to you and your child when they prescribe drugs to reduce fever. Fever phobia is a disease of pediatricians, not parents, and to the extent that parents are victimized by it, doctors are at fault. They don’t tell you that reducing his temperature will do nothing to make the patient well or that our bodies have a built-in mechanism, not fully explained, that will prevent an infection-induced temperature from reaching 106 degrees F (41 degrees C). Only in the case of heatstroke, poisoning, or other externally caused fevers is this bodily mechanism overwhelmed and inoperative.” By the way, I would like to plug Mendelson’s book. This is one of the most important books that any parent or grandparent can own.
Fever: Your Body’s Defense Against Disease is the title of chapter 7 in Dr. Mendelson’s book, and is one of the best guidelines ever written for parents searching for balanced information on childhood fevers, by one who should know. Mendelson (now deceased) was a treating pediatrician for decades. In his “spare time” he was an author, university professor, and frequent lecturer. Says Mendelson, “If your child contracts an infection, the fever that accompanies it is a blessing, not a curse. The spontaneous release of pyrogens [chemicals in your body] cause the body temperature to rise, which is a natural defense mechanism needed to fight disease. The presence of fever tells you that the repair mechanisms of the body have gone into high gear. It is something to rejoice over, not to fear.”
Numerous studies have shown that Dr. Mendelson is telling the truth! In a moment, I will show you numerous medical studies which clearly show us that fever enhances the immune response.
One of these ways is by increasing the mobility and activity of white cells (leucocytes) which disable bacteria & viruses and remove damaged tissue from the body. There is no doubt that a complex sequence of immune activities is activated by fever. Antiviral and antibacterial properties of interferon are also increased with fever. With a rise in temperature, iron is removed from the blood and stored in the liver, further disabling the rate at which bacteria can multiply. Studies of artificially induced fevers in laboratory animals infected with disease have shown that elevated temperatures enhance survival, while lowered temperatures increase the death rate.
One of the most effective ways to deal with many different sicknesses is to actually induce a fever. Do this by first taking a very hot bath or shower and then putting on several layers of sweats, hoodies, and a stocking cap. Climb into bed and really cover up good. Grandma used to call it “sweating it out”. It works! Caution: With all fevers (in fact, all of the time) it is crucial to remain hydrated with water (see our web page on WATER).
WARNING WARNING WARNING
THE BLOOD-BRAIN BARRIER DOES NOT DEVELOP FULLY UNITL THE SIXTH TO EIGHTH WEEK AFTER BIRTH!!!
There is a time to be very concerned with fevers. When fever arises in a newborn baby in the first few weeks of life, there MUST BE a heightened level of caution. “Newborn babies may suffer from infections related to obstetrical interventions during delivery, prenatal or hereditary conditions, aspiration pneumonia from amniotic fluid forced into the lungs because of overmedication of the mother during delivery…and exposure to the legion of germs that abound in the hospital itself”, writes Dr. Mendelson. He advises parents to seek medical help if a baby runs a fever in the first two months of life.
As if you did not already know it, breastfeeding plays a critical role in preventing infections in infants! Breastfed babies are superbly protected from a vast range of pathogens and have a lesser risk of developing fevers in the newborn phase of life. It is common knowledge that the number one thing you can do for the health of your baby is breast-feed!
WHAT ABOUT VACCINE-INDUCED FEVERS?
Understanding the potential effects of fever on the newborn, it would seem prudent to protect these vulnerable infants from exposure to any situation that would put them at risk of developing fevers. Yet, the majority of newborns and young infants are vaccinated (often quite heavily) in the first 6-8 weeks of life. Doctors realize that all vaccines contain viral/bacterial particles, foreign proteins, and chemical preservatives (mercury and aluminum are two of the more common — see our web page). They also realize that these vaccinations will likely cause a feverish reaction in a large number of babies. In an attempt to head vaccine-induced fevers off at the pass; doctors sometimes advise parents to actually dose the child with “Baby Tylenol” just prior to receiving their shots.
Is there is an incongruent thought process going on here or is it just me? Why is there no concern about the impact of vaccine-induced fevers in infants during this critical early period of life? Why is it that if a spontaneous fever arises in the newborn, it is viewed as a potential medical emergency, but if the fever is vaccine induced, it is brushed off as “normal” and parents are advised to suppress it with antipyretics [anti-fever drugs]?
Frankly speaking, it is not only the fevers themselves which raise a caution. The bigger issue is the effect these toxic substances have on the baby’s health now that they have access to the blood stream, vital organs, and the immature brain/nervous system (remember our warning about the blood/brain barrier not being fully developed yet)? What then happens when the resulting fever is “managed” with anti-fever drugs, which prevent the normal recruitment of the immune system into action?
A new theory regarding a potential cause of autism is currently being explored by Dr. Anthony R. Torres, M.D., Senior Scientist and Director of the Bio Medical Lab at UtahStateUniversity. He theorizes that suppression of fevers could be involved in the development of autism and other similar neuro-developmental disorders that seem to be associated with virtually all severe vaccine reactions.
“Pathological infections, including vaccinations, commonly result in fever. For example, 50-60% of young children develop fever after receiving MMR vaccine”. These children are then routinely treated with anti-pyretics [fever suppressing drugs]. Sadly enough; parents of autistic children frequently report that their children began exhibiting autistic tendencies following the MMR shot (read my “LETTER TO THE EDITOR” ON AUTISM as well as our VACCINATION PAGE). Dr. Torres has also found that “43% of mothers with an autistic child experienced upper respiratory tract, influenza-like, urinary or vaginal infections during pregnancy compared to only 26% of control mothers”, suggesting that in some cases autism may be linked to the consequences of infections (especially viral infections).”
The central nervous system and immune system work together to achieve optimum immune function. What affects one affects the other (see our ALLERGIES web page). Doctor Torres points to evidence that acetaminophen is an immune system suppressant! In highly technical language, he describes the complex activities launched by the immune system and the many signals relayed to control centers in the brain when the body is fighting bacteria or virus (pathogens). The activation of chemicals called “pyrogens” stimulates the rise of fever and production of various cytokines (immune cells) from organs in the viscera or gut (intestinal tract)” – the gut being the primary and largest immune organ of the body (please see my AUTISM paper as well as my BOWEL (GUT) HEALTH web page).
Key signals carried along the Vagus Nerve which connects the gut/brain immune pathways, and which are normally controlled by prostaglandins, can actually be blocked by anti-fever drugs like acetaminophen. This derails the complex sequence of immune signals that flows between the gut and the brain. By the way, this study of the process of artificially-induced or vaccine induced measles reactions causing serious immune system disorders, is essentially the life work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.
Dr. Torres theorizes that using drugs to suppress fever, whether the fever was induced by infections or vaccinations, interferes with normal immunological development in the brain. This leads to neuro-developmental disorders in certain genetically and immunologically disposed individuals. The effects may occur during fetal development or at a very young age when the immune system is rapidly developing. These findings are not popular with mainstream medicine! Many scientists have been blacklisted because they actually chose to pursue research that goes against government-mandated vaccination policies (see my AUTISM paper and VACCINATION page).
RESEARCH STUDIES SHOWING THAT FEVER IS USUALLY A GOOD THING
This is a short list but you will quickly get the point. For those who wish to study this issue further, I recommend going to www.PubMed.com.
Suppressing fever during pregnancy and labor may affect the fetus. Research has shown that acetaminophen “significantly decreased maternal and fetal serum IL-6”, an immune factor the infant is incapable of producing at birth and depends on from the mother. Taken from an October, 2002 press release from the British Thoracic Society which also links recent studies on an acetaminophen-based drug similar to Tylenol, to childhood asthma when used by the mother in late pregnancy.
“Not all fevers need to be treated but many physicians do so to relieve parental concern.” (European Journal of Pediatrics 1994, Jun)
“Not all fevers need to be treated but many physicians do so to relieve parental concern.” (European Journal of Pediatrics 1994, Jun)
“An elevation in temperature following bacterial infection results in a significant increase in host survival” (Science 1975, April)
“Many components of the nonspecific host defense response to infection such as leukocyte mobility [the ability of white blood cells to get where they are needed quickly], lymphocyte transformation [non-specific white cells becoming the specific type of immune cell required for the specific infection at hand], and the effects of interferon, appear to be enhanced by elevations in temperature that simulate moderate fevers. In addition, some evidence indicates that a fever in conjunction with the changes in plasma iron levels known to occur during infections is a synergistic host defense response.” (Journal of Pediatrics 1980, #66)
“Parental fever phobia….. higher socioeconomic status was not associated with a lesser degree of fever phobia…undue fear and overly aggressive treatment of fever are epidemic among parents of infants and young children, even among the highly educated and well-to-do. Considerable effort will be required on the part of pediatricians and other child health workers to reeducate parents about the definition, consequences and appropriate treatment [or non-treatment as the case may be] of fever.” (Journal of Pediatrics 1985 June)
“There is no convincing evidence that naturally occurring fevers are harmful. In contrast, animal studies have shown that fever helps animals to survive infection whereas antipyretic [anti-fever measures] increases mortality [death]. Moreover there is considerable in vitro evidence that a variety of human immunological defenses function better at febrile [fever] temperatures than at normal one.” (The Lancet Medical Journal of England, March, 1991)
“There is overwhelming evidence in favor of fever being an adaptive host response to infection… as such, it is probable that the use of antipyretic/anti-inflammatory/analgesic drugs, when they lead to suppression of the fever, result in increased morbidity and mortality during most infections; this morbidity and mortality may not be apparent to most health care workers…” (Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 1996, March)
“These finding suggest that allergic mechanism [to acetaminophen] was involved in the pathogenesis of the pneumonia. Underlying immunological disorders may have enhanced the occurrence.” (Nihon Kyobu Shikkan Gakkai Zasshi — Japanese Journal of Thoracic Disease 1997, September)
“Despite our lack of knowledge about its therapeutic mechanism, it has been claimed to be a safe drug, especially for children… acetaminophen syrup is extensively prescribed in large volumes… There is mounting evidence that acetaminophen is not the benign drug that it was formally thought to be… We would question the whole rationale of prescribing the drug in near epidemic proportions. If it is to be used as a placebo, then it is a very dangerous placebo… The whole place of acetaminophen prescribing for children has been questioned. While there is little concern about its use in the short term as an analgesic, there is considerable controversy over its use as an antipyretic….there is little evidence to support the use of acetaminophen to treat fever in patients without heart or lung disease. Acetaminophen may decrease antibody response to infection and increase morbidity and mortality in severe infections…too many parents and health workers think that fever is bad and needs to be suppressed by acetaminophen when, indeed, moderate fever may improve the immune response…the use of acetaminophen in children with acute infection did not result in an improvement in mood, comfort, appetite or fluid intake.” (Family Practice, # 2, 1996)
“Fever is rarely harmful. Only extremely high fevers of 42.2C or 108 F or higher have been known to cause brain damage. Only fevers of 40.5C or 105F and higher need immediate attention, mainly because they are a clue that a serious infection could be present such as meningitis “(The Weekly Doctor’s Column from the Sunday Star Times, Auckland New Zealand — May 3, 1998). SIDE NOTE: I know this to be true because I have questioned my brother and sister-in-law (both E.R. doctors) what they do when children come in to the E.R. with high fevers of 104 or 105 degrees.
“Acetaminophen has no antipyretic [anti-fever] benefits over mechanical antipyreses [ice, cool packs] alone in malaria. Moreover, acetaminophen prolongs parasite clearance time, possible by decreased production of TNF and oxygen radicals. ” (Lancet Medical Journal of England 1997)
“The data suggest that frequent administration of antipyretics to children with infectious disease may lead to a worsening of their illness.” (Acta Paediatrica. Japonica [Journal of Japanese Pediatric Society] 1994, Aug)
“Fever is an important indicator of disease and should not be routinely suppressed by antipyretics [anti-fever drugs] …fever may actually benefit the host defense mechanism …fever is short-lived and causes only minor discomfort …routine antipyretic therapy should be avoided but may be necessary in individual patients with cardiovascular or neurological disorders.”(Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 1996, Mar)
“Studies of bacterial and viral-infected animals have shown that moderate fevers decrease morbidity and increase survival rate” (Yale University Journal of Biology & Medicine 1986 March-April)
“Antipyretic [anti-fever] drugs are effective in diminishing fever, but have significant side effects and may suppress signs of ongoing infections” (Archives of Internal Medicine Aug, 1990)
Meningococcal Disease (Bacterial Meningitis): “use of analgesics were associated with disease…analgesic use was defined as analgesics taken in the past 2 weeks, excluding, for cases, those taken for identified early symptoms of meningococcal disease. These analgesics were predominantly acetaminophen products……because analgesics showed a stronger relationship with meningococcal disease, the use of analgesics may be a better measure of more severe illness than reported individual symptoms….we cannot exclude the possibility that acetaminophen use itself is a risk factor for meningococcal disease” (Pediatric Infectious Disease, Oct, 2000)
“Antipyretics [anti-fever drugs] prolong illness in patients with Influenza A…. The duration of illness was significantly prolonged from 5 days (without) to 8 1/2 days (with)“. (Pharmacotherapy 2000, #20)
“Taking aspirin or Tylenol for the flu actually prolongs the illness by up to 3 1/2 days, say researchers at the University of Maryland. That is because fever may be the body’s natural way of fighting an infection —- and taking aspirin or acetaminophen – the generic name for products such as Tylenol – may interfere with the process. “You are messing with Mother Nature,” Says Dr Leland Rickman, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego. “An elevated temperature may actually help the body fight the infection quicker or better than if you don’t have a fever.”
“Whatever you do, don’t give aspirin or Tylenol to children who have the flu or any other viral illness”, said Rickman. From Take Two Aspirin & Prolong the Flu from a January 2, 2001 report by Anne Burke, the Health Scout Reporter (taken from Reuters Medical Newswire).
“Systematic suppression of fever may not be useful in patients without severe cranial trauma or significant hypoxemia [low blood oxygen]. Letting fever take its natural course does not seem to harm patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome, or influence the discomfort level and may save costs.” (Archives of Internal Medicine 2001, January)
“Chickenpox treated with Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen provokes bacterial skin infections into Fulminant Necrotising Fasciitis [a flesh eating nightmare]. (Journal of Pediatrics April 1999) ALSO FOUND IN (Journal of Infectious Medicine 1999, #16)