A person’s ability to generate a fever is an eloquent demonstration of the body's innate self-healing potential. Our immune system response to infection is an amazing and intricate process. Additional white blood cells are manufactured that destroy bacteria and viruses and also remove damaged tissue and irritating materials from the body.
With a fever, activity of the white blood cells increases by as much as 20-fold, and they move rapidly to the site of infection. We get sleepy and lose our appetite, which conserves energy for natural defense and repair. The elevated body temperature itself can kill certain bacteria and viruses. Iron is removed from the blood and stored in the liver, and many bacteria need iron for survival. An elevated body temperature is integral to this process. Hippocrates said, “Give me a fever and I can cure any disease.” Ironically, suppressing the fever may interfere with healing and prolong the infection.
Fever is part of the body's normal response to infection; it is a symptom, not a disease, and may not themselves be dangerous. We may be lethargic or flushed, have a rapid and strong heartbeat or even hallucinate during a fever. Naturopathic doctors like to recommend wet sock hydrotherapy, often referred to as “naturopathic Tylenol”, to help stimulate the immune system and healing response during acute infections, while gently decreasing the fever to more comfortable levels.
The underlying cause of a fever and how sick a patient looks are more important than the intensity of the fever. Temperatures of 107 and 108 degrees can cause brain damage and usually result from heat stroke or accidental poisoning. However, routine infections are not likely to produce fevers of this degree. It is normal for one out of 20 healthy children under the age of 5 to have a fever convulsion. These febrile seizures usually last only a few minutes and produce no lasting or harmful effects.
Routine fevers are not usually dangerous. The underlying cause of the fever or dehydration from inadequate fluid consumption is the source of most potential problems. Above all, how someone looks and acts determines the likelihood of a serious problem. A child with a temperature of 101 that is abnormally quiet with a vacant stare is much sicker than a child with a fever of 104 that is playing and fully engaged in their environment.
It can be difficult to determine the seriousness of an acute illness, so a pediatrician or other healthcare practitioner should be involved in care.
Toby K. Hallowitz, ND, MSOM, LAc, practices at CDA Acupuncture & Holistic Healing, located at 225 E. Locust Ave., in Coeur d’Alene, ID., 208-665-2293 as well as Healing Waters Holistic Center, located at 101 N. Evergreen Rd., in Spokane Valley, 509-228-3528. For more information, visit Dr-Toby.com or CdaHealing.com.