When it comes to trusting yourself, you should trust your body as well. Believe it or not, your body is supremely equipped with the necessary tools to fight disease. The majority of these tools make up your immune system, but it can be easy to disregard them as irrelevant. For instance, fever serves as an undeniable symptom of the cold or flu, yet it is really a sign that your immune system is busy at work!
Fever basicsUnderstanding why fevers arise is a good first step toward gaining an appreciation for fevers. Here’s how it works:
- A foreign microbe, such as a bacterium or virus, invades your body
- The bacterium multiplies and grows exponentially on its own OR the virus hijacks your cells and uses your cells’ reproductive machinery to multiply
- The growing microbes quickly alert your immune system to their presence
- Your immune system responds by increasing your body temperature (= fever!)
Fever and your Immune SystemYour immune system responds with fever because most microbes cannot withstand high temperatures. So by heating you up momentarily, your body is able to kill off most of the microbes. Further research has shown that fevers also enhance the effects of your immune system by:
- Triggering enzymes—this makes your internal environment even more hostile for microbes
- Releasing lymphocytes—lymphocytes are soldier-like white blood cells that destroy viruses
- Elevating neutrophils—neutrophils are also soldier-like white blood cells that destroy bacteria
Why modern medicine doesn’t always get it right…In recent decades, modern medicine has urged patients and parents alike to suppress fever as opposed to letting fever run its course. This is evident in the growing use of potentially harmful antipyretics (fever reducers), like paracetamol and ibuprofen, which quickly reduce body temperature. Nevertheless, as you now know, suppressing fever makes it nearly impossible for your immune system to completely destroy the microbes causing your illness. Even if your immune system is able to fight off the infection, without fever, it will take a lot longer for you to feel better.
Fever: What’s normal and what’s not?Overall, fever benefits your health. However, knowing what is normal and what is not normal will probably help you embrace this truth.
- Your normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius
- An oral temperature above 38 degrees Celsius indicates a fever
- Fevers normally last no longer than four days and go away on their own
What’s NOT normal:
- An oral temperature above 40 degrees Celsius
- Fevers lasting five days or longer
- Experiencing breathing issues, neck stiffness, or convulsions along with fever