What do Fevers really do?
Fevers are often feared but research has shown that fevers are very successful in fighting off illnesses and healing the body. Naturopathic medicine is set apart from conventional medicine with its belief in the vital force, your body’s innate power to heal itself naturally, and fevers are a critical part of that vital force. Fevers are a sign that your body is fighting off an infection, and there are many benefits to letting a fever run its course.
A fever is typically defined when the body temperature rises above 99.5 ° F, compared to the typical body temperature of 98.6° F. Fever occurs when the hypothalamus, an organ in the brain, signals our body to raise our internal thermostat in order to fight an imbalance in the body.
What are the benefits of a fever?
- Higher body temperatures trigger immune response by activating certain proteins.
- Elevates white blood cell count, which binds and helps expel toxins.
- Viruses and bacteria that are sensitive to high temperatures will be destroyed. For example, at 104° F gonococcus is killed, and the polio virus growth rate is reduced 250 times.
- Increase detoxification through the skin as the higher temperatures result in increased sweating.
- The digestive system essentially shuts down at temperatures above 99.5° F, and amino acid pools increase so that the body can produce antibodies rapidly and suppress hunger in order to focus all energy on fighting off the foreign invader.
- Some cancer clinics are researching hyperthermia techniques. Between 106-110 ° F malignant cells are selectively destroyed.
If you have heard about the health benefits of infrared saunas, it is because they work similar to fevers in aiding the body’s immune response and aid the detoxification process.
When you may want to induce a fever
For many infections such as colds, minor flus, or sinus infections, your body will not naturally produce a fever. Because of the ability for a fever to fight infections in the body it may be beneficial to purposefully induce a fever.
- Fill a bathtub with water as hot as you can stand. Make sure to test it to make sure it does not burn your skin. While the tub is filling up, line your couch or bed with towels or blankets.
- Immerse your body in the tub for 5 minutes.
- Immediately get into the bed you prepared and cover first with sheets and cotton blankets or towels and then cover with at least 2 wool blankets. Take care getting out of the tub as your blood pressure may be lower from the heat.
- Place a hot water bottle or heating pad across your lower rib cage/ upper abdomen.
- Lie down for 20 minutes or fall asleep. You will start to sweat, which indicates that the process is working.
How to manage a fever if you have one
- Rest: Sleep enhances your immune system by increasing the effectiveness of your T-cells, a type of white blood cell which tackles foreign toxins. Plus, more activity can increase temperature more, elevating the fever.
- Don’t force yourself to eat. As mentioned earlier, the body suppresses hunger to focus all of its energy to fight the infection rather than digest foods. If you feel you need something, focus on simple and easy to digest foods like soups and broths.
- Increase fluids: Increase water intake, teas, and electrolytes. Warm water with lemon and a pinch of sea salt is an easy natural electrolyte drink.
- “Magic socks” method: Wet pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring out, and wear overnight, covered with wool socks. You can use this method at the first sign of a fever.
- Cool compress to the head, neck, abdomen, back, wrists, or feet.
- “Magic Blanket” method: wrap the body in a cold, wrung out towel and cover with a wool blanket for 20 to 40 minutes. This can be used for higher fevers to minimize discomfort or cause the fever to break naturally. This method is not recommended for babies under two months.
- Tepid sponge method: Seat your child or yourself in the bathtub and take a towel or sponge in hot water (81-92° F) and gently administer across the back, chest, and torso, and limbs. Do this for 15-30 minutes until temperature falls slightly. This method is good for a controlled drop in the fever if you feel it is getting too high. Afterwards, dry off completely and cover with a blanket.
These hydrotherapy methods are a natural way of lowering the fever if it is becoming uncomfortable or unbearable. Generally speaking, 102-103 ° F is within the therapeutic range for fighting infections. If you can stand to ride it out with plenty of fluids and rest, keep the fever in that range to expel toxins.
While there are many benefits that fevers provide, it is important to monitor your fever closely to prevent complications.
Seek medical attention:
- Oral temperature in a child 2 months or younger reaches greater than 101° F.
- Oral temperature in a child older than 2 months reaches greater than 104° F.
- You experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Lethargy or difficult to stay awake
- Purple spots on the skin
- Trouble swallowing
- Burning pain with urination
- Fever of at least 101 °F persists longer than 24 hours
While many fevers will naturally run their course and break, it is important to know when to seek medical attention. If you are ever unsure, do not hesitate to call your healthcare provider and ask. Fevers above 106 °F can cause febrile seizures, mostly due to imbalanced electrolytes due to dehydration.
Reasons to avoid use of NSAIDS for fever when possible
NSAIDS like Advil and Aspirin work against the body’s natural process to fight infections. Many think that they should take an NSAID to reduce their fever right away, but as I have talked about, fevers are actually an incredible healing mechanism.
There is a lot of research demonstrating that Antipyretics, or NSAIDs, prolong or worsen symptoms of infections.
- This study demonstrated that Antipyretics prolonged symptoms in patients with Influenza A.
- This study showed that Antipyretics prolonged symptoms in patients with a cold.
- This study demonstrated that taking Antipyretics increased petechiae and hemorrhage.
In addition, there are real risks to taking NSAIDS on a frequent basis including:
- 40-60% increased risk in developing cardiovascular problems and heart failure
- Gastrointestinal problems
Along with the increased risks of taking NSAIDS, they act against your body’s natural fever response, impairing your body to fight the illness. These medications act as foreign substances in the body, which takes energy for the body to metabolize while that energy needs to be focused on fighting the illness.
Fevers are a powerful aspect of the vital force, which allows the body to fight infections naturally. While it is important to monitor your fever closely for complications, you should let them naturally ride their course if possible. The rise in your body’s core temperature stimulates your immune system and increases the detoxification processing, allowing your body to target harmful viruses or bacteria. By aiding the body to rebalance naturally you will have a quicker recovery, less symptoms, and minimize long term risks.
So next time you have a fever, don’t fear it but instead remember it’s doing some amazing work in healing your body.
“Basic Principles .” Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, by Wade Boyle and Saine Andŕe, Buckeye Naturopathic Press, 1988.
“Fevers in Children” Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
“Home Fever Treatment” Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
“Hydrotherapy Home Remedies for Fever.” Nutri-Patch, 27 Feb. 2019, www.nutri-patch.com/blogs/news/hydrotherapy-home-remedies-for-fever.
Offit, Paul A. “The Case for Letting Fevers Run Their Course.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 15 Oct. 2017, www.thedailybeast.com/let-it-burn-why-you-should-let-fevers-run-their-course.
Writer, Staff. “Fevers, Friend or Foe.” Rockwood Natural Medicine Clinic, 12 Oct. 2012, rockwoodnaturalmedicine.com/naturopathic-medicine-articles/fevers/.