In the face of a moderate fever, it is better to let it run its course than to fight it with medication, according to a study.
- Researchers at the University of Alberta conducted experiments on fish to understand the effect of fever on the body.
- They found that moderate fever helps fight infection and repair affected tissue.
- As the mechanisms are similar in humans, scientists believe that it could be counterproductive to take medication when suffering from a moderate fever.
When the temperature rises, the reflex may be to take paracetamol. This gesture would be counterproductive, according to a study by the University of Alberta, published in eLife on March 14, 2023. Researchers have found that a mild fever helps clear infections faster.
Having a temperature helps fight infection
To better understand the effects of fever on the body, scientists decided to inoculate fish with a bacterial infection. When the latter are sick, they usually move to warmer places to cause “a natural fever”.
Their symptoms were similar to those seen in humans whose temperature rose to 38 degrees, including immobility, fatigue and malaise. The team noticed that the natural fever offers “an integrative response that not only activates defenses against infection, but also helps control it”.
Indeed, feverish fish eliminated the disease in about seven days, half the time it took animals that were prevented from moving to a warmer place, and therefore having a fever. The rise in body temperature also helped stop inflammation and repair tissues that had been injured.
“We let nature do what it does, and in this case it was a very positive thing”explains immunologist Daniel Barreda, lead author of the research and professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at the University of ‘Alberta in a communicated.
Moderate fever: results need to be confirmed for humans
The researchers acknowledge that their finding on the effects of fever needs to be confirmed for humans through further work. Nevertheless, “as the mechanisms leading to and maintaining fever are shared between animals, it is reasonable to expect that similar benefits would occur in humans”they believe in their article.
Thus, for them, it would be best to avoid taking over-the-counter fever medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at the first signs of a moderate temperature. That is around 38 degrees (it is considered high above 39 degrees). “NSAIDs eliminate the discomfort felt with fever, but you are also likely to forgo some of the benefits of this natural response”says Professor Daniel Barreda.
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