According to new research, it may be best to let a low fever run its course rather than grabbing for medication.
Untreated moderate fever helped fish cleanse their systems of infection quickly, manage inflammation, and heal damaged tissue, according to researchers from the University of Alberta.
The research showed that natural fever offers “an integrative response that not only activates defences against infection, but also helps control it”, said lead author immunologist Daniel Barreda from the varsity.
The study, published in the journal eLife, discovered that fever helped eliminate the illness from the fish in around seven days – half the time it took for animals who were not allowed to exercise fever.
Fever also aided in the reduction of inflammation and the restoration of damaged tissues.
“We let nature do what nature does, and in this case it was very much a positive thing,” Barreda said.
Mild fever is self-resolving, which means that the body can both cause and resolve it without the use of medication, he noted.
The health advantages of natural fever to humans still have to be confirmed through research, “but because the mechanisms driving and sustaining fever are shared among animals, it is reasonable to expect similar benefits are going to happen in humans,” Barreda added.
This implies that we should avoid taking over-the-counter fever treatments, generally known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), at the first sign of a mild fever, he says.
“NSAIDS take away the discomfort felt with fever, but you’re also likely giving away some of the benefits of this natural response.”
The study helps shed light on the mechanisms that contribute to the benefits of moderate fever, which “has been evolutionarily conserved across the animal kingdom for 550 million years”, Barreda said.
“Every animal examined has this biological response to infection.”
Several species, such as fish, reptiles, and insects, will even risk predation and reduced reproductive success in order to relocate to temperatures that cause natural fever.
“But, if animals will go to such great lengths, why should we take medication at the first indication of a fever?”