Fevers could be beneficial

By Shayna Brouker • Published: March 12th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Feeling a little hot? It could be a fever coming on. But before you run for the Tylenol, hear this: New research has found that a mild fever could actually be good for you.

According to research from Roswell Park Cancer Institute, not all that burns is bad. A hot head is actually part of an effective immune response and helps the body work harder and better to fight infection. Scientists used to think fevers prevented microbes from multiplying. But the new findings, published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, suggest that a high temperature also somehow boosts the immune system’s ability to function.

So how does sickness make you stronger? The secret to a fever’s ability to fight back is in a type of immune cell, or lymphocyte, called a C-D-8 plus cytotoxic (sigh-toe-TOX-ic) T-cell. This special cell can wipe out cells infected with viruses and even tumor cells. Scientists found that a higher body temperature increases the number of these cells, bolstering the body’s response against infection.

Though the study was performed on mice, it shows promise for humans. But physicians caution this phenomenon applies to mild fevers only; anything above 100 degrees merits a trip to the doctor. A relentless fever is a sign of infection and should be treated.

Those who have heart disease or who have suffered a stroke should be especially cautious when it comes to high temperatures. Children are also highly susceptible to fevers, because too-hot temperatures could cause permanent brain damage. Infants 6 months or older with a fever of 103 or higher need a trip to the doctor as soon as possible.

So if you feel the fire coming on, let it simmer … but don’t let it burn out of control. Seek a doctor to treat fevers lasting more than a few days. It could be too hot to handle.