New research has revealed that the widespread use of over-the-counter fever-reducing medications may lead to tens of thousands more influenza cases and more than one thousand deaths attributable to influenza in North America each year. According to David Earn, an investigator at the Infectious Disease research institute at McMaster University, fever is vitally important to lowering the amount of virus in a sick person’s body and reducing the chance of transmitting the disease to others. “Taking drugs that reduce fever can increase transmission. This increase has significant effects when we scale up to the level of the whole population”.
Natural healthcare practitioners have known this little tidbit for years. It is well known that running a temperature is a defense mechanism that allows the body to destroy harmful microbes. Moderate temperatures of under 103 F help the body to manufacture more immune cells. However, a high fever (104 F or higher) may pose a risk for people with cardiac problems as it makes the heart beat faster and work very hard. A fever over 106 F can cause dehydration and brain injury. So, use your judgement – allow a fever to progress if it is in the low to moderate range and seek medical help if it goes above 104. As well, even if the temperature is lower than 104, but the individual seems disoriented, dehydrated or excessively drowsy, then medical help should still be sought.
We tend to get more flu’s and cold’s in the winter in Canada because we live in a cold climate which lowers our body temperature when we go outside. This means we cannot generate enough heat to adequately kill off cold and flu viruses.
We do NOT get ill because of our cold winter climate. We actually get ill in the winter for a variety of reasons. First, our exposure to sunshine is dramatically reduced in the winter (from October onward). This leads to reductions in our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is critical for the health of our immune system. The body is really only capable of storing about a 6 week healthy supply of vitamin D. After that, levels drop and we are more vulnerable to illness. For most people that drop hits around the end of October or beginning of November – the typical start time for the ‘flu season’. Second, the air in winter is significantly drier – this dries out the mucous membranes which reduces their protective capacity. Viruses can much more easily penetrate our upper respiratory passages via a dry nose or throat. Third, confinement indoors in closed buildings tends to breed infection. We spend a lot of time inside and this gives us more opportunities for close exposure to others who may be ill (and taking fever-reducing medications making them more contagious!). And finally, winter brings with it a lot of stress (holidays, late nights, sugary foods) and a lot of travel (spread of infection, dry air, fatigue) – the perfect scenarios for a stressed immune system.