Listen to this article Letting A Natural Fever Run Its Course May Be More Beneficial Than Taking Medication
New research from the University of Alberta indicates that allowing a mild fever to run its course may be more beneficial than immediately using medication. Researchers found that this approach rapidly cleared the fish’s bodies of infection, controlled inflammation, and repaired damaged tissue.
The researchers infected fish with bacteria and then monitored and analyzed their behavior using machine learning techniques. Outward symptoms were similar to those seen in humans with fever, including immobility, fatigue, and malaise.These were then matched to important immune mechanisms inside the animals.
The research showed that natural fever offers “an integrative response that not only activates defenses against infection but also helps control it,” says immunologist Daniel Barreda, lead author on the study and a joint professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Science. The researchers found that fever helped to clear the fish of infection in about seven days, half the time it took for those animals not allowed to exert fever. Fever also helped to shut down inflammation and repair tissues that had been injured.
Benefits of Natural Fever
Moderate fever is a self-resolving condition, meaning that the body can naturally induce and resolve it without medication.Immunologist Daniel Barreda explains that although research is necessary to confirm the health advantages of natural fever to humans, it is reasonable to expect similar benefits since animals share the mechanisms that drive and sustain fever.
The researchers discovered that the natural fever is an evolutionary response that the animal kingdom has conserved for 550 million years.”Every animal examined has this biological response to infection,” Barreda notes. Some species, such as fish, reptiles, and insects, will even risk predation and decrease their reproductive success to move to temperatures in their environments that bring on natural fever.
Risks of Medication
The study suggests that we should resist reaching for over-the-counter fever medications, also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs for short, at the first signs of a mild temperature. “NSAIDs take away the discomfort felt with fever, but you’re also likely giving away some of the benefits of this natural response,” warns Barreda.
The findings could help veterinarians and livestock producers manage illness in the animals they work with more efficiently and cost-effectively. “We can take advantage of this natural fever response and the tools we have generated to identify animals that are sick or that may need a vaccination booster. Focusing on a subset of the population saves time and is less costly,” suggests Barreda.