Have a mild fever? Hold off on medication

Have a mild fever? Hold off on medication

For some people, reaching into the medicine cabinet to treat a mild fever is a reflexive action. It might be a good idea to hold off on that.

New research suggests that it could be better to let a fever run its course instead of gulping down medication. While the findings were obtained in fish, University of Alberta scientists say it’s reasonable to believe the same approach would apply to humans. That’s because most animal species share the same mechanisms for driving and sustaining fevers.

It might seem counterintuitive, but a mild fever can actually have some benefits and is often self-resolving, meaning that the body induces and shuts down fevers naturally.

The Canadian scientists induced a bacterial infection in the fish. Then, they tracked and evaluated their behavior using machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence. The observable symptoms, such as fatigue and immobility, were similar to those seen in feverish humans. The symptoms were then matched to immune mechanisms inside the animals.

Some of the infected fish were not allowed to become feverish.

They found that natural fever management produces an integrated defense that helps control infections. The fever helped clear the fish of infection in about seven days — about half the time it took for the fish who were not allowed to develop fevers. The fever also helped repair injured tissue and shut down inflammation.

The researchers say that suggests reaching for over-the-counter fever medications might not be necessary. Those drugs might take away some of the fever discomfort but could also blunt the benefits of the body’s natural response.



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