We are a drug-obsessed, symptom-obsessed, relief-obsessed culture, so we’ve been conditioned to believe that every symptom must be obliterated because well, otherwise, how will we get better?
Got pain? Take a pain reliever.
Can’t sleep? Take a sleeping pill.
Got a fever? The ads are very persuasive: You must take a Tylenol or an Aspirin to quickly relieve that feeling of what? Tiredness? Being too hot? Feeling blah? Dulling the voice in your head of your mother when you were a kid warning you to take an Aspirin if you have a fever?
But the truth is that the reason we get most symptoms is to warn us of a medical problem we’ve developed and suppressing that warning too quickly, especially if that symptom is not by itself a danger to our health, is actually often counterproductive to getting better quickly.
And fever is a prime example of a symptom on which we tend to jump way too fast.
A moderate spike in temperature will not harm anyone who gets a cold or the flu, so before you reach for the Tylenol, remember that there must be an evolutionary reason we get a fever when we get a respiratory infection.
And if you want to know what that reason is, here’s a really good clue from a recent study in mice published in the journal Immunity.
The Chinese researchers concluded that fever alters the white blood cells – those vital infection-fighters – to make them more likely to travel to the area of need.
In other words, a fever ramps up the immune system to help you get over an infection more quickly.
Not sure if you should feed a fever or starve a fever, but I am pretty sure you shouldn’t try to kill it.