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Can fever be good for your immune system? 4 ways in which fever makes you healthier

By Sandhya Raghavan | Published:Fri, July 21, 2017 5:43pm

Did you know fever can fight cancer cells?

Call me crazy, but I have always liked having a fever. And I am sure I'm not the only one. Yes, there are some discomforts, but the pampering I get at home makes it all worth it. Fever has always been treated as a disease, but the truth is that it is only a symptom of something serious transpiring within your body. It usually means that your body is fighting extra hard to fend off some potentially hazardous intruders from entering your system. It is a trait that has been seen in most warm and cold blooded organisms for the last 600 million years of evolution. [1]

Fear of fever is something that we inherited from the paracetamol-popping generation of our parents. But traditionally, some societies don't see fever as a bad thing at all. In fact, having a fever could be good for your immune system. Here are some of the ways in which a fever could help.

Fever makes your immune system perform better

Who wouldn't want a stronger immune system? It helps you stay healthier, fight off pathogens, ensure the internal situation of your body is under control and, not to mention, lesser sick leaves. One of the best benefits of having a fever is that it makes your immune system stronger. A study conducted by the Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute pointed out that a fever can actually improve immune functions! [2]

Fever destroys viruses

Viruses can sneakily enter your system and wreck havoc inside your body. Right from common colds to hepatitis, these infectious agents are responsible for a lot of human ailments. A lymphocyte CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell is a potent immune cell that can kill viruses and even stop tumour cells from growing. When your body temperature rises, it kicks up the production of these cells, helping your body fend off these infections in a better manner. Interferons are your body's virus-fighting cells. Studies indicate that a bout of fever could help you up your body's interferon production. [3]

(Read: When should you call a doctor if you have a fever?)

Fever boosts your innate immune system

The innate immune system, a part of your immune system which is in charge of recruiting immune cells to infection sites, identifying bacteria and other pathogens, removing foreign substances, etc. also gets charged up when you have a fever.

Fever can be used to treat cancer

Deliberately introducing hyperthermia or fever has also been known to cure some kinds of cancers! Focal hyperthermia above 40o C is used to directly destroy cancer cells and can boost anti-tumour activity of the human immune system. [5]

But this is not to say that fever has NO drawbacks at all. A high fever accompanied by shivering and other symptoms should be immediately checked by the doctor. A temperature that ranges above 40 degree C warrants medical attention. Leaving a high fever unattended could prove fatal for the patient.

(Read: Can I stop taking medicines if my fever stops)

Reference:

1. Evans, S. S., Repasky, E. A., & Fisher, D. T. (2015). Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature Reviews. Immunology, 15(6), 335 349. http://doi.org/10.1038/nri3843

2. Mace, T. A., Zhong, L., Kilpatrick, C., Zynda, E., Lee, C. T., Capitano, M., ... & Repasky, E. A. (2011). Differentiation of CD8+ T cells into effector cells is enhanced by physiological range hyperthermia. Journal of leukocyte biology, 90(5), 951-962.

3. Dinarello, C. A., Bernheim, H. A., Duff, G. W., Le, H. V., Nagabhushan, T. L., Hamilton, N. C., & Coceani, F. (1984). Mechanisms of fever induced by recombinant human interferon. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 74(3), 906 913.

4. Chu, K. F., & Dupuy, D. E. (2014). Thermal ablation of tumours: biological mechanisms and advances in therapy. Nature reviews. Cancer, 14(3), 199.

5. Evans, S. S., Repasky, E. A., & Fisher, D. T. (2015). Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature Reviews. Immunology, 15(6), 335 349. http://doi.org/10.1038/nri3843

Published:Fri, July 21, 2017 5:43pm

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