MAR 22, 2023 3:00 AM PDT

Researchers Suggest Letting Mild Fever Run Its Course and Postponing Medications

When we have a fever, it's become almost instinct to reach for a Tylenol or Aleve to ease the pain. But a team of researchers led by the University of Alberta have suggested the best course of action for dealing with a mild fever is to let it pass naturally and postpone taking medications to relieve it. They came to this conclusion after conducting tests on fish and discovered when the fish exhibited a mild fever and allowed to clear naturally clear it from their bodies, the fever cleared much faster, along with controlling inflammation and repair damage to tissue.

Study co-authors, Daniel Barreda, Amro Soliman, Farah Haddad. (Credit: University of Alberta)

“We let nature do what nature does, and in this case it was very much a positive thing,” said Dr. Daniel Barreda, who is an associate professor at the University of Alberta with joint appointments with the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, and a co-author on the study.

Dr. Barreda described mild fevers as self-resolving, meaning the body doesn’t need medications to mitigate it and that the body can both activate and deactivate the mild fever naturally. While more research is required to demonstrate these same results in humans, the researchers say similar results could take place since animals share similar fever-sustaining processes.

The overall message the study is trying to convey is to resist the urge to consume over-the-counter fever medications at the onset of a fever and let it run its course.

“They take away the discomfort felt with fever, but you’re also likely giving away some of the benefits of this natural response,” said Dr. Barreda.

For the study, the researchers induced a bacterial infection in fish while using machine learning to monitor and document their behavior, for which they exhibited the same fever symptoms as humans, including fatigue, malaise, and immobility. This data was then compared to immune processes within the animals. The researchers found the fish were able to clear the infection from their bodies within seven days if they were allowed to let the fever run its course, which is half the time it took for animals who weren’t allowed to exert fever.

This study demonstrates the positive benefits of letting a mild fever run its course, which allows the body to activate the appropriate defense mechanisms to fight the infection while also controlling it.

“Our goal is to determine how to best take advantage of our medical advances while continuing to harness the benefits from natural mechanisms of immunity,” said Dr. Barreda.

What new discoveries will scientists make regarding fighting infections naturally or with medications in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

Sources: eLife, University of Alberta

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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