Fever – Friend or Foe?

 In Fever

We’re half way through fall and so fevers and flu are once again a hot topic of conversation – because a fever is always bad and should be brought down stat… right? Wrong!

For the most part, fevers are a normal and excellent response of your body to the presence of intruders. Your body knows that intruders can’t live in high temperatures and so it spikes its own temperature in an effort to kill off the intruders. Amazing hey? With this in mind, fevers can actually be very beneficial to the body’s health and it is important that we realize this so that we can support the body’s natural defence instead of trying to fight against it.

So how hot is a fever? Contrary to popular belief, normal body temperature is not a static 37 degrees celsius (98.6 degrees fahrenheit). Rather than being a single static reading, body temperature is dynamic as it fluctuates around an optimal range of between 36-37 degrees Celsius (98-100 degrees Fahrenheit). And even this range of “normal” can differ from person to person. A fever, therefore, by its true definition  is when the body temperature rises above 38.9 degrees Celsius or 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature below that is not a true fever.

What most people also don’t realize is that our body temperature can fluctuate into the “fever zone” on a daily basis even when there is no intruder being fought; for example when we are doing strenuous activity or have been outside in the summer heat our body temperature may shoot as high as 40 degrees celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit and this is absolutely normal and safe (WebMD). 

Additional to this, we come into contact with different viruses and bacteria on a daily basis and our bodies induce short-lived temperature spikes or fevers whenever it detects an intruder and mounts a response. Ofcourse we don’t notice these regular temperature spikes because we don’t walk around with thermometers attached to our bodies.

When Children encounter intruders, their bodies tend to mount even higher fevers than adults do – this is because their physiology responds quicker than adults’ physiology does and this is completely normal. In fact both children and adults bodies can tolerate fevers of 39.4-40 degrees Celsius (103-104 degrees Fahrenheit) for short periods of time without a problem as it meets a challenge, mounts an immune response (the fever) and then comes back down. In this way the body beautifully and intelligently fights intruders all day long – often without us even noticing it.

Edited from the Pathways to family wellness podcast – October  9 2018

The information shared in this blog post is not meant to detract from the advice given by your medical doctor or paediatrician. If you have any further queries surrounding the symptoms of a fever, please consult with them.

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