This may sound odd – but I’m always excited when a patient reports having a fever and getting sick because I know a secret that your doctor and the media probably is not telling you. I’m going to let you in on it today!
Before I explain my health secret about fevers and illness, I want to define health. Quoted from my book “Ketogenic Cure; Heal Your Gut, Heal Your Life.”
“We’ve been conditioned to see health as the absence of disease, defect, or pain. I say instead that health is the “presence” of something: Lasting energy, clear thinking, good memory, healthy digestion, detoxification and excretion, muscle strength and flexibility, emotional stability, joy and deep peace. This is the optimally healthy state of well-being.” – Kristin Grayce McGary
Now, let’s define fever:
The College of Family Physicians of Canada states that a fever is: an oral temperature above 37.5°C (99.5°F) or a rectal temperature above 38.0°C (100.4°F) or an axillary (under the arm) temperature above 37.2°C/99°F (ear temperatures are not accurate in children under 6 months of age and are often not recommended in children less than 1 to 2 years of age). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal. While the average normal body temperature is 37°C/98.6°F, a normal temperature range is between 36.4°C/97.5°F and 37.5°C/99.5°F. Most pediatricians consider a temperature above 38°C/100.4°F as a sign of a fever. When studying fevers, Western science has coined the term, Febrile Range, and is known as 99.5-100.9°F/38-40°C.
Important Note: I’m referring to fevers in young children, adolescents and adults, not newborns. For babies, younger than 3 months a fever maybe a sign of something more serious.
Warning: Be aware that a prolonged fever, dry mucus membranes, a temperature higher than 40.5°C /105°F, a mottled rash, stiff neck, or unusual weakness, drowsiness and lethargy, may indicate something more serious than a simple fever. If at all concerned about the severity or cause of the fever, or if your child is under 2 months of age, please consult your health care professional.
There is a current concept and practice in Western medicine that fevers are harmful, and the practice is to quell them. One argument you may have heard is that a fever can cause brain damage or seizures. This is a scary thought isn’t it? If that was all I heard or knew, then I’d be doing everything I could to lower any fever quickly with antipyretics like acetaminophen. Indeed, this is what many parents and doctors are doing, and it’s causing harm. The American Academy of Pediatrics writes “There is no evidence that children with fever, as opposed to hyperthermia, are at increased risk of adverse outcomes such as brain damage.” [*1]
Many people, parents, and doctors have what has been coined fever phobia. It’s an exaggerated fear of fevers in either themselves, their children, and/or patients. Most people and parents have little to no information about a fever’s beneficial role in the disease process and over-all health of your immune system, so I’m going to clear this up now and Bust the Fever Myth!
Fevers are often viewed as the illness itself rather than a symptom of your immune system’s defense mechanism. Symptoms are a language of the body and mind. It’s my professional and personal opinion that they deserve to be listened to and understood. Your body and/or your child’s body are speaking to you through a language of symptoms – I’d like to teach you how to listen to it and address it in a functional, holistic, balanced and practical way.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report says, “It should be emphasized that fever is not an illness but is, in fact, a physiologic mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection.” [*2] Unfortunately, most doctors still encourage and provide acetaminophen to children and adults for low fevers and this is a problem – I’ll explain why as you read on.
A little history on Acetaminophen:
Acetaminophen was marketed in 1953 as a prescription analgesic. In the spring of 1955, Robert Lincoln McNeil Jr, a chemist and pharmaceutical industry executive, introduced TYLENOL Elixir for Children, the company’s first single ingredient acetaminophen product. This is where they got the name from: “Tylenol” (N-acetyl-p-aminophenol). Johnson & Johnson purchased McNeil’s family pharmaceutical company in 1960 for 30 million dollars. It’s important to know that when we speak about drugs, we also need to follow the money.
Did you know that antipyretics like Tylenol, do not normalize body temperature, nor prevent recurrences of fever? The child may feel better because these medications do reduce pain and discomfort but at what cost? According to some research, they are likely suppressing the immune response. Keep reading to find out how.
Antipyretics have increased in use over the past two decades from 67% to between 91-95%. I’d say they are doing a good job at advertising.
Tylenol is big business. Americans take about 8 billion pills each year. Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol and is in more than 200 medications.
Antipyretics are known to cause adverse reactions and some fatalities. In the UK, paracetamol aka acetaminophen, has been one of the most popular choices for suicide attempts in adolescents and adults, causing 100-150 deaths annually. As a parent I would not want to give my child a drug that is being used for suicide.
In the USA, paracetamol-associated overdoses account for 56,000 emergency visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, with approximately 450 deaths each year. About 100 of these deaths are unintentional. [*3] What do you think would happen if I prescribed an herb or a homeopathic that had a statistic like that, do you think it would remain on the market? In case you’re wondering, that would be a Hell No!
I feel strongly about NOT using a medication that is commonly used for suicide attempts as a fever lowering strategy.
But does Acetaminophen work?
Nope, and here is proof.
In human volunteers infected with rhinovirus, the use of antipyretics was associated with suppression of serum antibody response, increased symptoms and signs and a trend towards longer duration of viral shedding. [*4] In a study of children with chickenpox, half of whom received paracetamol four times a day, and half received a placebo, the time to total scabbing was slightly shorter in the placebo group (5.6 d) than in the paracetamol group (6.7 d) [*5] Basically, taking Acetaminophen during an illness has been shown to increase the duration of the illness because it suppresses important aspects of your immune system.
Why does a fever happen and how is it beneficial?
Pyrogens are substances that induce a fever. They are either produced by bacteria, viruses, molds, and yeast, or they are produced by your body, like white blood cells called macrophages. They act on a structure in your brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature to induce a fever. Bad guys like bacteria and viruses are sensitive to heat, the body creates a fever to kill them off. The increase in body temperature also stimulates the immune system to make and activate white blood cells, T-helper cells, T-cells, B-cells and so much more. It also increases the production of antibodies.
A fever helps your body naturally detoxify. It is also a powerful anti-cancer tool. When your body temperature is about 4 degrees above normal, your white blood cells are 10-fold! This is very important to kill off the bad guys. A fever response to a virus or bacteria is a sign of a strong and healthy immune system. In my practice, the sickest people are the ones who claimed to never get sick. Most people with chronic and degenerative diseases, autoimmune issues, and even cancer, often claim they were never sick before. Their immune systems were dysregulated and unable to get sick in a healthy way. The consequence of this is often a more serious illness.
Next week I will share with you 6 ways to make fevers your friend and give you some natural ways to treat them.
Blessings of Vibrant Health,
Kristin Grayce McGary
Health and Lifestyle Alchemist