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Friend or Foe?

SEPTEMBER 18, 2006


When you feel as if you're coming down with a fever, the best thing you can do is take an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Motrin or Tylenol to make it go away... right? Not necessarily, says Thomas A. Kruzel, ND, a naturopathic physician in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, and past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. In fact, in most cases, the answer is no, according to Dr. Thomas A. Kruzel

Fever is one of the body's most effective weapons for fighting disease, and usually the best thing you can do is to let it run its course to do its job. Forcibly reducing a fever can cause an illness to last longer or be more severe than it might have been if the fever had been allowed to burn it out.

To remove misconceptions and mis-understanding, Dr. Kruzel shared the following thoughts on what fever is and how to cope with one.

"Fever is an elevation in body temperature in response to infection or other illness. When an infection or illness is detected, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus triggers the body to mount a fever to ward off invaders. This mobilizes white blood cells to surround and engulf bacteria, viruses and other toxins. Essentially, your body burns up the invaders, explains Dr. Kruzel. In most adults, a fever does its optimal work at 102 degrees, and then breaks."


"Of course, the causes of fever vary widely. Depending on individual symptoms and circumstances, there will be times when it is appropriate to suppress a fever or seek medical attention, notes Dr. Kruzel. These include when fevers continue to spike above 102 degrees, if you are malnourished or dehydrated, if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if fever is accompanied by other symptoms such as a severe headache or a rash. In most cases, however, letting a fever run its course is the best thing you can do to support your body. Should you or a loved one get a fever, it is best to talk to your naturopath before starting treatment so that you are sure you're treating the right symptom in the right way. "



Dealing with a Fever


"Whatever other steps you take to intervene with a fever, don't forget this age-old one -- drink plenty of fluids. Don't allow yourself to become dehydrated, cautions Dr. Kruzel. To replace fluids lost through sweating, keep water, juice, seltzer, tea and soup close at hand. It can also be very refreshing to suck on popsicles. (To keep the sugar content under control, I make my family popsicles using diluted fruit juice.)"


"Another oldie but goodie -- get plenty of rest. Left to its own resources, this would be the body's natural response to fever, notes Dr. Kruzel. It's called "adaptive withdrawal," and children and animals still respond this way. When they develop a fever, they naturally grow more subdued. Most adults respond instead by fighting a fever, says Dr. Kruzel. They take a Tylenol and tough it out, insisting on going to work and meeting social obligations... when listening to their bodies and taking it easy would in reality help them get better faster. "


"Of course, sometimes you need to get your fever down -- either because you truly don't have time to be sick, or because the fever is dangerously high. One of the best ways to do this is something called hydrotherapy. Dr. Kruzel notes that while hydrotherapy sounds counterintuitive, it is an excellent way to help break a fever that is "stuck" for two or three days. What to do..."


"If you feel that you need to take something for a fever, it's still not necessary to reach for an OTC pill. As we've read in study after study in recent months, these drugs are far from benign and have a number of potentially serious side effects. Aspirin and other NSAIDs (e.g., Advil, Motrin, Aleve) are associated with gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney damage, while excess Tylenol can harm the liver. (Caution: Never give aspirin to children, since it is associated with a rare but life-threatening condition known as Reye's syndrome.)"

"Two of Dr. Kruzel's favorite natural alternatives are..."



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