For more than 2000 years, doctors have believed that fever was Nature’s way of burning out the poison, which made people ill! But in the 20th Century, the doctors developed a different view. They started using drugs to bring down the high temperature of the patients.

But again from the recent researches, it appears that our ancient doctors were right after all. Fever plays an important part in the body’s process of healing itself.

The research began in 1975. Matthew. J. Kluger of the University of Michigan Medical School, decided to investigate fever using reptiles. Human body maintains a constant temperature but reptiles change their body temperatures to suit the temperature of its surroundings. He chose desert Iguanas—small American lizards– for his experiments.

Kluger infected some of the Iguanas with bacteria and kept them in incubators at controlled temperatures. The ones which were kept at 104 degrees Fahrenheit raised their own body temperatures and developed a fever. Later they recovered from the infection induced by the bacteria.

The other lizards kept at 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit, were unable to develop fever and died from the infection. These findings interested the doctors and other scientists. They have focused their attention on Hypothalamus–the part of the brain responsible for maintaining the body temperature around 98.6 degree F.

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When bacteria or viruses invade the blood stream, white blood cells rush to fight the harmful invaders and defend the body. They release a substance called “Endogenous Pyrogen” into the blood stream. This adjusts the thermostat in the hypothalamus and raises the body temperature.

The higher body temperature stimulates the production of more white blood cells. The body’s defensive mechanism is reinforced with the arrival of the new cells and they try to identify and destroy the cause of illness.

Not all fevers are beneficial. Prolonged fever at 102 F or more can stress out patients with heart or breathing problems. The temperature higher than 107 F is generally fatal and must be brought down quickly.

A little touch of fever may be helpful but too much will be harmful.

Visalakshi Ramani