By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We often forget our bodies have spent thousands of years evolving. As a result, we have many protective mechanisms.

My wife used to laugh when I got calls from parents about their children having a fever. My response was “Fever is good!”. I suspect some parents thought I might be a witch doctor.

However, it is totally logical.

Think about an infection organism. It could be a virus or a bacteria.

Now assume that organism only grows in a human with a temperature of 105 degrees. That organism is never going to find a human with that temperature.

Therefore, it will go extinct. The same would happen to an organism that only grew in a human of 93 degrees.

Over the many years of evolution the only infecting organisms left are those that grow at 98.6 degrees. They have evolved and so have we.

Our bodies have learned that raising the body temperature will impair the growth of the organisms.

Those humans who could not raise their body temperatures are also extinct. Only the ones with this protective mechanism have survived.

It is classic survival of the fittest.

The result is when our bodies sense illness, they react by creating a fever, which slows down the growth of the infecting organism. Then once the immune system has eliminated that organism, the temperature returns to normal.

We do not treat fever to make the patient better. We treat fever to make the patient comfortable. Thus, fever is indeed good.

The same logic applies to the height of a fever. If the temperature goes too high, it too can cause medical issues.

However, it appears the temperature at which that becomes an issue is higher than 105.8 degrees.

Humans who took their temperatures higher than that consistently have also become extinct.

That is why our temperature tends to hover between 100 and 104 degrees for most illnesses.

The most impressive temperature change I have ever seen was in a child who had meningitis.

It affected the temperature control mechanism in his brain.

The patient came to the hospital at 107 degrees. We gave him some Tylenol. One hour later his temperature had dropped to 104 degrees.

We figured we were headed in the right direction. An hour after that had dropped to 101 degrees. That was good.

An hour later it was 98 degrees. That was quite a drop. An hour after that it was 95 degrees. Fortunately it stopped there.

We have all seen fever many times. We often take it for granted. However, it is an evolutionary tool that is there to help us.

Fever is good!