With cold and flu season almost here, the next time you’re sick, you may want to thank your fever for helping fight off infection. That’s because scientists have found more evidence that elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better. This research is reported in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
“An increase in body temperature has been known since ancient times to be associated with infection and inflammation,” said Elizabeth A. Repasky, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. “Since a febrile response is highly conserved in nature (even so-called cold blooded animals move to warmer places when they become ill) it would seem important that we immunologists devote more attention to this interesting response.”
“Having a fever might be uncomfortable,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, “but this research report and several others are showing that having a fever is part of an effective immune response. We had previously thought that the microbes that infect us simply can’t replicate as well when we have fevers, but this new work also suggests that the immune system might be temporarily enhanced functionally when our temperatures rise with fever. Although very high body temperatures are dangerous and should be controlled, this study shows that we may need to reconsider how and when we treat most mild fevers.”