Fever Increases Immune System Defense

Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that a higher body temperature can help our immune systems to work better and harder against infected cells. The finding was published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

“Having a fever might be uncomfortable, … but this research report and several others are showing that having a fever is part of an effective immune response,” John Wherry, Ph.D., deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, said in a statement.

The secret is in a kind of immune cell, or lymphocyte, called a CD8+ cytotoxic T-cell. This kind of lymphocyte is able to destroy cells infected with viruses and even tumor cells, researchers said. Researchers found that a higher body temperature (like one achieved in a fever) raises the number of these CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells, which means a greater body response against infection.

However you need to be careful if you have heart disease, have suffered a stroke or endured other medical complications. “This is not a blanket recommendation,” he says. “Secondary consequences to the fever can cause other conditions in the patient to occur or worsen. If someone has a persistent fever of 104, it’s a sign of infection, and it”s not just some viral thing you are going to get over.”

This is certainly not the first research to suggest that fevers ramp up our body’s immune responses. Discover magazine reported in 2007 on another Roswell Park Cancer Institute mouse study, which showed that mice that were heated up produced more immune cells to fight disease than mice that weren’t heated.