What is a Fever? The Beneficial Nature of Fever
Fever is generally regarded as an enemy to be fought and defeated. The majority of patients and their families feel fear at the appearance of a fever, a fear that grows stronger with the intensity of the fever and faithfully follows its ups and downs. Peace of mind for the patient or the parent of a feverish child returns only when the fever has vanished.
Yet fever is an intentional action produced by the body to defend itself. Fever’s beneficial nature has been emphasized by numerous health professionals.
Édouard Auber (1804–1873), an expert on the work of Hippocrates, states in his own Philosophie de la medicine, “Fever is one of the most powerful healing methods employed by nature.”
André Passbecq (1920–2010), one of the best known naturopathic doctors in France, writes “Nothing works as well against illness as a good fever. . . . Fever can be a source of discomfort but, thanks to it, pathogenic substances and toxins are promptly broken down and eliminated. The temperature will remain high as long as the bulk of the toxins have not been eliminated.”
French naturopath Pierre Valentin Marchesseau (1911–1994) echoes this sentiment: “Fever is a means of self-defense.”
What To Do with a Fever: Using Fever as Therapy
Fever possesses so many therapeutic benefits that a variety of practitioners, aware of its usefulness, have sought means for creating it artificially. These pyrotherapy techniques included injections of substances that would not be tolerated by the body in order to force the body to defend itself by creating a fever. For the most part, these pyrotherapy methods have been abandoned because of the numerous problems they caused due to their anti-physiological nature. The fact remains, nonetheless, that the practice was based on a correct evaluation of the healing virtues of fever.
Fortunately, there is a physiological process that exists for intentionally creating fever: thermal baths. With a hot bath, a person can easily and rapidly escalate and intensify the metabolic activities and defense reactions of the body, which will produce a temporary fever. This method is something that can be turned to for preventive purposes. By correcting the biological terrain, you can prevent illnesses from finding an opportunity to develop.
Good or Bad? Fever Is a Welcome Friend Not a Foe to Slay
Many people find it surprising that fever can be considered a friend and ally. But, fever is evidence of the intense labor performed by the body to break down and eliminate toxic substances and germs. Fever is nothing but the consequence of the defensive activity engendered by the body itself as a means of protection. Countering it would therefore be extremely disadvantageous.
During infectious diseases, the salutary effect of fever is twofold. On the one hand, raising the temperature of the body makes the environment untenable for the germs. These high heats are, in fact, fatal to them. Germs can thrive at the regular body temperature of 98.6°F but let the temperature rise a few degrees to 102°F, 103°F, or 104°F and their living conditions are made adverse to their continued existence. The heat will greatly weaken the germs and severely limit their ability to reproduce.
Using Fever for Purification of the Cellular Environment
Fever also alters the living conditions of germs by purifying the terrain, the interior cellular environment of the body. Just like mosquitoes require the stagnant waters of marshes and swamps to thrive, germs need a terrain overloaded with wastes in order to survive and multiply. So, once the biological terrain has been cleansed, it becomes unfavorable for their continued existence and precipitates their disappearance.
Fever is the body’s preferred method for treating itself. Consequently, fevers should not be lowered or eliminated thoughtlessly. Cutting a fever short goes against common sense. It would amount to hoping a patient can be cured while opposing every attempt that is made to heal them.
Fever Can Be Your Friend: The Benefits of Fever
• Burns away toxins
• Eliminates toxins
• Weakens germs
• Stimulates the immune system
• Accelerates the transportation of lymphocytes to the site of infection
When to Stop a Fever
Stopping a fever is justified only when the profusion of germs overtaxes the patient’s weakened state. If the germs have multiplied in too high a number and are too virulent, the defenses of the patient may no longer be powerful enough to counter them. There is a risk of irreversible and fatal lesions.
In these extreme cases, which are also extremely uncommon, a treatment based on antibiotics and antipyretics is essential. The antipyretic or febrifuge artificially lowers the temperature of the body and provides relief to the patient. Antibiotics will kill the germs in place of the body’s defense system.
In the majority of cases, though, the fever should be respected; the body is fully capable of stamping out the infection with its own forces. The immune system exists precisely for this purpose.
The Downside of Stopping a Fever
Halting a fever prevents the body from killing the germs attacking it and from burning away the poisons that are stagnating in its terrain. It also prevents these toxins from being transported to the excretory organs where they can be eliminated. In addition, when antipyretics are used the body also has to deal with the poisons imported by these medicines.
The propensity to cut fevers short has certainly brought about a diminishing number of acute illnesses, but the consequence of this has been an increase in the number of chronic diseases. By systematically thwarting the body’s natural healing efforts, anti-fever therapies that repress symptoms only increase the contaminants in the biological terrain, which, over time, leads to the major lesions and functional disorders of chronic disease.
The objection that is most commonly raised against taking a more respectful approach to fever is based on the danger to the patient’s very survival caused by too high a rise in temperature. Of course, this danger is real. But refusing to cut short a fever, in other words, respecting its existence and purpose, does not mean doing nothing. Respecting fever means understanding its action, supporting its work (when, and if, necessary), and temporarily curbing it if it becomes too severe.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Healing Arts Press,
an imprint of Inner Traditions International.
©2012 (English translation). www.InnerTraditions.com
This article has been adapted with permission from the book:
The Healing Power of Fever
by Christopher Vasey, N.D.
Contrary to popular belief, a fever is not a symptom to be treated but a sign of a healthy, functioning immune system naturally working to heal the body. Helping us understand what a fever really is and how it can benefit the body, Dr. Vasey asks us to stop considering fever as an enemy to be conquered and start seeing it as the healing ally that it truly is.
About the Author
Christopher Vasey, N.D., is a naturopath specializing in detoxification and rejuvenation. He is the author of The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health, The Naturopathic Way, The Water Prescription, The Whey Prescription, and The Detox Mono Diet. Visit his website (French language) at www.christophervasey.ch