Our Christmas celebrations were slightly marred by one of our number coming down with a nasty bug – probably Norovirus or the ‘winter vomiting bug’ – that causes vomiting, diarrhoea, a temperature, headaches and stomach cramps. For everyone’s information it normally goes away after a couple of days and all you really need to do is to make sure that you drink plenty of water so that you do not get dehydrated.
It is, of course, very unpleasant having a temperature which makes you hot, sweaty and shivery all at the same time so most people reach for the paracetomol to help bring down the temperature. Indeed, if you log onto the NHS Choices website and look up Norovirus, that is what it will tell you to do. However, there is a school of thought that believes that the fever is the body’s way of ridding itself of whatever bug or virus is currently attacking it and that fevers should, on the whole, be left to run their course. (The exception being very high fevers, especially in a child, that can have long lasting effects.)
I was interested, therefore, to see a post from Dr John Briffa a couple of weeks ago not only going along with this idea, but quoting some recent research on mice that showed that raised body temperature led to the creation of extra CD8+ T cells ‘that have the ability to kill cells infected with a virus’. (Research published in the Journal of Leucocyte Biology.)
It reminded me of a similar suggestion made by the late, and sadly lamented, Dr Dovid Freed at a BSEM conference last year talking about allergy and inflammation. Inflammation, he claimed, is good for you. As the body temperature rises, it destroys germs (which cannot survive higher temperatures). For example, as the temperature in a blocked nose rises, it kills temperature-sensitive viruses while sneezes and running noses get rids of the germs.
It is the inflammation of the mucous surfaces in the body, he suggested, that produces most allergic symptoms but this inflammation has a biological purpose. Itchy skin encourages you to scratch; this gets rid of surface debris while encouraging healing lymph flow. When the bronchial tubes narrow as a result of inflammation, the air moves faster through the tubes ‘bashing’, thinning and dislodging germ laden mucous and allowing the germs to be swept away.
He even suggested that anaphylactic fatalities may occur in asthma patients when the natural inflammation has been suppressed so it is unable to ‘deal’ with the antigen.
Does, yet again, the body know best?….