The benefits of high body temperature in a child – fever
What is a fever – a friend or foe, and whether it is necessary to carry out symptomatic treatment of it – issues that constantly worry doctors and remain far from being resolved.
Undoubtedly, the incidence and mortality in thermal diseases associated with an increase in body temperature. For example, during heat stroke, body temperature may rise to an excessive level of 45.5 ° C, which leads to damage to the brain, liver, kidneys and other organs. Under these conditions, death is inevitable.
Fever, however, has a different essence. With it, body temperature rises in a controlled and regulated manner. Rectal temperature is rarely above 40 ° C, sometimes above 41.1 ° C and never exceeds 42.2 ° C. There are no data that would indicate that such a temperature in itself can cause significant tissue damage in a normal child. Therefore, it is clear that the febrile temperature itself is not lethal.
Surprisingly, despite the presence of a large amount of clinical and experimental data, the main issues concerning fever remain unresolved. Is the fever a well-organized defense mechanism, important for survival, or is it a side reaction to stress, neutral at best and dangerous at worst?
As E. F. Dubois said: “Fever is only a symptom and we are not sure that it is the enemy. She may be a friend. ”
Arguments in favor of the fact that the fever, apparently, is not dangerous, and perhaps useful, and it is better not to cure it:
1. In most cases, fever in children is short-lived and passes on its own (from an evolutionary point of view, it can be expected that such a universal biological response matters for survival)
2. Fever affects the reproduction and survival of certain microorganisms – pathogens
3. Fever may increase the immune response.
4. Fever may increase infection survival
5. Fever provides peace of mind
6. Treating a fever can make it difficult to diagnose and predict.
In most cases, the fever is short-lived and passes on its own. Pediatricians say that in most cases, febrile children recover without complications due to the fever itself, although, of course, diseases that cause fever can have serious consequences or even end in death.
The most significant exception to this rule is febrile seizures, which occur in almost 5% of febrile children. The works of several authors who examined children with a temperature of 40 ° C and above do not contain data on any serious adverse effects of such temperature, except in cases of febrile seizures.
As they indicate, the highest temperature recorded in these studies was the rectal temperature of 41.6 ° C in an 18-month-old child with otitis media. The highest body temperature during fever (but not the highest body temperature in general) observed by the author was a rectal temperature of 42.2 ° C in a 2-year-old child with meningitis caused by Hemophilus influenzae. Recovery was smooth, although long-term results are unknown.