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Desert Iguana

Lessons on Managing Fevers with Desert Iguanas

“Fever is nature’s engine which she brings into the field to remove her enemy”
Thomas Syndeham, 1678


For millennia, all animals have used fever to their advantage. One example are the desert iguanas.

If iguanas become infected, they will seek the warmth of the sun to raise their temperature. In an experiment in which desert iguanas were infected with a bacteria, those that sought heat from a sun lamp survived, whereas those that did not died. The experiment was taken one step further in which one group that was infected was give Motrin to lower their fever. The iguanas that were able to mount a fever despite the Motrin were the only ones that survived.

Another example comes from honey bees. When a hive is infected with a fungus the bees vibrate together to raise the temperature by 6 degrees to save larvae from infection. Even goldfish use an increase in body temperature to survive infections. Those that were able to raise their temperature to 93.6 degrees had 84% survival verses 24% survival for those whose body temp was at 77.9 degrees.

What does fever accomplish?

  • Increases bactericidal action of neutrophils (one type of white blood cell -WBC)
  • Increases (WBC) production, function and mobility
  • Induces behavioral changes to help us conserve energy. Body aches/pain (keeps us from moving), fatigue, sleepiness, and anorexia (it takes calories to digest)
  • Decreases iron to reduce availability to pathogens.

If fever is so important and every animal does it, why do many of us suppress it?

Human studies have shown that fever suppression worsens chicken pox and influenza symptoms and duration in children. Even critically ill patients in the ICU fared worse when fever reduction was administered. This was demonstrated when ICU patients were divided into two groups: an Aggressive group and a Permissive group.

The Aggressive group was given acetaminophen for fevers over 101.5 F with the addition of a cooling blanket for temperatures over 103.5 F. The Permissive group treatment included the use of acetaminophen only if the fever exceeded 104 degrees.

The study had to be terminated early as there were many deaths among those in the aggressive group, but only one death in the permissive group

When should fever be managed?

 Fever should be manage in these situations:

  • Chemotherapy patients who have low white blood cell count
  • Traumatic brain injury

Other indications of fever management include:

  • Very weak, frail and elderly patients
  • Severe cardiovascular disease
  • Severe pulmonary disease
  • Cachexia – weight loss seen in cancer patients

What about Febrile Seizure?

Antipyretic (fever-reducing medications) use in children between ages 3 months and 5 years was not shown to protect against recurrence of febrile seizures.

When a child or an adult is suffering from a high fever there are homeopathic remedies that can be used without suppressing the immune response. Read our blog post to see a detailed description on how to select the appropriate remedy.

Since there is an inverse relationship between the number of fevers a person has had and the likelihood that they will get cancer, we will talk about fever use in treating cancer in March’s newsletter.

Terry Pfau DO HMD

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