How does fever help fight infection?

Fever helps fight infection by offering a warning to the rest of the body about the problem.

Fever signals that the body is fighting infection.

Dr. Terry W. Smith, MD
Family Practitioner

While fever may cause the patient to feel bad and ache, the body’s elevated temperature actually helps white blood cells fight the infection. If you have a fever, avoid fever medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen unless your fever is high and extremely uncomfortable. Try to control the fever by drinking plenty of fluids.

Fever, a common symptom of infection, can leave you feeling hot, achy and miserable. But it serves a purpose. A higher body temperature accelerates the internal workings of cells. This means disease-fighting cells respond faster, and immune responses increase. Germs, on the other hand, don't reproduce as well at higher temperatures. A very high fever can slow down or kill off the microbes that cause some infectious diseases.

In the age before antibiotics, fever was held in high esteem. As Thomas Sydenham, a 17th-century English physician, opined, "Fever is a mighty engine which nature brings into the world for the conquest of her enemies." Since fever is an ancient coping strategy against disease, scientists suspect it endures because despite its discomfort, it has value.

Continue Learning about Infectious Disease

Simple Ways to Stop the Spread of Staph and MRSA
Simple Ways to Stop the Spread of Staph and MRSA
Odds are you’ve heard of staph (Staphylococcus aureus) or MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), types of bacteria that can cause potenti...
Read More
What should I do if I have norovirus?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
If you hook up with norovirus, beware of dehydration. Drink plenty of water and stay near the th...
More Answers
What is an upper respiratory tract infection (uri)?
An upper respiratory infection (or URI) is an infection of the nose, sinuses, throat, and voice box....
More Answers
What Is Hand Hygiene?
What Is Hand Hygiene?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.