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Study: Fever Treatments May Cause More Flu Deaths

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File photo of hospital hallway. (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of hospital hallway. (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – A new study has found that fever treatments may cause thousands of more flu deaths each season.

To find the effects of widespread use of medications that suppress fever, researchers created mathematical models.

Researchers found that fever-reducing drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may lead to thousands of additional influenza cases across North America.

“When they have flu, people often take medication that reduces their fever. No one likes to feel miserable, but it turns out that our comfort might be at the cost of infecting others,” study researcher David Earn, a professor of mathematics at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, told LiveScience. “People often take, or give their kids, fever-reducing drugs so they can go to work or school. They may think the risk of infecting others is lower because the fever is lower. In fact, the opposite may be true: The ill people may give off more virus because fever has been reduced.”

Fevers can actually help because they can lower the amounts of virus in a sick person’s body due to the viruses replicate less efficiently in higher temperatures.

“Because fever can actually help lower the amount of virus in a sick person’s body and reduce the chance of transmitting disease to others, taking drugs that reduce fever can increase transmission,” Earn said. “We’ve discovered that this increase has significant effects when we scale up to the level of the whole population.”

Fever can also help immune responses work better and more efficiently.

“People are often advised to take fever-reducing drugs, and medical texts state that doing so is harmless,” Paul Andrews, researcher at the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior at McMaster, said to LiveScience. “This view needs to change.”

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