Should You Fight that Fever with Acetaminophen?

February 10, 2019

Should You Fight that Fever with Acetaminophen?

If the flu has you feeling feverish, it may be reflex to reach for acetaminophen to bring your temperature down. While it’s important to be comfortable enough to rest and recuperate, keep in mind that fever serves a purpose. It’s your body’s natural way of killing off bacteria and viruses which are sensitive to temperature changes.

Research on Acetaminophen and Fevers

A 2014 study* conducted in the United Kingdom found that four doses a day of acetaminophen did not reduce fever or improve symptoms of flu. The study’s coauthor theorized that reducing fever could worsen or lengthen flu symptoms because it affects the body’s adaptive response to infection.

While this issue warrants further study, it’s important to separate facts from myth about fevers.

Fever Myths and Facts

  • Myth: All fevers are bad.
    Fact: Fevers help activate the body’s immune system to fight infection.
  • Myth: All fevers should be treated.
    Fact: Treat fevers if they cause discomfort. This is more likely when a fever is above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Myth: Treating a fever should bring it down to normal.
    Fact: Treating a fever will typically bring it down 2 or 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Myth: Fevers over 104 degrees Fahrenheit can cause brain damage.
    Fact: Only temperatures above 108 degrees Fahrenheit can cause brain damage, and they are very rare and require high air temperatures.
  • Myth: The higher the temperature, the sicker you are.
    Fact: The exact number is not as important as how you look and act. A child with a low temperature who looks and acts very ill is probably sicker than the number on the thermometer implies.

When in doubt or if you have any concerns, always contact your primary care provider.


*“Randomized controlled trial of the effect of regular paracetamol on influenza infection.” Sarah Jefferies, Irene Braithwaite, Steven Walker, Mark Weatherall, Lance Jennings, Michelle Luck, Kevin Barrett, Robert Siebers, Timothy Blackmore, Richard Beasley, Kyle Perrin. First published: 06 December 2015

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