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Fighting Infections

           When antibiotics were developed in the middle of the 20th century, they were hailed as “miracle drugs”. Life-threatening infections were suddenly able to be brought quickly under control. In the period of time that ensued, antibiotics were overused. They were used for the common cold and for viral infection.

          While it is desirable to get an infection under control, the overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs” or bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Also, antibiotic use has been linked to the development of allergies and taking them burdens the liver, kidneys and digestive system.

          Of course, some infections call for antibiotics. Life-threatening diseases like septicemia or pneumonia call for intervention with drugs. Many minor conditions like colds or flu respond well to natural therapies.

           We say things like, “Yesterday I caught a cold.” That implies that everyone around you “missed” the cold. The germs, with Michael Jordan-like moves, faked right, spun left, avoiding everyone else and slam-dunked into you. At work, school or any place where a lot of people are together, there are people who are sick all of the time and there are people who are never sick. Do the germs keep missing the same people all of the time? Of course not, people who don’t get sick have better cell function, enzyme function, hormone function, immune system function and better overall health. Modern medicine is sickness oriented, so it tends to fight disease rather than to promote health.

           Wouldn’t it be wise to treat your health before you developed a disease? If your car runs reasonably well and you take it to a mechanic, he doesn’t say, “There’s nothing wrong with your car, bring it to me when it doesn’t run.” A car has need of a mechanic, even when it is running. It needs regular maintenance to keep it running. The mechanic will change the oil and spark plugs in an otherwise “healthy” car. He doesn’t wait until the engine locks up from lack of oil.

 

Fevers

 

            For some reason we tend to view a fever as a problem that needs to be brought under control. Normal temperature is considered to be 98.6o Fahrenheit, but a child’s normal temperature may be a little higher; slightly over 99o may be normal in a child. There are many things, like physical activity, wearing a lot of clothes (especially in winter), or hot food, that can cause a child’s temperature to be slightly higher.

            Even if there is a fever, or temperature that is 99.5o or higher, the fever is not the problem—it is a symptom. The fever is a positive response to the disease. It is a sign that the immune system is working. Fever increases the amount of a natural antiviral and anticancer substance in the blood, called interferon. Fever can also increases the white blood cells, and improves their ability destroy bacteria and infected cells. Fever also hinders the reproduction of many viruses and bacteria. A mild fever may be a good thing—the immune system is working.

            The idea of trying to stop a mild fever with a drug is not a good one. The fever is actually your body fighting the illness. If a child is sick monitor him or her for dramatic increases in temperature and worsening of any other of his symptoms.

A temperature of 106° Fahrenheit can harm the heart and brain. If it gets that high, then you need to be concerned. During most infections, however, the temperature does not rise above 104° Fahrenheit.

Fevers, of course, can be problematic. Sweating causes loss of salt, water and vitamins. During moderate fevers, we can compensate for these losses by drinking fluids and eating nutritious foods. Loss of appetite and lethargy are common occurrences in fever. If a child has a fever, and does not want to eat, don’t force the issue—appetite will return upon recovery. Do, however, make sure that the child gets enough water. Dehydration can make the situation worse. Sometimes soup or broth is appealing and can help to restore nutrients. 

            Aspirin reduces fever, pain, and inflammation, but pediatricians rarely recommend it. Taking aspirin during viral illness has been linked to Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome is a rare, potentially fatal childhood disease. In general, it strikes children under the age of 15 upon recovering from an upper respiratory illness, flu or chicken pox. Reye's syndrome is characterized by abnormal accumulations of fat in the liver and a severe increase of pressure in the brain. Typically the first symptom is uncontrollable vomiting and nausea. Other early symptoms include lethargy, drowsiness, disorientation and irritability. The swelling in the brain may cause seizures; coma and the child may stop breathing. A child with Reye's syndrome needs immediate medical care. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chance for a successful recovery.

            Acetaminophen (sold under the trade name Tyleol), can reduce a fever. According to the American Journal Respiratory Critical Care Medicine (April 2004; 169(7):836-41), taking acetaminophen may have a link to asthma, in those who are susceptible.  It may decrease levels of an antioxidant in the lungs. Antioxidants help protect the lungs against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable chemicals (like chemical bullets) that destroy cells. Antioxidants are like chemical “bullet-proof vests” that protect tissues. Lower levels of antioxidants may predispose people to lung injury and spasm in the lung airways—the symptoms of asthma. The combination of acetaminophen and aspirin is also good to avoid—the combination may cause kidney damage. 

 

Health—a Question of Balance

 

            In infections, the severity of the problem is a function of the virulence of the infecting agent (virus, bacteria etc.) and the resistance of the host. Applied kinesiology, chiropractic and good nutrition will help to build resistance. Antibiotic drugs and drugs to reduce fever may be necessary if the situation is serious or life-threatening. As you take steps to improve your health and resistance (or the health and resistance of your child), infections become fewer and milder.