New research from McMaster University in Canada has found that the general use of medications that have fever-reducing drugs may lead to tens of thousands more flu cases, and more than a thousand deaths from the flu each year across North America.

These drugs include ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Lead author David Earn, an investigator with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research said, “when they have the flu, people often take medication that reduces their fever. Noone likes to feel miserable, but it turns out that our comfort might be at the cost of infecting others.” And he adds, “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. We’ve discovered that this increase has significant effects when we scale up to the level of the whole population.”

The researchers gathered information from many sources, including human volunteers, and ferrets (which are the best animal model for human influenza). They then used a mathematical model to compute how the increase in the amount of virus given off by one person taking fever-reducing meds would increase the overall number of cases in a typical year.

David Price, professor and chair of family medicine at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine agrees with the researchers’ conclusions. “As always, Mother Nature knows best. Fever is a defense mechanism to protect ourselves and others. Fever-reducing medication should only be taken to take the edge off the discomfort, not to allow people to go out into the community when they should still stay home.”

As always, check with your healthcare provider if you have questions.       ScienceDaily     1/22/14


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