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How to Kill a Cold, Starve a Fever -- and When You Absolutely MUST See a Doctor

skin rashesIt could be just a little twitch or an irritating itch, but whatever it is, when it's happening to your body and you don't know what's causing it, it can be downright scary. The good news is that lots of scary symptoms are really no big deal.

As listed on CNN Health, here is a list of symptoms that might be a little freaky, but there's no reason to be scared of. It's OK to breathe easy when you have those skin tags, red spots, tremors, floaters, popping joints and palpitations.

And what if there is a reason to be concerned?

Certain clues, like unusual swelling or pain, can be reasons to see your physician.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The CNN article above mentions several symptoms that are not indicative of a serious health problem, from eye twitches and skin tags to bruising and occasional heart palpitations.

I agree that the symptoms addressed in their article are typically harmless and nothing to worry about, but I would add that any time you experience any kind of new or bothersome symptom, know that it's your body's way of communicating that something is not quite right, and that you may need to make some changes – especially if it's a recurring symptom, regardless of how harmless it may be.

To review the "scary but harmless" symptoms addressed by CNN, please see the source article.

Below I will address a few more that are commonly misunderstood and cause unnecessary worry.

Hemorrhaging Red Spots on Your Eyeball

This condition, known as subconjunctival hematoma, makes many people run to their doctor's office for an evaluation. But this is yet another case where it looks worse than it really is.

The red spot, or spots, on the white of your eye, is due to minor bleeding from the small capillaries beneath the surface. This can occur even without major trauma to your eye ball. All that is required is to increase the pressure in your eye, which can occur simply by rubbing your eye, coughing, or sneezing, for example.

About the only time you may want to call your doctor is if you're taking any kind of blood thinning medication, as any bleeding may then present a problem, depending on your condition.

Typically, however, these bright red spots will simply disappear in a few days, and do not require any kind of treatment.

Fever – Perhaps the Most Overtreated Symptom of All

A great number of people have completely misunderstood fever, and believe that fever can be dangerous in and of itself – especially when the fever occurs in a child.

It's important to realize that fever is your body's backup defense mechanism when your primary ones – mainly your immune system -- fail. Your first line of defense is your macrophages, which gobble up any invading microbes.

As long as your immune system is strong, you may not even realize you've been exposed to a troublesome bug.

If you are still under the impression that having a fever or 100 or 101 degrees Fahrenheit is an indication of a dangerous situation, relax! It's not!

Many infectious agents do not survive in elevated temperatures so your body increases the temperature in an effort to eradicate the infection. It is a healthy response.

Unfortunately, most parents end up giving their child potentially toxic doses of fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen when, in reality, their child's temperature is ideal for accomplishing healing. Worse yet, there are parents who administer aspirin at the first sign of fever, which actually poses a far greater health risk than any fever could, as aspirin may cause Reye's Disease, which can be lethal.

Mixing aspirin and ibuprofen can also be deadly under certain circumstances.

The Many Benefits of Letting Fever Run its Course

In order to put your worries to rest, it's important to understand the functions a fever serves, and why a rise in temperature is beneficial. Naturopathic physician Colleen Huber has done a marvelous job of explaining this in a previous article on my site, which I've summarized here.

First, the two functions of fever are:

  1. To stimulate your immune system.
  2. To create an inhospitable environment for invading organisms. That is, to turn up the heat high enough that the invading microbes cannot live.

If your macrophages – your first line of defense – are unable to manage the invasion of disease-causing microbes, they recruit other immune system cells and start making Interleukin One (IL-1). IL-1 is one of several endogenous pyrogens – they're part of a system that signal your body to raise your temperature.

Your hypothalamus acts as your internal thermostat, and once the IL-1 along with other endogenous pyrogens and proteins reach your hypothalamus, it starts to readjust your temperature.

Your body's heat-generating mechanisms include:

  • Shivering
  • The hormone TRH
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Piloerection (when your body hairs stand on end). This suppresses sweating (which is a cooling mechanism).

It would be far more helpful to think of a fever as a healing response rather than a symptom of disease. And, raising your body's temperature to between 102 to 103 degrees F is actually the ideal range of a fever because this is the temperature range in which microbes will be killed.

In addition to directly killing the microbes through heat, fever has a number of other benefits, including:

  • Creating more antibodies -- cells trained to specifically attack the exact type of invader that your body is presently suffering from -- produced more specific to that bug than any pharmaceutical.
  • Producing more white blood cells to fight off the invading microbes.
  • Producing more interferon (which blocks spread of viruses to healthy cells).
  • Walling off of iron, which bacteria feed on.

The Best Way to Treat a Fever

Contrary to popular belief, the best course of action is usually little or no action when it comes to fever.

Rather than working against it; trying to lower your temperature, you should work with it and allow it to run its course. The only time you need to worry or seek medical attention is if it rises very high, very fast. This could be a sign of an infection too serious for your body to handle.

To support your fever, naturopathic physicians recommend either fasting or eating foods such as broths and water because fever slows down peristalsis. Once your fever has broken, you can start eating solid foods again.

Fever is also best supported with plenty of good-old-fashioned rest.

When is Medical Attention Warranted for a Fever?

  • Infants less than 1-month-old -- Seek care right away for fever greater than 100.4 degrees F in this age group. While waiting for care, breastfeed as often as the baby desires as your breast milk will also create antibodies against pathogens in your baby's mouth.
  • Infants from 1-month to 3-months-old, with a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees F, if they appear ill. Again, breastfeed on demand while waiting for care.
  • Children between 3 months and 36 months, with a temperature above 102.2 degrees F, if they appear ill.
  • All age groups -- temperature over 104.5 degrees F.

Do You Need to See a Doctor for a Cold?

More than 300 different viruses can cause colds, so each time you have a cold it is caused by a distinct virus. It's important to realize that there are currently NO drugs available that can kill these cold-producing viruses.

There are, however, a number of ways to ensure you won't end up with a cold. One of the most important is to make sure you optimize your vitamin D levels year-round.

(In addition, there's compelling evidence that seasonal influenza is little more than a symptom of vitamin D deficiency!)

You need to be aware that antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and are therefore useless when you have a cold, even if it's severe. Not only that, but whenever you use an antibiotic, you're increasing your susceptibility to developing infections with resistance to that antibiotic -- and you can become the carrier of this resistant bug, and spread it to others.

The only types of infections that respond to antibiotics are bacterial infections, including sinus, ear and lung infections (bronchitis and pneumonia).

The following symptoms are signs you may be suffering from a bacterial infection rather than a cold virus, at which point you may want to contact your doctor:

  • Fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius)
  • Ear pain
  • Pain around your eyes, especially with a green nasal discharge
  • Shortness of breath or a persistent uncontrollable cough
  • Persistently coughing up green and yellow sputum

Generally speaking, however, if you have a cold then medical care is not necessary.

Some Serious Diseases have No Symptoms Whatsoever…

Now that we've reviewed a few symptoms and conditions that are really no big deal, I want to direct your attention to a few common conditions that typically have no symptoms at all, until it's too late and disease progression sets in.

Examples include:

  • Vitamin D deficiency -- As I mentioned earlier, one potential symptom of vitamin D deficiency is catching a cold, influenza, or other infection.
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol

For more information about each of these conditions, please see the links provided. 

Again, remember that any time your health suffers a set-back, whether it's temporary or chronic, it is your body's way of communicating to your conscious awareness that something has become unbalanced.

Correcting this unbalance, more often than not, involves making some form of lifestyle intervention or change, as opposed to taking drugs, which will only push your body into an even more unbalanced state.

+ Sources and References