Thursday, August 17, 2006

Scientific American: What Causes A Fever

Over at, they have a feature called "Ask the Experts," where rubes like myself can go in and learn answers to the biting mysteries in life like, "Why is the sun's corona the hottest layer when it is farther from the sun's core than other layers are." (Get the answer here.) Also, if you're curious about what butterflies do when it ranis, they have an answer for that, too.

Recently, I stumbled across some health related questions. One of which, I'll share with you here.

How Fevers Work
Your body's temperature usually hovers around 98 degrees. That's a prime temperature for bacteria to move in and viruses to reproduce. However, should you crank up the thermostat a couple of degrees, it's suddenly tough for bacteria and viruses to do their business.

Enter the hypothalamus, your body's own thermostat. The hypothalamus monitors body chemistry for "floating biochemical substances called pyrogens," explains Peter Nalin, an Indiana University physician, the Scientific American "Ask the Experts" section. Pyrogens are produced by your body's tissue when it fights disease or by pathogens themselves. So, when pyrogen levels are elevated, the hypothalamus turns up the heat.

By the way, Dr. Nalin confirms that you should indeed, "starve a fever." Basically, turning on your digestive system by eating causes stress and complicates your body's chemistry. Both of these factors have the potential of sending signals to the hypothalamus that encourage it to turn the heat up even further.


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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.