Most of us probably take fever lowering drugs, like paracetamol (a.k.a. acetaminophen, tylenol, panadol, alvedon), aspirin, or ibuprofen (a.k.a. advil, motrin, ipren), when we get a high temperature. The technical term for these drugs is antipyretics. After half an hour or so, we start to feel better and maybe don’t have to spend the whole day in bed. But it is well understood among researchers studying the immune system that the fever is in itself an important part of the body’s defence against infection. Our immune system works better at a higher temperature, and many pathogens have trouble replicating at a higher temperature. So, does taking antipyretics increase the risk of a more severe infection, or even of dying? And does it delay recovery?
In my previous post on the covid pandemic I mentioned that the body’s main defence against viruses is T-cells, not antibodies, and that the only reason we test for antibodies instead in clinicial practice is because it is easier and cheaper. I also ventured a hypothesis that the levels of population immunity are much higher than is being found in the antibody tests, and that this is because lots of people who don’t have antibodies do have covid specific T-cells. It turns out that this hypothesis is supported by new evidence.
Ok, I want to preface this article by stating that it is entirely anecdotal and based on my experience working as a doctor in the emergency room of one of the big hospitals in Stockholm, Sweden, and of living as a citizen in Sweden. As many people know, Sweden is perhaps the country that has taken the most relaxed attitude of any towards the covid pandemic. Unlike other countries, Sweden never went in to complete lockdown. Non-essential businesses have remained open, people have continued to go to cafés and restaurants, children have remained in school, and very few people have bothered with face masks in public.
This question has actually been pretty thoroughly researched, so it should be possible to come up with a conclusive answer. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the collected data was published in the British Journal of Medicine in 2017. The review was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). No companies standing to benefit from the sale of vitamin D supplements were involved in funding the study and none of the authors had financial ties to any such companies. That makes me quite prone to trust the data.