(UPDATED) An incorrect health advice on treating fever has been circulating on Facebook (FB) for months, drawing different reactions from readers.
The post first appeared on Jan. 10 on FB page Health Solution (created Nov. 29, 2019), with the netizen claiming he is a doctor in the United States. His posts expressly advised:
- Take amoxicillin to help the body fight off infections during a fever;
- Avoid drinking medicine for the first 24 hours because fever is a means to flush infection in the body;
Health experts and local and foreign health institutions believe these are false.
What is fever?
“Fever is the body’s reaction to fighting off an infection (that may be caused by viruses, bacteria), or as a response to an immunologic condition such as lupus or certain malignancies such as leukemia,” Dr. Beaver Tamesis, chairman emeritus of the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), told VERA Files Fact Check via email.
“An increase between one and two degrees Celsius may result in the body’s ability to clear certain viruses or bacteria. However, there are also potential risks of prolonged exposure to fever, especially if it approaches, or exceeds 40 degrees Celsius,” Tamesis explained.
Fever persisting less than 24 hours does not usually merit medical attention, according to Tamesis. He advised people to seek a doctor if a fever is over 40°C, lasts more than three or four days, or if a patient is experiencing warning signs such as headache, confusion, stiff neck, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath, among others.
Amox for fever without Rx a no-no
Tamesis, who is also a cardiology consultant at The Medical City, said amoxicillin was never intended to “treat fever.”
As an antibiotic, amoxicillin is used to kill off certain types of susceptible or responsive bacteria (but not viruses,) he said. In the Philippines, amoxicillin is used for treating bacterial diseases that cause fever such as pneumonia, typhoid fever, and other infections, as the 8th edition of the DOH’s Philippine National Formulary (PNF) Manual for Primary Healthcare explained.
If amoxicillin is used to treat a bacterial infection that acts as the root cause of fever, then the fever may come down as the bacterial infection is resolved, Tamesis added.
Further, the use of antibiotics such as amoxicillin without a required prescription is strictly prohibited, as stated in Department of Health-Food and Drug Administration Advisory No. 2012-017.
Taking amoxicillin without a doctor’s prescription can lead to inadequate dosing that “may result in an infection that remains uncontrolled, and [the] patient not getting any better,” the doctor stressed. Abusing antibiotics can also lead to a dangerous allergic reaction, he added.
Treating fever with meds okay
“Paracetamol is helpful to lower fever, particularly when the temperature approaches dangerous levels. It helps reduce the likelihood of fever-induced convulsions and discomfort,” the PHAP’s chairman emeritus said.
Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen in the United States, is a pain killer used to treat aches and pain and reduce body temperature. It is critical not to take paracetamol more than four times a day, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.
The usual dose of paracetamol for adults is 500 milligrams to 1 gram every 4 to 6 hours, according to the DOH’s 8th edition of the PNF Manual for Primary Healthcare. Children over three months old are given at least 120 milligrams (mg) to 500 milligrams of paracetamol, depending on their age bracket.
The netizen’s incorrect health advice garnered a total of 9,010 interactions on a post on his FB account and 12,250 more interactions on the post on his FB page.
Several online users in the comments section questioned the scientific basis behind the medical advice, while others pointed out that antibiotics should not be used without a prescription.
ERRATUM: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that fever persisting over 24 hours does not merit medical attention. We have corrected this to say that fever persisting less than 24 hours does not usually merit medical attention.
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