While the degree of temperature is decisive in regard to the life of micro-organisms, the height of the temperature does not, in itself, constitute a criterion of the gravity of danger. It is the duty of the physician to fight the fever, since the patient may succumb to a high temperature, as to a low one.
In order to gauge the situation accurately it is necessary to regard fever, not as a disease, but as what it really is in essence: a symptom which accompanies the greatest variety of the processes of disease,—symptom of the most variable significance in various cases. It must be fought like other symptoms, such as vomiting, coughing, pains and diarrhoea; namely, in a general way—provided only that it is not a manifestation of the healing tendency of the organism.
In decreasing the fever, we moderate the excitement of the nerves, remove the numbness, secure calmness, refreshment and sleep, and defend the patient against threatening manifestations of disease.
Very often it is not a case of treating the fever, but of dealing with the disease which causes the fever. We must consequently not be guided by the thermometer but by the condition of the nervous system.
Two conditions must be observed in treating fever according to the rules of biology.
In the first place, the treatment of febrile disease must not be carried on in accordance with general principles, but individually, according to the nature of the disease in each particular case.
In the second place, it is necessary that the antipyretic treatment, to reduce the fever, should not be foreign to the organism and should not be such as is not measurable in degrees as to its effects, or has any unpleasant accompanying effects or after-effects.
Only the biological system of healing responds to these demands. Only cognate physical forces, in affinity with the human organism according to biological laws, can influence vital occurrences with the hope of success and without the danger of unfavorable accompanying effects and consequences.
Only physical remedies and treatments permit of adequate gradations such as will appeal to the power of reaction of the organism.
In the appropriate application of certain, influences of nature, especially in the diversified applications of water, we possess a mode of procedure which, assisted by an appropriate dietetic regime adapted to the principles of biological healing and to the conditions of life in health and disease, offers advantages which no other treatment affords and benefits the patient to an extent which cannot be too highly estimated.
In the treatment of fever we must, in the first place, follow the impulses of instinct—harmonized, however, with the fundamental laws and methods of biological treatment—if success is to be obtained. Instinctively, in the case of a hot forehead, we turn to the application of cold compresses; for cold feet, the use of such appliances as will bring about heat. Tormenting thirst is assuaged by a mouthful of cooling water. But the instinct of impulse alone might also lead one burning with high fever to seek relief by immersion in cooling water; thus, in order to discover the rational course we must be guided by the fundamental laws of the biological system of healing.