Have you ever wondered how aspirin reduces fever? To understand the answer to this question, we need to take a closer look at the biological mechanisms that cause fever in the first place.
When our body detects an infection, it responds by producing pyrogens, which are substances that signal the immune system to raise the body's temperature in order to fight off the infection. (1) Pyrogens increase the production of interleukin-1 in phagocytic cells. (2) IL-1 then acts on the anterior hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls body temperature, to increase the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins increase the set-point temperature, which in turn sets in motion the heat-generating mechanisms that increase body temperature and produce fever. (3)
Aspirin works by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that is necessary for the production of prostaglandins. By inhibiting cyclooxygenase, aspirin reduces the production of prostaglandins and, in turn, lowers the set-point temperature, which reduces fever. (4)
It's important to note that fever is a natural response to infection, and it actually serves an important purpose in the body's immune response. Fever stimulates the immune system, enhances the activity of white blood cells, and inhibits the growth of certain viruses and bacteria. In fact, some researchers believe that fever may even help to prevent the spread of infection by making it less hospitable for pathogens to thrive in our body. (5, 6)
So while aspirin may be effective at reducing fever, it's important to remember that fever itself is a powerful tool that our body uses to fight off infection. As always, it's best to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication to treat fever or other symptoms of illness.