Title: Behaviors Associated with fevers in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Authors: Curran, L., Newchaffer, C., Lee, L., Crawford, S., Johnston, M., Zimmerman, A.
Source: Pediatrics 120, 2007.

This article was published in the January issue of Pediatrics by a team at Johns Hopkins University. The study attempted to examine a unique observation commonly reported by parents and clinicians: children with autism seem to improve when they have fevers, especially in regards to their social behaviors. The authors followed about 100 children with autism. During the duration of the study 40 of these children developed a fever. These 40 children were then compared with other children with autism of similar ages but who did not develop a fever during the same time. The authors found that during the episodes of fever the parents reported a significant improvement in irritability, hyperactivity, stereotypy, and inappropriate speech. This was not simply the result of the kids being so sick they couldn’t move, since these children also experienced less lethargy! Unfortunately all improvements were temporary, and ended after the children no longer had a fever. This is the first study to show empirically a phenomenon that parents and clinicians have been reporting. Unfortunately, currently there is no cohesive theory that would explain how or why kids with ASD improve during episodes of fever. We need to wait for more specific research to could show the possible mechanism by which fever temporarily helps to improve these behaviors.

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2 Responses to Autism and Fevers: First scientific evidence of improved functioning during fever episodes.

  1. leila says:

    My autistic son just had a fever last week (flu). I didn’t notice any difference in autistic symptoms, except he was too tired to jump around and play happily like he usually does.

  2. Hi Leila. Thanks for the comment. The fevers effect is clearly not seen in all kids or even during all fevers episodes within the same kids. And as you mention, it is possible that what some parents are describing is a reduction of hyperactive type of behaviors, which of course would be expected during a fever episode. I hope your kid is doing well.

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