The Herxheimer (Herx) Effect is an immune system response to toxic chemicals (endotoxins) released in the blood & tissue by parasites & pathogens killed off by medication. It's also called the Parasite Die-Off Syndrome.
Simply stated, the reaction occurs when the body is detoxifying & released toxins either worsen the symptoms being treated or create their own.
As a result, you might feel worse before feeling better.Although you may not feel very well, the Herx effect is actually a sign that healing is taking place.
The important thing is worsening symptoms do not indicate failure of the treatment. In fact, it's usually just the opposite.
The biggest problem occurs when you stop taking the meds causing the reaction. And thus discontinue the very treatment that is helping to cure your condition!
History Of Herx:
The phenomenon was first described by Adolf Jarisch (1860-1902) working in Austria & by Karl Herxheimer (1861-1942) working in Germany.
Both doctors were dermatologists treating syphilitic lesions of the skin. They noticed that in response to treatment, many patients developed not only fever, perspiration, night sweats, nausea, & vomiting, but their skin lesions became larger & more inflamed before settling down & healing.
Interestingly, they found that those who had the most extreme reactions healed the best & fastest. The patient might be ill for 2-3 days, but then their lesions resolved.
Common Herx Symptoms:
As the body detoxifies, you might experience flu-like symptoms including headache, joint & muscle pain, body aches, sore throat, general malaise, sweating, chills, nausea, flushes, rashes, or other symptoms.
These reactions vary widely & depend on many factors: Your general health, condition being treated, degree of toxicity in your body, frequency & dosage of medication, & support you provide your body in eliminating the toxins.
Herx Time Frames:
There's differing data on timing of a Herx reaction. Some indicate it's 4-24 hours from onset of treatment, & others note the response occurs after 3-5 days or even later. Duration also varies widely, from an hour or a few hours to days or even a week.
What appears to be most accurate is that reaction times ~ & indeed whether there will be any reaction at all ~ are strictly dependent on the individual being treated.
What To Do For A Herx Reaction:
If it's mild enough that you can bear it without extreme discomfort, the best approach is to continue treatment & assist the body in eliminating toxins as quickly as possible by the methods below.
If it's severe, cutting back on the dosage or frequency of meds can help to lessen symptoms but still allow the healing process to continue. Sometimes stopping for a day or so & then beginning again at a lesser dosage can allow for quick relief.
The best assistance for the body is drinking plenty of fluids daily (8 glasses, 8oz ea).
Other helpful suggestions:
~ Get plenty of sunshine & fresh air.
~ Minimize exercise for the detox period ~ rest as much as possible.