Fever has been recognized as an important symptom of disease since ancient times. For many years, fever was treated as a putative life-threatening phenomenon. More recently, it has been recognized as an important part of the body's defense mechanisms; indeed at times it has even been used as a therapeutic agent. The knowledge of the functional role of the central nervous system in the genesis of fever has greatly improved over the last decade. It is clear that the febrile process, which develops in the sick individual, is just one of many brain-controlled sickness symptoms. Not only will the sick individual appear "feverish" but they may also display a range of behavioral changes, such as anorexia, fatigue, loss of interest in usual daily activities, social withdrawal, listlessness or malaise, hyperalgesia, sleep disturbances and cognitive dysfunction, collectively termed "sickness behavior". In this review we consider the issue of whether fever and sickness behaviors are friend or foe during: a critical illness, the common cold or influenza, in pregnancy and in the newborn. Deciding whether these sickness responses are beneficial or harmful will very much shape our approach to the use of antipyretics during illness.