Don’t Fear the Fever | Why Fevers Can Be Okay
Your child has a fever - Oh no! Right? Wrong!
It is OKAY for children to have a fever, and actually can be a GOOD thing. It is GOOD when the body can mount a response to something, that means the body is trying to fix itself.
We used to think that fevers are bad and they must be brought down, but that is not necessarily the case. There are times when it is best to bring a fever down, but that doesn’t have to be your first step!
Okay, so why is fever a good thing in most children?
Fever is a PROTECTIVE mechanism that helps the body fight infection by stimulating white blood cell protection. When we instantly lower the temperature, we are dampening the ability of the body to fight the pathogen, whether a virus or bacteria, etc. One study looked at this and found that healthy people who had a virus and took a fever reducer such as aspirin (adults only) or acetaminophen for one week had a reduced immune response and actually increased the viral shedding (contagiousness of the person)..these medications may reduce symptoms but not reduce length of illness and may make you more contagious.
As well, Tylenol (aka acetaminophen = paracetamol) depletes glutathione (master antioxidant in the body) levels and increases the risk of asthma, allergies, and eczema. As well, this medication is very hard on the liver, the #1 cause of liver failure in children and is associated with more than 78,000 ER visits every year.
Okay, so how do I approach fevers?
First, when is fever NOT okay? If an infant under 3 months of age has a fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher, they need to be evaluated by a healthcare provider. At this young age there is an increased risk for sepsis and medical evaluation is needed to rule this out!
Second, this information is not intended for those with febrile seizures. Although only 4% of children have febrile seizures and they are NOT serious and typically not associated with any long-term consequences, guidance for fevers should come from your provider. There does seem to be a consensus that even using Tylenol or Ibuprofen in those with febrile seizures does not necessarily prevent a seizure because many times the seizure happens at the onset of fever or when it JUMPS UP. It also should be noted that febrile seizures have also been associated with B vitamin and magnesium deficiency. It might be a good idea to check this out with your healthcare provider.
Last note, what IS a fever? Temperature over 100.4 Fahrenheit. But wait? Isn’t 100 Fahrenheit a low grade fever? No. Think about the situation first. Did they just get in from being outside in 90 degree weather? Are they below 5 blankets and bundled up? Environmental factors can definitely raise our temperature. Temperatures between 97.8-100 are considered normal variations, body temperature is naturally higher in the afternoon and evening as well.
The main principle = TREAT THE CHILD NOT THE NUMBER. The degree of a child’s fever does not measure severity of illness. The body has a control mechanism that stops itself from overheating. Except in specific situations (like heat stroke), fever is not a bad thing and likely means the child will recover more quickly.
Things to consider: Is the child drinking (infant nursing or taking bottle)? Having wet diapers or urinating at least every 4-5 hours? When the temperature comes down, do they seem to be more playful? These are things I consider.
If they are uncomfortable, not drinking, or YOU ARE CONCERNED.
THIS IS HOW I APPROACH FEVER IN MY HOME:
LET THEM REST | The body is working HARD… they will be tired. That is OKAY. Are they arousable and drinking liquids? Do they act appropriate when awake? Those are important questions to consider.
HYDRATION | Hydration is KEY with any illness, but especially with fevers. High temperatures are dehydrating, it is important to keep up with this!
How I keep my children hydrated during a fever:
1 1/2 cups filtered water OR 3/4 cup coconut water and 3/4 cup filtered water
1/2 cup organic orange juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt (I use Redmond Real Salt or Crucial Four salt)
PLEASE NOTE: This recipe is NOT intended for infants, please speak with your provider for any age before using.
IMMUNE SUPPORT | We use herbs, oils, and homeopathic remedies for illness. Elderberry, echinacea, whole food Vitamin C, antioxidants during illness.
Diluted peppermint oil on feet or a kid-friendly Raindrop massage are also a part of my fever toolkit. For infants I would start with diluted lavender and lemon, frankincense on back. Oregano has antiviral properties and we dilute and use on feet and back as well as Thieves essential oil blend. Drinking catnip tea is another helpful remedy for illness.
Homeopathics include aconite for fever with restless and anxiety and if face is cold, rhus tox for fever with body aches or gastrointestinal symptoms, or Nux Vomica for fever with chilling, Pulsatilla for fever with chilliness present, Bryonia alba for fever with body aches. HERE is a good resource for homeopathic remedies for fevers.
Apple cider vinegar. Soak cloths in water/apple cider vinegar mixture (2 cups water/1 cup ACV) and place on forehead and bottom of feet.
Lukewarm epsom salt baths. Can repeat these every hour or two until fever breaks, for young infants start with 1/4 cup Epsom salt, or older children 1/2-1 cup epsom salt in the bathtub. I also add a drop of lavender to the epsom salt BEFORE adding to the bathtub then pour into bath.
Wet sock treatment:
- 1 pair of very thin socks
- 1 pair of thick wool socks
- 2 sets of sweats or pajamas
- 1 bowl of ice water
Directions from Bastyr University:
- Soak the thin socks in a bowl of ice water. Then wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip.
- Take a hot bath for 5-10 minutes. This is very important for the effectiveness of the treatment. In fact, it could be harmful if your feet are not warmed hot. - Dry off feet and body with a dry towel.
- Place ice cold wet socks on feet then cover with thick wool socks on feet. Put on the first set of pajamas. Go directly to bed. Place the second set of pajamas next to the bed. Avoid getting chilled.
- Wear the socks overnight. During the night you may wake up with your whole body wet from sweat. If so, change into the dry pajamas, but leave on the socks. You will find that the wet cotton socks have will be dry in the morning.
REASONS TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE:
Fever >100.4F lasting 5 or more days
Fever with a severe headache, light sensitivity or neck pain
If a child is not arousable or lethargic
Fever and any severe abdominal pain, if they are acting off, etc.
If child has a fever and it burns when they urinate, medical evaluation is warranted to check for a urinary tract infection.
Any fever in an infant < 3 months of age needs medical evaluation, possibly ER visit. If child is dehydrated (sunken eyes, no urine output in 4-6 hours, sunken fontanelle, cracked lips, dry mouth) medical evaluation is needed.
If there is any difficulty breathing, fast breathing rate, or you are concerned an ER visit is needed.
Reminder, Tylenol is NOT preferred due to the reduction in glutathione, ibuprofen can be used when needed but my first go to is to let it ride, rest and hydrate then start with natural options. If I am concerned and need to see improvement in the child, that would be the medication of choice (of course following weight based instructions). Ibuprofen is only recommended for babies 6 months and up. Lastly, aspirin is NOT to be given to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
Any oils mentioned in this it is important to remember that oil quality is important and there have been many instances of oils burning or other bad effects due to poor oil quality or oils being used incorrectly.
Young Living is the only brand of essential oils that I recommend. You can learn more and purchase them HERE.
Epsom salt and homeopathic remedies linked HERE.
PLEASE NOTE: This information is not meant to be medical advice, this is educational and how I would approach in my home. Please see your healthcare provider before changing anything or adding any supplements to your routine.