“Give me a fever, and I can cure any illness.” – Hippocrates
If your child comes down with a fever, what’s the first thing you usually do? Tuck him into bed and reach for some aspirin? If so, you’re like most parents. What if I told you fighting a fever could actually do more harm than good? In this article, I explain why you shouldn’t (always) fight a fever and what to do instead.
What is a Fever, Anyway?
The average body temperature of a human being is 98.6°F. This temperature is considered the “set-point”. When a bacterial infection invades the body, this set point increases. The result is symptoms such as sweating, flushing, shivers, achy muscles, chills and increased heart rate.
Benefits of a Fever
A fever in and of itself is not an illness; it’s a symptom of an illness. A fever increases white cells, antibodies and blocks the spread of viruses to healthy cells. It also creates an inhospitable environment for invading bacteria, making them die off faster. Research shows that when a fever reducer is used too early in an illness, the infection lasts longer.
If fever is often stopped prematurely, the effectiveness of the immune system may be weakened over time. Children’s immune systems should be encouraged to fully fight off a disease first, unless the fever becomes dangerously high.
How High is Too High?
According to a debate published in the Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, a fever is the body’s normal response to a bacterial invasion and will not cause permanent damage to a child unless it soars past 106°F. According to Web MD, “Most healthy adults and children can tolerate a fever as high as 103 or 104 degrees Fahrenheit for a short period of time without problems. Children tend to have higher fevers than adults.”
Infants should be examined by a professional if their fevers move past 100°F.
Don’t Fight the Fever – Support It
Unless a fever rises too fast or too high, the best way to deal with it is to support it, not fight it. Fevers between 103 and 105°F can be effectively encouraged with short hot baths or hot blanket packs. Cool water taken by mouth can help encourage sweating. For lower-temperature fevers ranging from 99-102°F, hot foot baths and blanket packs can elevate temperature and encourage faster healing.
Hot water or tea made from ginger can be given to further encourage sweating. This creates an inhospitable environment for the infection and toxins are more quickly released from the body.
During a fever, children should get plenty of rest and drink lots of clear fluids to prevent dehydration. Coconut water is an excellent natural electrolyte booster, which your child will lose during the illness. Cold compresses to the head and neck can also help ease the discomfort of the fever.
Learning to treat a fever naturally can help you and your child get through a cold or flu without ever needing to use an over-the-counter drug.
When in Doubt, Call a Doctor
If your child’s fever spikes suddenly, or is accompanied by severe headache or neck pain or goes over 105°F, call a doctor right away.
The holistic approach to fever management can seem strange if you’ve never tried it before but it has many benefits. Colds and flu disappear faster and your child’s immune system gets stronger. Be sure your child gets plenty of rest and monitor his temperature often. Once you’ve learned to support a fever, you may find you have to do it less often because your child rarely gets sick!
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