Updated: Feb 29
Fever is not a disease, it is our body own immune system working!
Keep in mind that you do not have to treat the fever itself – the body is trying to mount this fever to fight the infection.
I am a mom and I know how scary it can be to see your child burning and you helplessly watching it. But once you understand what is going on, you may be able to let the fever rise naturally, instead of jumping into your medicine cabinets too quickly.
So, your kid has a fever, What should you do?
● If your child is under 1 month old and has a temperature of over 100.4oF, or under 3 months old with a fever over 101.5 oF and nobody else in the family has a cold, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.
● For everyone else, take a deep breath, relax, and read on…
What is a Fever? Is it bad?
Most importantly: Fever is not an illness. Let that sink in, Moms! It is the body’s healthy, natural response that helps fight infection! So it is actually a good thing! A temperature over 100.4F degrees is considered a fever. Most fevers are in the range of 101-103.5F degrees. A high fever is over 103.5oF. The body raises the temperature to create an inhospitable environment for most of the “bugs” that can make our kids sick, and which prefer to thrive at normal body temperature. A fever is also part of a natural and healthy inflammatory response that mobilizes white blood cells, antibodies, and cytokines to fight infection. Therefore, FEVERS ARE NOT BAD, they are actually a good sign that the immune system is working.
Fevers in kids are generally caused by common viral infections, and most of these are not dangerous. But they are contagious, so do your part on prevention and containing it!
Kids will often have symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, earache, or rash – but often the fever comes before the symptoms. What to do? Comfort your child, hydrate, make him rest and wait. Yep, PATIENCE is key. Do not panic. If your child is in good spirits, you can even relax a bit.
Interestingly, even ear infections and sore throats (85% of sore throats are viral, not strep) do not need medical treatment other than also comfort, support, and hydration.
Bacterial infections such as strep throat, urinary tract, and some ear infections can also cause fever and these are reasonable times to treat with pain relieving medications if symptoms are severe and not responsive to natural therapies, and it might be the time and place to maybe use that antibiotic (see below, When to See Your Doctor).
Important to note that the height of a fever has very little relationship to the severity of the illness, except for babies under 3 months; in that case, the risk of a serious illness is 10 times higher with a high fever. Kids can have more serious illnesses with lower temperatures, and have common upper respiratory viral infections with a high fever. One more reason to not jump too quickly to simply treat the fever. You need to know what is causing it.
But wait, what about brain damage from fever? That has been one hyped up fear inflicted on us. In a healthy body the brain has a natural turn-off mechanism. We need to learn to TRUST our bodies’ innate ability to protect us.
(Unless you or your kid has a somewhat rare condition called hyperthermia, which can occur with certain medications, or nervous system problems where the body’s thermostat has been hijacked, you should be ok).
Fevers in kids rarely EVER exceed the body’s natural fever cut-off point above which it’s not going to go higher than is safe. Brain damage from a fever is so extremely rare and it’s just really not something to worry about in otherwise normal kids. In fact, there is nothing inherently dangerous about fever. The risk really has to do with what the underlying infection is. (Again, if you keep treating the fever, you might really miss the underlying condition…)
How about fever reducing meds?
While Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and similar medications can reduce fever by about a degree, they don’t get to the underlying cause, don’t shorten the duration of the illness and, while they can help your child to be more comfortable, they do carry risks. And making your child feel too comfortable is a double sword since, if they feel better, they will tend to rest less and use up resources that could be directed to healing and they will take longer to heal.
Tylenol has been associated with liver toxicity and may increase the risk of developing asthma. Ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs, can cause gastritis and stomach bleeding, they are gut irritants and are associated with secondary infections, and may delay healing. So they may not be as safe as you have been told. But of course, common sense and intuition applies. If a child is extremely uncomfortable with the flu, for example, and natural remedies aren’t doing much to the symptoms, a day or so of using the common fever medications might be called for, but I do always recommend natural remedies first because they are often a safer choice. However, with more severe discomfort, the simple common herbs aren’t always enough, and professional guidance from an integrative doctor might be needed.
When your child has a fever the most important thing is to let him rest and give plenty of fluids: Fevers may continue for a number of days or go away and come back – especially in the afternoon and evening – for several days. Do not rush them back to activities or school. The relapse might be worse and you are spreading germs around… 24 hours untreated fever is the bare minimum to let them resume regular activities.
Hydration is essential: Give your child loads of fluids during the fever. If your child is refusing to drink much, you might need to get creative and persistent, try to give herbal or natural fruit juice ice pops. Avoid giving sugary fruit drinks, Herbal ice pops are also a tasty and sneaky way to get natural remedies into your kiddo!
Encourage your child to rest and sleep as much as possible. Create a quiet, comfortable, restful environment and keep your child home from school and activities. No, do not take her to the mall. Hang in there with her.
Do not push food. It’s normal for kids to have very little appetite when feverish. If they are not hungry, do not force them to eat. Prioritize light foods like soups, broths, toasts, small amounts of fruit, steamed vegetables. I find smoothies to be the easier option. Do push fluids, as long as they are hydrated, do not worry if they do not eat; the body might even benefit from a little fasting to promote healing. Sometimes I use Seeking Health Electrolytes as “gatorade”. It is great to make sure the kids are hydrated.
Some herbal products I use to make them feel comfortable are Herb Pharm Children Herbal Formula and Herb Pharm Mullein Garlic drops if ears are hurting. I swear by them! I also like WishGarden Kick Ass Immune Activator.
If they are old enough, I even use similar immune boosting supplements that I would take myself like Cod Liver Oil, zinc, and vitamin C, as well as probiotics for 5-10 days. You can also click here to get a delicious homemade Elderberry Syrup recipe that is so easy to make!
When to Seek Help: How to Know When a Fever Is Dangerous
You should seek medical attention for yourself or a child under the following fever scenarios:
If your child is 3 months old or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher If your child is 3 to 12 months old and has an oral temperature of 102.2 degrees F
If your child is 2 years old or younger and has a fever that lasts longer than 24 to 48 hours
Adults with a fever higher than 105 degrees F or a fever over 103 degrees F that rises or lasts longer than 48 hours.
In addition, you should seek medical care if you have a fever accompanied by rash and bruising, difficulty breathing, and/or pain while urinating. Also consult a doctor if you have recently been vaccinated, visited another country, or have a serious pre-existing illness. Seek out a pediatrician if your child seems confused, has a stiff neck, and/or won’t stop crying.
* this post if for educational purposes only and is not to be considered medical advice. I am not a physician. If your child does not seem like themselves seek help immediately.
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