by Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D.
Fever is a state of health that tends to cause more feelings of anxiety and hopelessness for the caregiver than any other acute condition. Along with the fear associated with treating a fever, a plethora of fever-suppressing medications on the market encourages parents to use these when there is slight indication of a fever.
What most people are unaware of is that fever is not a disease itself, but your BODY’S REACTION to, most likely a bug, such as a virus or a bacteria. When you catch one of these annoying microbes, the body’s instinctive reaction is to increase the body’s temperature so to create a condition where the virus/bacteria cannot survive – resulting in a Fever.
Fever is not something that is causing you harm, is actually protecting you from illness! By allowing your fever to run its course, you decrease the amount of time you are sick, and strengthen the body so to fight off future infections more efficiently.
Fevers tend to be a scary event for many parents due to the risk of brain damage or the development seizures that may result if the fever is not well-controlled. However, the events are quite rare as brain damage does not tend occur unless the fever has reached over 107.6F/42C, and seizures usually appear with a SUDDEN increase in temperature over 40C. Also, the incidence of febrile seizures before the age of 5 occurs in only 3-4% of children in North America.
While there are still risks, we must not let these impede our judgment when taking care of ourselves and children. With the proper skills and education, parents will be able to manage their child’s fever without the aid of fever-supressing medication.
Acetaminophen (1-30 ml every 4 hours) or Ibuprofen (5-10 mg every 6-8 hours; maximum 40 mg/kg weight of your child/day) can suppress your child’s fever but are not addressing the cause of the fever. Suppressing a fever can lead to unwanted symptoms such as ear infections, throat infections, lung infections and so on. It is normal after a fever to experience runny nose, cough and chest congestion as these are the body’s ways of getting rid of the all the waste products resulting from fever. Just like the fever, we want to encourage the clearance of this mucus, as well as supporting the body so that the symptoms don’t fly out of control.
Ways to Manage a Fever:
1. First and foremost, always check your child’s temperature! Temperatures fluctuate throughout the day and night – taking temperatures regularly can help you establish a pattern, as well as make you aware of rising temperatures leading to a high fever.
2. Don’t panic! Temperatures do not rise indefinitely, and fevers around and under 38C do not need intensive treatment. By folllowing some basic steps, the fever will be managed.
3. Remove any excess clothes/covers Temperature in the room should be slightly cool but comfortable.
4. Always check on your child Frequent visits to where your child is (most likely their room) will ensure that we see warning signs of a high fever.
5. Keep your child hydrated Dehydration is a common and serious side effects of fever. Please be aware if your child has: -Dry, HOT skin -Decreased thirst and urination -Dry mouth,
-Sunken in fontanelles (infants)
-Overall toxic looking.
Feeding your child cold water, smoothies, soups, herbal teas, and juice popsicles can help keep the temperatures down as well as keep them hydrated.
When fever hits 40C/100F – as well as following the steps above, please consider the following:
1. Lukewarm baths Not cold – the temperature of the water should be just below the body temperature of those afflicted with the fever, but not severely cold as this can cause the body to go in to a state of shock.
2. Warming sock protocol (ask your naturopath!)
3. Damp T shirts Like the baths, you can put a slightly cooler damp T-shirt on which will encourage the body’s temperature to naturally go down.
4. Botanicals/Herbs, Homeopathics, Supplements, Acupressure These can help quite a bit when the fever is not budging from a higher temperature. It would be beneficial to consult with a naturopathic doctor for recommendations and other tips.
When to contact your doctor or seek medical attention:
a) Infants under the age of 6 months: temperatures over 38.1°C (100.4°F)
b) Infants between 6-12 months: temperatures over 38.3°C (101°F)
c) Children over the age of 12 months: temperatures over 39°C (102.2°F) where the fever has not improved in 24-48 hours, after attempts to reduce the fever
d) Older children and adults – if fever lasts longer than 48-72 hours
e) Child begins: To become extremely irritable, extreme fatigue, weakness, loses eye contact, or does not respond.
Dr. Tanya Lee is a naturopathic doctor currently practicing in Toronto and Milton Ontario. Tanya was drawn to the naturopathic profession for its core beliefs in treating the whole person. Dr. Lee practice general medicine, with a special interest in children’s health, women’s health and pregnancy. For more information on Dr. Lee and her practice, please visit, www.tanyaleend.com