A child coming down with a fever can be scary. Especially when it spikes right before bed, or simply doesn’t go down. The good news is that fevers are normal functions of the body. Not only that, they are the body’s way of fighting off infections and viruses.
This is what Mayo Clinic has to say about fevers:
“A fever is a temporary increase in your body temperature, often due to an illness. Having a fever is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on in your body. … Fevers generally go away within a few days. A number of over-the-counter medications lower a fever, but sometimes it’s better left untreated. Fever seems to play a key role in helping your body fight off a number of infections.”1
When you get a fever, it is your body’s immune response to something foreign like a virus, bacteria, or other pathogen. If you have a bacterial infection or a virus, for example, your body’s innate reaction is to try to get rid of it by trying to break down the proteins that cause that infection or virus. The higher the heat, the easier it is to break those proteins down. Unless a fever gets above 105F, or the person starts having trouble breathing, there is not usually cause for concern. When you get sick, your body is functioning normally by trying to fight it off.
There are a few ways we generally try to treat a fever, both in ourselves and our children. A lot of these techniques stem from a misunderstanding of what a fever is, and the real concern behind it. While our normal reaction is to try and cool down the fever, that is not the best way to help your body fight off the real culprit making you sick. This especially tends to happen at night, which is when fevers usually spike.
Here are a few common ways people try to fight fevers, and ways our Wellness Way doctors recommend you help a fever fight, instead.
1. Let Food be Thy Medicine
Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used medicines in the world, and often hailed as a simple solution. Here’s what NIH’s PubMed website says about it.
“Acetaminophen/paracetamol is the most widely used drug of the world. At the same time, it is probably one of the most dangerous compounds in medical use, causing hundreds of deaths in all industrialized countries due to acute liver failure (ALF). … may cause not only ALF and kidney damage but also impaired development of the fetus and the newborn child. It appears timely to reassess the risk/benefit ratio of this compound.”2
If the NIH is doubting the safety of a drug, it’s a good idea to stay away from it.
What You Can Do:
Bone broth is a very comforting food and the collagen in it is very good for the body when the immune system is compromised or working hard. Eat other good, immune system-boosting foods. There’s a reason the go-to for food when you’re sick has been chicken noodle soup for a while. Stay away from sugary drinks, as those will feed the infection rather than the body.
Staying hydrated when sick is one of the most important things to remember. Keep drinking water, and especially electrolyte-boosters. Coconut water is good for this. You can also put some good, pink, Himalayan rock salt or Celtic sea salt in your water.
2. How to Cool the Body
Most people, when they notice someone has a fever, will either put them in a cold or temperate bath, or do something else to try and keep the fever down and the brain from overheating.
This method doesn’t help, though, because, again, the fever is the body’s way of fighting off the true ailment. When someone attempts to treat a fever by cooling the person down, it’s really having the opposite effect. The heat is pulled away from the outer parts of your body and into the core–the normal bodily function when someone gets cold. In order to keep the outer extremities warm, then, the body boosts its temperature, only making the fever hotter, rather than cooling it down.
What You Can Do:
Instead of shocking the body with a cold bath, passively help it cool down. Put cold packs behind the neck, or in the elbows, arm pits, or knees, or a cool washcloth on the forehead. These will cool the body slowly while letting the fever do its job.
Heat escapes from our bodies mainly through the head and feet. Help that process along by putting a natural vasodilator like apple cider vinegar on the forehead, tops and bottoms of the feet. Mayo Clinic defines vasodilator as:
“Vasodilators are medications that open (dilate) blood vessels.”3
3. Physical Touch
A lot of the time, when a child is sick, all they want to do is snuggle and cuddle. That’s not bad. In fact, it’s very good to snuggle children when they have a fever. There is a reason skin-to-skin contact is suggested for babies right after birth. It helps the baby maintain body temperature better, has a calming effect, stabilizes heartrate and breathing, strengthens the baby’s immune system, and much more. These benefits don’t stop as children grow, and it has been shown that the simple act of hugging and cuddling has enormous health benefits.
What You Can Do:
When a little one isn’t feeling well and just wants to snuggle–do it! Cradle them close and read a book or put on a movie or just sleep together. Being close like this improves mental health as well as physical health.
4. Moving Forward
Once the fever is over, many people forget about it and move on. Remember, though–a fever is your body’s way of fighting off a bacterial infection or virus. Those don’t just appear randomly–they show up in environments primed for their presence. Take the fever as a warning that something needs to change, and be better prepared for the next time.
What You Can Do:
The best way to help the body fight off infections and viruses that cause fevers is to take care of your body before the fever hits. Build up the immune systems by getting outside into the sunshine to get vitamin D and be exposed to different kinds of germs. Getting enough sleep so the body has time to heal and prepare for the coming days in important, as is continuing to wash your hands. Be careful to fuel the body with good foods that will feed the body, not the infection. Get adjusted to keep your lymphatic and nervous systems functioning well.
If you or your little one need support for a fever or other immune responses, reach out to one of our clinics. We can help guide you on the path to health restoration. From colds to chronic challenges, immune testing is helpful in determining how to handle the next fever in your home. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today!