Common Childhood Ailments: Fevers

I have had a lot of questions lately on some pretty common childhood health issues. Over the next few weeks I would like to share some of those issues with you and more natural approaches on how to handle them.  The first topic that I will discuss is fever.

First let’s talk about what a fever is and why it occurs.  A fever is your body’s natural response to a foreign invader (i.e. bad bacteria or virus).  This process is controlled by a part of your brain called your hypothalamus.  During this process your body takes blood from the skin and extremities to bring towards your core.  Because blood is being taken from these areas you or your child may feel cold or get chills.  By bringing the blood to your core you body temperature will rise.  Your body does this because most bacteria can only survive in a very narrow temperature range.  If the temperature surrounding the bacteria gets too high, the bacteria will die.  The fever also causes increased immune factors to be released by the body and causes an increase in metabolism to speed up healing. For these reasons, your child’s fever should be considered more of a good thing than bad. The immune changes in your child will allow them to fight off the infection faster and have a better immune response the next time that invader presents itself, which may prevent your child from getting sick from that same bacteria again.

Thermometer

 

If the fever is artificially suppressed by medication, the proper immune responses in the body are altered.  This alteration may ultimately lead to a longer battle with the illness and possibly the need for more severe steps to be taken, such as putting your child on antibiotics or other medication.   If your goal is to have more natural health care for your children then that obviously is not the road you want to go down.  Medications can also challenge your child’s digestive tract, liver, and kidneys.  Most likely there will not be any permanent damage, but their bodies will use energy to breakdown, metabolize, and detoxify the drugs out of their system.  The energy that they use on the drug is energy that could be spent fighting the infection that caused the fever, further fatiguing your child and allowing the infection to continue.

How high is too high?

So, you are now thinking that maybe you want to let the fever run its course; but, you also want to make sure the fever does not get out of hand and become dangerous for you child.  Great! Here is how you can accomplish both: When looking at the numbers, there are four categories of fevers: 99.8oF-100.8oF is considered low-grade; 101oF -102oF is considered mild; 102oF -103oF is considered moderate; and 104oF or above is a considered high fever.  These numbers should be in the back of your mind when judging the severity of your child’s fever, but I believe it is much more important to examine the physical signs that your child is presenting with.  By looking at a couple of simple outwardly signs that your child has, you can continue to keep your child safe while still allowing the fever to run its natural course.

The first thing you want to look for is the energy levels of your child. Obviously when your child is sick they probably will not be as active and cooperative; however, your child should be responsive and should be able to move around when you ask them to.  Even if your child would rather sleep and lay around, they should be responsive to you and be able to get up.  If your child becomes very lethargic, not just tired, to the point where their severe fatigue physically wont let them get up and move, then it may be time to try to lower their fever or seek medical attention.

The next thing you should be aware of is how responsive your child is.  This is particularly important for infants who are not up and moving around a whole lot anyway.  Your child should be able to pay attention to you and respond to your prompts. If your child is staring into space or off in the distance and not responding and you can not get their attention at all, then it is time to start working to bring the fever down or calling their primary care doctor.

The next thing to pay close attention to is your child’s fluid intake level. Fevers have a tendency to dehydrate your body faster, so making sure that your child is taking in adequate levels of water, coconut water, or nursing frequently is important.  Pay attention to how many wet diapers they have during the day as a good indication of how hydrated they are.  Also look at your child’s lips and feel their skin. If they become chapped or have a very dry feeling to them, you need to start pushing more fluids.  If your child stays dehydrated and is not able to keep fluids down for an extended amount of time, call your doctor to see if an IV may be necessary.  When your child starts to get sick, start giving them little sips of water every so often on a consistent basis and they typically will be just fine.

So, as long as your child is not extremely lethargic, unresponsive, or very dehydrated you should be fine to ride the fever out.  Temperatures can vary drastically from child to child. I have seen kids acting completely normal and like nothing is wrong with temperatures of 106-107, and I have seen kids completely lethargic and on the verge of passing out with temperatures around 101.  Monitor your child’s signs and gauge your response off of that more than the temperature readings.

 How do I bring the fever down?

  1. All of the things mentioned in one of my previous blogs to boost your child’s immune system will also help to bring the fever down by helping their immune system fight off the infection more efficiently.
  2. Cool or Tepid BathCool or tepid bath. This is a quick easy way to bring down the fever.  Make sure that the water is not too cold; if it is, it will have the opposite effect.  Your body’s reflex will be to raise its temperature, thinking it is too cold. Around room temperature will do.
  3. Calcium.  This is also a pretty quick and easy thing to do.  Calcium will naturally bring the body’s temperature down.  A side effect of febrile seizures is the release of calcium from muscle tissue, which naturally brings down the fever.
  4. Lavender. Rub therapeutic grade (not aromatic grade) lavender on the bottom of you child’s feet to help bring the fever down.
  5. Garlic Enema. This is a little bit more involved but works well with little children and babies.  Start by boiling 3 cloves of garlic with a pregnancy tea in 8 oz of water. Let it cool so that it is comfortably warm, but not hot.  When the water is at an adequate temperature you can deliver the enema using either an enema bag or a bulb syringe (for smaller children). The enema will help your child’s body by delivering very nutrient rich fluid to an area of the body with a very high density of blood vessels.  The body will rapidly take up the fluid for hydration and the nutrients to aid in immune function and recovery.

But what about the risk of seizures?

Febrile seizures happen in about 3-4% of children. While they may be very scary for the parent and the child, there has been no evidence that febrile seizures cause brain damage. For more information on febrile seizures see here or here.

 

As hard as it is to watch your child be sick, in the long run you will have stronger and healthier children if you allow their own immune systems to battle illness the way in which it was innately designed.

 

Dr. Andrew About Dr. Andrew

Dr. Andrew Dodge lives in Staunton, Virginia, with his wife Nicole and their children Luke and Josie. Dr. Andrew is a graduate of Parker College of Chiropractic at Parker University in Dallas, Texas.

Comments

  1. Great summary!! Look forward to the rest of the series!

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