Can I tell you a secret? I don’t have a thermometer. Well okay, I have one…I just rarely know where it is hiding and when I do use it I never trust it. I wasn’t always like this. I used to obsessively check my child’s temperature when they were sick, reach for the Tylenol anytime those scary numbers went above 100 degrees. So what have I learned to get me to this point of not even caring where my thermometer is? First let’s start by going over the basics.
What is a fever?
A fever is a temporary increase in your bodies temperature. For a typical adult, body temperature can be anywhere from 97 F to 99 F. Babies and children can range: 97.9 F to 100.4 F. So it may be a surprise to learn that a fever in a child is not considered a fever until it’s over 100.4 (rectally) and a fever of 100-102 taken orally is considered to be a low grade fever. The following guideline of what defines a fever is from Seattle’s Children Hospital.
- Rectal (bottom), ear or forehead temperature: 100.4° F (38.0° C) or higher
- Oral (mouth) temperature: 100° F (37.8° C) or higher
- Under the arm (Armpit) temperature: 99° F (37.2° C) or higher
Why are they Important?
A fever is one of your bodies natural defense mechanisms. When a fever occurs it sends your body into “attack mode”, triggering your immune system to fight off whatever infection has invaded. The germs that are making your child sick thrive in a normal body temperature. Once that temperature rises they can no longer multiply, hopefully leading to their extinction.
Why You Shouldn’t Panic
Treating anything over 99 degrees seems to have become normal practice among parents. When they see the number on the thermometer rise, so does their fear. This is what we call fever phobia. Fever phobia isn’t a new concept and is even mentioned in this article from 1980: Fever phobia: misconceptions of parents about fevers. Many parents have misconceptions regarding fevers. Let’s squash those right now…..
- Fevers are bad. I think we’ve established they are not bad and they are even beneficial.
- Fevers can cause brain damage. For a fever to cause brain damage it needs to reach over 108 F. A fever caused by an infection will not get this high. Fevers this high are the result of external factors, such as a child being locked in a hot car.
- Fevers can cause seizures. “Febrile seizures in infants and young children are rare and occur in 2 to 5 percent of American children before age 5.” Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke These are usually caused by a rapid uncontrolled increase in temperature versus a high fever.
- Febrile seizures can cause long-term damage. “The vast majority of febrile seizures are short and do not cause any long-term damage” Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- A high fever means something is seriously wrong! Yes your child could be very ill, but their symptoms (not the number on the thermometer) should tell you just how concerned you should be.
What You Can Do
Now I am not saying don’t ever intervene on your child’s fever. We all know how uncomfortable fevers can be, especially for children. Deciding to intervene on your child’s fever should typically be determined by their behavior versus the number. TREAT THE CHILD NOT THE TEMPERATURE is the golden rule of fevers. If your child is running around with a 103 fever, eating and drinking, then by all means let them be. If your child is bed bound and refusing liquids with a fever of 102 then step in. The goal should be to lower the temperature to make them comfortable, not eliminate it. Now if the fever is above 104.5 its a good idea to start naturally lowering it, but most children are uncomfortable at that point anyways.
Natural ways to treat a fever
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV). This is my FAVORITE method and the one I have had most success with. I rarely need more than this. The easiest way is to soak a rag in ACV and place on their forehead. For a squirmy child, ACV soaked socks on the feet is wonderful. A lukewarm (not hot and not cold) bath with a cup or two of ACV.
- Elder flowers. You’ve likely heard of the immune stimulant elderberry syrup for a cold or flu. Elder flowers are simply the flowers from the those elderberry bushes and they are a powerful tool against fevers. The elder flowers work as a relaxant and as diaphoretic. Meaning it helps the tissues relax and bring the fever to the pores, causing the person to sweat and lower their body temperature. It can be taken as a tea, but needs to be as warm as the child can tolerate.
- Yarrow. Yarrow is another diaphoretic herb and is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. If your child cannot drink a hot tea then yarrow can be used externally. Use one ounce of yarrow to one quart of hot water and steep for one hour. Add to babies bath, making sure the temperature is lukewarm. Or soak a rag in the infusion and place on the forehead.
- Homeopathic remedies. There are a number of homeopathic remedies to treat fevers. Homeopathy is based on the symptoms. More information on homeopathy and fevers can be found on the http://National Center for Homeopathy’s website
Using OTC drugs to treat a fever
Sometimes our kids are just miserable and I get that! Fever, sore throat, headache, body ache. They start to refuse food and drink. At that point you may want to consider a fever reducing medication. Please please please, do not use Tylenol! The studies coming out showing the risks of Tylenol are just too concerning. Depleting our essential antioxidant, glutathione, and even increasing risks of Autism….Motrin should be your preferred choice. I recommend a half dose because the idea is to lower, not eliminate the fever. Please consult your pediatrician before using Motrin on a child under 6 months of age.
When To See Your Doctor
There is a time to contact your pediatrician and that is:
- Any temperature of 100.4°F or higher in a child under 3 months of age.
- Any temperature of 101°F or higher for a child 3 to 6 months of age.
- The fever is rising above 104°F for more than 24 hours
- Your child is experiencing the following symptoms:
- Looks very ill, is unusually drowsy, or is very fussy
- Has been in a very hot place, such as an overheated car
- Has other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, an unexplained rash, or repeated vomiting or diarrhea
- Has immune system problems, such as sickle cell disease or cancer, or is taking steroids
- Has had a seizure
**DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnosis or treat, as I am not a doctor. Please consult with your physician before starting any new vitamins, diets, or remedies. And always do your own research on natural remedies to ensure that you think they are safe.**