There’s something terrifying about holding a tiny human in your arms, someone you love more than anything and they are sick, burning with fever. You feel helpless: the fear is something primal; it liquefies your gut.
Before you allow yourself to panic and reach for the baby Paracetamol, or call the Doctor, there are some things you need to know.
Fever is a healing response in the presence of an infection.
It is a great sign that a healthy body is mounting an effective fight against an infection somewhere in the body. In an otherwise healthy, neuro-typical person more than 3 months old, fever is something to be thankful for.
Lets look at the three main ways that it can help:
- It stimulates the immune system, by raising lymphocyte activity. It’s actually increasing the defense force in the body. Higher levels of these white blood killer T cells means higher levels of fighters which can directly consume, poison or otherwise disable the invading disease.
- Many virus invaders are temperature sensitive, they reproduce rapidly within a small temperature range. When fever raises the body temperature by even a fraction of a degree, the reproduction rates of the virus slows down, allowing the body’s immune responses to overpower the invader. (1)
- Fever increases Prostaglandins which speed up the healing process, this mechanism is especially important if the fever is in response to a wound or injury. (2)
With so much fear in our consciousness around fever, it’s important to look at some common myths.
1. Fevers will keep going up and up. Unless a person is overdressed, in a hot place with high humidity or suffering from poisoning, the brain has a built in thermostat which prevents overheating.
2. Fever causes seizures or convulsions which lead to brain damage. Thankfully, nope again.
The Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne has this to say:
“Most children with fever suffer only minor discomfort, however one child in 30 will have a febrile convulsion at one time or another. This usually happens between the ages of six months and six years. Febrile convulsions are not harmful to your child and do not cause brain damage. They are, however, quite upsetting to parents to witness.
Most children who have a febrile convulsion will only ever have just one. Some children will have one or more seizures, usually during illnesses which cause a fever. There is no increased risk of epilepsy in children who have had febrile convulsions.Treatment of a fever with paracetamol or ibuprofen does not prevent a febrile convulsion.” (3)
3. Fevers in children must be treated with Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. Since a fever is the body’s natural response to infection, it is not always necessary to reduce a fever. However, if your child is miserable and you would like to help them, try Homeopathic Belladonna or Traumeel tablets available from the Tara Centre or good Health Food Stores
When researching the use of anti-fever drugs in the treatment of fever, University of Baltimore researchers found that:
“anti-fever drugs make people feel better when they have infections. The bad news is that they may cause the illness to linger longer. It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take anti-fever drugs. It means that they should be aware that anti-fever drugs have a modest cost associated with relief and that cost is that they may be sick longer.” (4)
When should we be concerned enough to call a Doctor?
If your gut instinct knows something isn’t right.
If there is difficulty breathing, twitching, repeated vomiting or strange movements.
If there is a rash, confusion, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, inability to move an arm or leg or a first-time seizure.
If your baby is less than 3 months old and has a fever greater than 38 C
If your baby between 3-12 months has a fever of 39 C or higher
If a child under 2 has a fever lasting longer than 24- 48 hours
If an older child or adult has a fever lasting longer than 48- 72 hours
Tips to manage fever at home
From the Royal Childrens Hospital Melbourne:
- Dress your child in enough clothing so that they are not shivering.
- Tepid sponging (sponging with slightly warm water) and fanning children with fevers is not recommended.
- Give your child frequent small drinks of clear fluid (e.g. water, coconut water or breast milk ).
- Do not worry if your child refuses to eat at this time.
- Watch your child for signs that their illness is getting worse.
I hope this helps you keep your cool.
With love and Light
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of this consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. Briana Gunn accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed.
Good News for the Alphabet Kids (revised & updated) – Michael Sichel Do ND PhD