No parent ever wants to see their child sick and it’s our natural instinct to do everything we can to “fix” whatever problem is causing harm to our child.
It’s a normal feeling and fine, but some things — for the most part, using our best judgement — should be left untreated; like fevers, for example.
Up until I started questioning everything under the sun, I gave Andrew Ibuprofen a few times when his fever spiked. It’s what my parents did for me and what doctors readily suggested, so I assumed they knew what was best.
[Note: Before we go on, I want to state the obvious fact that I am not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional and do not try to be one on my blog Naturally Loriel. Always check with a medical professional if a medical condition arises, and always ask your doctor before making any medical decisions.]
In my #ResearchEverythingEpiphany stage, I picked up a book called How to Raise Your Child In Spite of Your Doctor (written by the doctor Robert Mendelson, M.D. — highly recommend it for reading). Out of all the great topics discussed in there, one of the most important things I took from the book was on the topic of reducing fevers.
Contrary to what most of us believe, reducing a fever actually halts the body’s natural function to help ward off whatever is causing the fever to strike — whether it be an infection or illness; viral or bacterial. A typical viral fever is something that should not be feared as it shows the body is working correctly, and generally we should not interfere.
But, What About The Brain Frying?
One of the biggest reasons we have been “scared” into reducing fevers in our children is because of the infamous phrase, “your child’s brain is going to fry.” No parent in their right mind wants their child’s brain to fry over a fever so it’s understandable that the first thing we want to do is lower it.
That being said, in most cases a fever less than 103 will not cause brain damage. If the fever is caused by something viral, the fever will typically not exceed 103. Also, according to my pediatrician and Medline Plus (a service of the Natural Institutes of Health), a fever less than 107 degrees will not “fry” a child’s brain but generally, a fever higher than 105 degrees signifies something more serious and should be evaluated as soon as possible. (source 1, 2)
One important thing to note is if the fever lasts more than five days in a child, they should be taken to a doctor to be evaluated in the case of a bacterial infection versus viral; especially if the fever is not showing a downgrade towards the end of the fifth or sixth day. I actually had this experience a couple months ago that I’ll share next week on my “Why I” series.
I personally would never let Andrew’s fever get that high, but I am comfortable with allowing the fever to reach 103 if there are no other symptoms or signs that my son is experiencing a more serious illness and he is staying well hydrated.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
According to Medline Plus you should call a doctor right away if your child:
- Is 3 months or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- Is 3 to 12 months old and has a fever of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher
- Is 2 years or younger and has a fever that lasts longer than 24 to 48 hours
- Is older and has a fever for longer than 48 to 72 hours
- Has a fever of 105°F (40.5°C) or higher, unless it comes down readily with treatment and the person is comfortable
- Has other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, or cough
- Has had fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if these fevers are not very high
- Has a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, or cystic fibrosis
- Recently had an immunization
- Has a new rash or bruises
- Has pain with urination
- Has trouble with the immune system (because of chronic steroid therapy, a bone marrow or organ transplant, spleen removal, HIV, or cancer treatment)
- Has recently traveled to another country
Also, if my gut tells me something is not right with me child, that would be another reason to seek medical attention because ultimately I know my child better than anyone else. I encourage you to use your parenting gut as well.
How to Handle a Fever Naturally
Now that we know the height of a fever is generally nothing to worry about, if you want to make the duration of the fever more comfortable for your child there are a few things you can do.
I personally tend to be more hands off with my approach and let his body do the work but the following are things I have done with success:
- Warm — not cold — baths with epsom salt to reduce the fever slowly. I’ve also added powdered ginger (1 Tbl) to help with muscle aches.
- Cool rags on the neck and forehead
- Light clothing
- Lots of water; we’ve never had an issue with Andrew not drinking enough, but in the case he was protesting fluids, homemade herbal popsicles would be great
- Buffered Vitamin C powder, Zinc, Larix, and a short 1-2 day dose of micellized vitamin A to boost the immune system. I generally mix this in guava kombucha to hide the taste. This is according to the immune boosting protocol that my pediatrician recommends, and you can learn more about it here.
- Elderberry syrup to boost the immune system. Here’s a homemade version.
- Soaking socks in raw (with the mother) apple cider vinegar and placing them on the feet to bring the fever away from the head and down the body
I Am NOT Completely Against Reducing the Fever But Feel It Should Be Used with Caution
I am not completely against fever reducers because I do believe they serve their purpose. If my child is eating, sleeping, drinking, and his behavior is generally fine, I don’t ever give him something to reduce his fever. It is only when I have done everything I could possibly do to make him comfortable (see above) and realize the importance of a good rest surpasses the negative effects of reducing his fever, that I do so.
Ultimately when looking at fevers, I believe it’s not as important to worry about the actual temperature versus my child’s behavior, and then making the judgement call for what to do next.