By: Alex Pinchot, ND
As much as fevers can be uncomfortable they are very helpful in fighting infections and are generally safe if well managed. When your immune system is responding to an infection the body raises its temperature in an effort to fight off the infection. Fevers not only kill infectious organisms but they also optimize our bodies ability to fight these infections.
With a fever, focusing on good hydration, rest, and keeping warm is more important than suppressing the symptoms of being sick. When we suppress fevers with aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol we end up having a rebound fever that comes on faster and stronger than if we let the fever run its course. When we get in the way of our bodies innate ability to fight an infection we end up prolonging the illness and are more uncomfortable for longer. Many times fever suppressing agents are used more to comfort a parent than to help a sick child.
Fluids are very important when you have a fever and most of the discomfort associated with fevers comes from not staying well hydrated. When your body temperature rises, you loose fluid through your skin even if you are not sweating. Without proper hydration your body has a hard time fighting infection and cooling itself off. Coconut water and broth can be helpful because they have electrolytes needed for re-hydration. Signs of dehydration are “skin tenting” when you lift the skin on the back of your hand, sunken fontanelles in a baby, cracking lips, reduced urination, and lethargy.
One potential and rare complication of fevers in some children is called a febrile seizure. Despite being rare, and generally harmless, febrile seizures can be really scary for parents and kids. It is important to know that dehydration is a contributing factor in febrile seizures and that fever suppressors do not reduce the likelihood of febrile seizures. Febrile seizures are more likely once one has occurred so it is important to let your doctor know if your child has a seizure history.
Everyone has a personal comfort level with fevers and it is important to honor your own fears and concerns. Naturopathic medicine has a lot of supportive therapies to help you feel better and support your bodies natural immune response. A quick phone call can help you know how to best support your body and when you would need to come in.
GENERAL FEVER GUIDELINES
These groups should come in for a visit:
- All babies under 3 months old with a temperature over 99 F should contact their doctor.
- Any child who is showing signs of dehydration with a fever.
- Any child with a fever over 103 F.
- Any child with a fever of 102 F for more than 3 days.
- Adults with a fever of 101.5 F for more than 48 hours.
Outside of these guidelines, if you are unsure of what to do for fever or need guidance please reach out for support.
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