I am a mom of a 3 year old boy. I am part of a community of moms ,as well, whose children range from newborn to 10 years old. This brought me to the realization, that no matter what the diagnosis or the illness, a child having a fever is the one thing that always calls for " the big guns". I mean emergency room, over the counter medication, doctor's visits, and often enough, antibiotics. So. I thought it was appropriate, to start this new series of blogs with the topic of fevers.
I have expressed my opinion about treating fevers in other posts, but I wanted to go in detail about why we do not treat fevers most of the time, and how I approach fevers as an herbalist.
The first thing I want to really emphasize and get out there is this: FEVERS CAN BE A GOOD THING!!!! A fever is the body's immune response to viruses, bacteria, or fungi, and, like coughs or runny noses, it is just a symptom. The fever is not a sickness on its own , but most of the parents treat it like one, and focus primarily on treating the fever , without realizing that it is not the actual cause of sickness.
In our herbal household , we do not treat fevers. We use herbs and homeopathic remedies to help the body during the healing process, which naturally lowers the fever.
Here are a few simple reasons why I don't give my son an over-the-counter medication when he has a fever:
- Most viruses, like the flu, can not survive in the body, if the internal temperature is over 100 F. This means that, if I give my son medication to lower his fever, I will actually be prolonging his sickness, and I will be helping the virus survive longer in his body.
- My son deals well with having a fever. What I mean by this is that he stays alert and playful, even with 104 F. You always have to judge the seriousness of the situation by appearance, more than by the number on the thermometer. No one knows your child better than you do. If your child looks lethargic and weak, even with a low grade fever, it can be a sign of something serious going on in the body. This is the moment, when you should be hurrying to the doctor's office or emergency room. If your child is like mine, and keeps jumping all over the house, even with "high" fever, then just let the body do what it does best, and heal itself. No medications needed in this case.
- Over-the-counter medication can be harmful. I am not talking about the artificial dyes and sweeteners that plague all kids medications, even though more and more studies link allergies and behavioral problems to those ingredients in our food. I am talking about the fact that, by lowering a fever, we are stopping the body's way of fighting viruses, and thus giving them a chance to thrive again. Consistent use of OTC medication can teach the body that certain immune responses are unnecessary, since they are always interrupted. This can lead to more frequents sickness in children, due to the lowered immune response. Our bodies learn and adapt with the environment we provide for them, so let's teach them something good!
- There are many myths about the danger of fevers, and most of them are just that, myths. There are some good articles out there, written by doctors, that teach parents about the myths and facts about fevers. The myths I find most parents fear are that high fevers can cause brain damage and seizures. But know this, only fevers of 108 F and above can cause brain damage, and only 4% of children get seizures, when they have high fever. If fevers still seem scary to you, know that, there are multiple homeopathic and herbal remedies you can use to help the body through the healing process , which will also lower the fever response. ( Read more about the Myths and Facts about Fevers here.)
Now let's talk about some natural ways you can treat a fever. I don't know , if "treat" is the best way to describe what herbs do, because these are actually ways to help the body through the healing process, which results in lowering the fever. So, here are a few ways we do this in our house:
- The most important thing to remember when your child has a fever is to keep them hydrated. Dehydration is far more dangerous than a number on the thermometer, especially with younger children. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids- water, teas, diluted juices. I do not recommend milk here, as I consider milk a food, not a beverage. If you notice any signs of dehydration ( parched lips, dark urine,etc) or you child refuses to drink liquids , while sweating profusely for hours, you definitely need to see a doctor. Dehydration is something that I take very seriously and it is my number one priority to keep myself , and my son, hydrated all the time. Dehydration can prevent our internal organs from functioning properly and keep toxins in our bodies. Just remember this, an average adult's body is made of about 60% water. Infants' bodies are made of about 75-78% water. Water really is life!
- Do not worry if your child is not eating! It is a natural reaction of the body. When we are sick, our bodies are trying to focus all the energy we have into the healing process. Food often takes away that focus and forces the body to use energy for other processes, like digestion. So when your child is sick ,and refuses food, do not worry. This will not make them weaker, since you can use little tricks to keep the body nourished , without overwhelming the system. Use things like nourishing infusions, homemade broths, or freshly squeezed juices to provide the body with instant nourishment and hydration at the same time. I still do not recommend milk, because most children have a cough or runny/stuffed nose , which accompany the fever. Milk can be mucus forming and can add to the problem when the body is trying to get rid of the phlegm.
- Use herbs to support the bodies natural processes. We always give our son Echinacea Glycerite to support his immune system and increase the immune response. Often times, this is enough to prevent a more serious illness and fever from appearing, if you catch that runny nose early enough, of course. We also use a lot of herbal infusions. I give my son a variety of herbs, since he is almost four now. If you have to treat an infant with a fever , the best herb is elderberry flower. It is very gentle and will quickly lower a fever. An infusion mixed into breast milk or formula will quickly get in the baby's system. I really like to give nursing mothers the same teas, their children are supposed to be drinking , since their healing power is transferred through the breast milk. Moms and older kids can also add some peppermint and yarrow to the mix.
- Give your kid a hot bath! It is a wonderful way to lower the body's temperature. I let my little boy play in the tub , filled with hot water. I like to add some Epson salts mixed with a few drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil. Older kids can benefit from just soaking their feet in a hot water bath with sea salt, or again, Epson salts and essential oils. After they are done with the bath, it is best if the kids stay in bed, well covered and don't forget a warm pair of socks on their feet. Let them sleep if they want, and make sure to have a spare set of clothing nearby, as they will start sweating profusely.
- Make Apple Cider Vinegar your friend! I use diluted apple cider vinegar for compresses when there is a stubborn fever, when the body has a dry heat, there is no sweating and I need a little something to help jump start the healing process. I soak wash cloths in a mixture of vinegar and water, and put them on my son's ( works on husbands too ) forehead and wrists. I wipe his neck with the cool cloth as well. I usually do this throughout the day and then try the hot bath method at night, if the fever is still going.
What home remedies do you have for fevers? Do you treat fevers in your house? Share with us, as I am always curious to learn from others' experience!