In general, a fever is beneficial; it is the body’s way of fighting an infection. In most cases, you should not suppress a fever with fever-reducing medications.
An elevated temperature is not considered a “fever” until it is 100.4 F. The optimal temperature to fight bacteria is between 102-104 F.
Bacteria and viruses are essentially protein. And we know that higher temperatures (between 102 and 104 F) denature proteins, thus preventing them from multiplying and killing them off. In addition, a new study shows that fevers help our immune system fight infected cells more effectively. In other words, our immune systems are essentially enhanced after a fever.
Therefore, a fever is a good thing. If a child’s fever is suppressed with Tylenol or ibuprofen, their body does not learn to properly fight an infection, and they do not reap the benefits of a fever as mentioned above.
The body is wise. Here are some ways to support a fever and honor the body’s wisdom:
1. Stay Hydrated. Be sure to stay well hydrated by sipping water, diluted juices, and soup broths.
2. Eat a light diet. A decreased appetite is normal during a fever; the body is using its energy to fight the infection. So if you are not hungry, listen to your body and stick to fluids and bland foods. Broths are great because they are full of vitamins and minerals and aid in hydration.
Here is a nutritious, healing broth recipe:
2 medium zucchini
2 stalks celery
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 cup green beans
Chop 2 medium zucchini, 1 cup of green beans, and 2 stalks of celery into a steamer and steam until soft (about 10 minutes). Place steamed veggies, 3 cups of steaming water, and a handful of chopped parsley in a blender and blend until smooth (about 1-2 minutes). If you like garlic, a clove or two may be added as you blend to help stimulate the immune system.
Yield: 2-3 bowls
3. Hydrotherapy. This is an extremely effective way to support a fever and keep your body temperature in the optimal range to fight an infection (102-104 F).
Warming Sock Treatment:
This treatment is effective for all ages- babies, kids and adults.
- Warm the child’s feet up in a bucket of warm water for 5 minutes (this step can be skipped if the child is asleep).
- Soak and ring out a pair of cotton socks in cold water.
- Put the wet cotton socks on first and then a pair of wool socks over them (if you don’t have wool socks, any warm pair of socks will do).
- This is best to do when the child is sleeping or lying down.
- Keep them on for at least 1 hour or until the cotton socks are dry. They can be kept on all night.
This treatment can help increase circulation of bacteria and virus-fighting cells, regulate the temperature and relieve pressure in the head and ear.
** To lower a high fever (104 and above) use a tepid sponge bath or a full immersion bath with the water temperature between 81-93 degrees F.
** To raise a low-grade fever (below 102) give your child a hot foot bath for 10-30 minutes. The water temperature should be between 104-110 F.
If the child is perspiring, do not use any temperature lowering techniques. This is your child’s natural way to cool the body down.
Stop any treatment and wrap your child up if they are shivering.
Call your doctor if the temperature is above 104 and not responding to fever-lowering techniques, if your child has a stiff neck or seems seriously ill.
Overall, fevers can be very beneficial in the fight against common childhood infections as long as they are managed and supported correctly. Parents should be aware of warning signs (labored breathing, unresponsiveness, stiff neck, headache, fever in a newborn) and be in contact with their child’s doctor with any fever. However, in most cases, parents can support their child’s fever to help their child to develop a stronger and more efficient immune system for life.