Fever! Often scary, but not often a concern. So many parents look at fever as a demon that must be exorcised with the likes of Tylenol or Motrin, but little do parents know that fevers can actually help fight an infection, and children are better off from it. In fact, a fever will increase the number AND activity of white blood cells, the immune cells that fight infection. Here are a few myths about fevers that need to be cleared up:

Myth #1: Fevers can cause brain damage.

Not true! Parents often give fever reducers because they’re afraid of fevers going too high, potentially causing seizures and permanent damage. I’m here to reassure you that fevers are a good sign of a strong, well-functioning immune system. The problem is that when children have fevers, they often don’t want to eat or drink and lose more hydration through their hot skin. The end result is dehydration, and this CAN harm a child. So, keep your child well hydrated with fluids. An easy sign to tell that your child is dehydrated is that their urine output is decreased. See a physician if this occurs.

Myth #2: If you don’t control a fever, it will continue to rise and not stop.

Fevers are self-limiting. Fevers do not cause neurological damage. In fact, there’s never been a case of permanent damage from a febrile seizure. Here’s a quote from Medline Plus, the National Institutes of Health’s Web site for patients and their families:

“The first febrile seizure is a frightening moment for parents. Most parents are afraid that their child will die or have brain damage. However, simple febrile seizures are harmless. There is no evidence that they cause death, brain damage, epilepsy, mental retardation, a decrease in IQ, or learning difficulties.”

Myth #3: If the child has a high fever, bring it down as quick as possible with a cool bath.

Don’t do this! It is dangerous for the child, and will probably make them pretty upset! A reasonable approach would be a room-temperature sponge bath. It won’t take the fever down, but it may help the child feel more comfortable, and therefore more likely to take fluids.

Myth #4: Feed a fever, starve a cold.

You might notice that when children are sick, they aren’t interested in eating food or at least a large amount of it. What the child is doing without realizing it, is saving their body’s energy so that it can more effectively fight the infection. The same goes for their activity level: they lay low and conserve resources for the main task at hand, getting healthy again. It’s ok if your child loses some weight during an illness, this is normal. Therefore, it is not necessary to make them eat if they are not interested. THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE FOR FLUIDS, HOWEVER! I stress this point because, as mentioned above, a fever will increase fluid loss dramatically. So, keep that child hydrated and watch for changes in urine output.

Natural Fever Treatments

There are several herbal teas out there that can promote sweating, which can help you cool down during a fever. Teas such as peppermint, catnip, elder flower, yarrow, and chamomile are all effective in this way. Sipping cups of this throughout the day can be beneficial. Homeopathic remedies can also be extremely helpful. Here are just a few that can be purchased in most health foods stores:

    • Aconite: for sudden, high fevers associated with anxiety.
    • Belladonna: for hot, dry children, with throbbing and congested headaches, and rosy cheeks.
    • Ferrum phosphoricum: for fevers that are not intense, and the patient is nervous, sensitive, and thirsty
    • Chamomile: excellent for fever with teething. Also good for children who are sensitive, irritable, thirsty, and say they feel hot, and are sensitive to cold.
    • I suggest to patients to start with the 6c potency, with 3 pellets every few hours, and increase in potency (12c, 30c, etc.) if 6c becomes no longer effective.

When should you consider fever reducers/ fever medicine like Tylenol(Acetaminophen), Motrin/Advil (Ibuprofen)?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question. Some resources say give fever medicine if the fever gets to 105 F, but there is nothing about that particular number that means anything. I tell parents that if their child is not drinking or sleeping well and we have tried the natural fever therapies, it may be time to take medicine to bring the fever down. As always, it’s crucial that you as a parent understand you have every right to use medicine if that is what makes you more comfortable. And if you do, always watch for improvements in your child’s behavior once their temperature drops from the medicine. They should perk up at least a little, and not look as sick to you. Continuing to look sick after the fever is reduced is a concerning sign that should be seen by a physician right away. Remember as always, see a physician if you are concerned with your child’s health for any other reason.

Thanks for reading!