Many parents panic when their child has a fever. I did too the first time my child spiked a temperature of 102.5 °F/ 39 °C. It is a scary thing to hold your child and they are hot, flushed and obviously very uncomfortable.
It is important to learn ways to manage your child’s fever and not lower it artificially with over the counter medications. It would be best if you just threw these drugs away and don’t even have them in your medicine cabinet because even infrequent use of an over-the-counter drug like Tylenol has been linked with serious, lifelong illness like asthma.
Instead of panicking, honor your child’s fever and learn to use it constructively to improve your child’s health and vitality over the long term, because, believe it or not, fevers are fabulous and accomplish important things in a child’s developing body.
I am one of seven children, so we had a lot of fevers going around our home during cold/flu season. Despite this, my Father who is a retired Family Physician never succumbed to treating a fever with meds.
He taught us that bringing down a fever only prolonged the illness and weakened vitality for the next illness to come. I remember him saying, “No, I can’t bring down your fever because you’ll get sicker quicker and next time it will be worse.”
Repeated forced reduction of childhood fever has been linked to childhood cancer. And eliminating fever will usually cause a secondary infection.
When you bring down a fever you start a domino effect toward antibiotic use.
In other words, if you want to avoid antibiotics, don’t bring down the fever! Fever reduction suppresses the immune system. Your child is trying to get well himself with the fever and when you bring it down you are opening him up to a secondary bacterial infection that will further entrench the virus or bacteria. It cannot be stressed enough that fever has an important role to play in your child’s overall well being.
Why Do We Get Fevers?
Why do our bodies produce fever? One reason is that fevers greatly slow down pathogens. Fevers are a highly beneficial immune response that we suppress to our detriment.
The “germ” – bacteria or virus causing the child’s distress typically replicates every few minutes and the fever slows this process down. Fevers work to slow down the spread and severity of the illness and are your friend in avoiding a secondary infection (usually respiratory illness), a trip to the doctor and a script for antibiotics.
So treating a fever with meds to bring it down gives free license to the virus or bacteria to spread in an unrestrained manner. And don’t panic if your child’s temperature gets to 102-103 °F/ 38-39 °C – this is actually the ideal range for a fever.
I can’t tell you how many times my children have spiked a beautiful fever of about 102-103 °F for a few hours with no other symptoms whatsoever.
When the fever resolved, the illness was over. No cough, no rash, sinus congestion, no nothing. Just a fever and that’s it. I can almost guarantee that if I had forcibly brought the fever down with meds, they would have gotten a secondary illness on top of the fever. Probably a cough or sinus congestion would have quickly appeared morphing from an afternoon of chills and discomfort into a two week ordeal with a trip to the doctor and prescription meds.
Treating a Fever With No Meds
I find that holding your child is the best home remedy for fever. When they are feverish, they want to be with you. Put on a light robe and crash on the couch with your child and hold her for hours if you need to. If you let the fever go and just let the child’s body do what it is trying to do, the fever won’t last very long — just a few hours.
You can take their temperature if you want to, but it is not necessary. Put your lips on your child’s forehead, and if the child seems hot, you know she has a fever. I can tell within a half a degree what the temperature is using this method with no thermometer required. Many children find it distressing to use a thermometer when they are ill anyway. My dad taught me this trick–he never took our temperatures. He knew the temperature.
Sometimes a fever will go for three days. It will go up and down, with peaks and valleys, and it usually peaks about 4-6 in the afternoon. If your child has a fever in the afternoon followed by a good night’s sleep and no fever in the morning, that doesn’t mean he is over it. Don’t send him to school until you know what happens at 4-6 in the afternoon. The fever is likely to come back in a lot of cases. Until you’ve passed a late afternoon with no fever, your child is not yet on the road to recovery.
Should You Feed or Starve a Fever?
My father taught me that food will naturally drop a fever within about 20 minutes. This drop will last for an hour or two. My father always believed that it was fine to feed a child with a fever if the child was willing to eat. But don’t force food if he doesn’t want it. And you don’t have to give your child a lot of food. Just a few bites of scrambled egg or a few sips of homemade broth can bring that fever down a bit. It will not make the fever go away but will manage it hopefully within the ideal 102-103 degree range.
If a child’s fever is very high–over 103.5 degrees F – then you need to take steps to bring it down down. One method for treating a fever naturally to bring it down without any meds is a cool water enema. Enemas have such a bad rap! Nobody likes them but they are a very effective remedy for many things.
You can get an enema bag from any pharmacy for about ten dollars and they’re incredibly easy to administer. If the fever is getting really high, just get a thick beach towel and put it in the tub. Lay your child on his side without taking clothes off. Slide their pajamas down a little. Place 1/2 to 1 quart warm filtered water in the bag and insert the enema nozzle lubricated with a bit of coconut oil. Your child will start to feel pressure and will want to go to the bathroom–the water usually doesn’t run out. Then gently put him on the toilet and let him go. This will bring the fever down by a degree or two.
Are High Fevers Dangerous?
High fevers– those that range between 104 and 105 F – are not dangerous in themselves. But they make the metabolism run very fast and increase the risk of dehydration. Blood sugar often drops with the metabolism running at this high level, which can lead to convulsions. To prevent this, have your child sip fresh fruit juice diluted 50% with filtered water to keep tissues hydrated and blood sugar levels in the normal range. If your child is too lethargic or won’t take anything, you can administer about 4 ounces diluted fruit juice rectally using a $2 bulb syringe. Again, this is so easy to do! The body will absorb it rectally very quickly. Don’t worry – it won’t run out and make a mess. This may save you a trip to the emergency room.
Fevers rapidly deplete vitamin A so be sure to give your child drops of high vitamin cod liver oil under the tongue while the fever is running its course.
Fever Baths or Infrared Saunas To Hasten Healing
Sometimes a child will run a low-grade fever day after day and not seem to get better. In that case, you can help her generate a higher fever to help resolve the illness more quickly with a fever bath. Put her in the tub. Fill it with water as hot as she can stand. You can get it hotter if you put them in the tub while you are filling it. You want it pretty hot, but still comfortable! No need to fill it all the way as this might be too hot. Just have her sit in the tub and fill to the navel.
Leave her in the bath for 10-12 minutes, then get her out, dry her quickly and wrap her up tight. Put her into bed, well covered up. This should help the fever rise to the point where it can be effective in resolving the illness. By morning, she may have a normal temperature.
I have used the fever bath method for treating a fever on myself with great results too! Be sure to be drinking plenty of fluids.
Another option is to use an infrared sauna to gently raise body temperature by a few degrees to hasten healing by stimulating the immune system. I recently used this method to successfully stave off a serious virus that was going around our community. About 30 minutes in a near infrared sauna (I use this one) will successfully achieve this immune system enhancement.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Reviving the Amazing Wisdom of an Old Time Doctor (My Dad!)
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.