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How to use a fever bath as a safe, traditional therapy to hasten healing by supercharging the immune system’s ability to fight off pathogens.
If there is one thing a parent needs to get comfortable with when raising children, it is a fever.
In fact, when illness doesn’t produce a fever, it can be beneficial to induce one artificially.
Alternative physicians refer to this as fever baths or fever therapy.
Unfortunately, far too many caregivers panic when a child spikes a fever.
Reaching for the meds to suppress the body’s most important defensive reactions to a pathogen can have long-term health effects.
In some cases, caregivers may erroneously believe that reducing the fever somehow makes the child well again.
They may even send a child with a suppressed fever to school rather than to bed!
Suppression of one of Mother Nature’s most important protective and detoxifying mechanisms is harmful to the child.
In the short term, fever suppression actually opens the door to a secondary infection. This can frequently trigger the need for antibiotics to resolve the illness.
In other words, if you want to avoid antibiotics, don’t bring down the fever.
The heat of the fever significantly slows the speed with which a pathogen can replicate and spread.
This gives the body more time to resolve the problem naturally.
Fevers Help the Body Heal the Fastest
Children whose parents allow them to experience fevers without medication will many times exhibit no other symptoms.
A fever spike accompanied by rest and nourishment alone will, within a day or two, typically resolve the illness.
Sometimes, the child experiences no other symptoms whatsoever.
Bring the fever down with meds, however, and there will likely be a sinus infection and coughing, mucous, rash, vomiting, diarrhea or other issues.
This will extend the illness possibly necessitating the need for antibiotics.
In the book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care, authors Sally Fallon Morell and Tom Cowan MD summarize what science has to say about the benefits of fever:
- The journal Surgical Infection published the results of a study that examined 1712 patients admitted to a trauma intensive care unit who were then separated randomly into “aggressive” and “permissive” groups. The aggressive group received a fever-reducing drug and cooling blankets, while the permissive group received no treatment unless body temperature exceeded 104 F/40 C. In the aggressive group which received medication, there were 131 infections out of 961 patients and 85 infections out of 751 patients in the permissive group. Not only were there statistically fewer infections in the non-medication group, but there were also fewer deaths as well. Only one patient died in the permissive group, compared with seven in the aggressive group.
- The journal Nature Immunology demonstrated that increasing the internal temperature in mice to create an artificial fever increases the number of immune cells that are sent to the lymph nodes to facilitate the destruction of invading pathogens.
- Several scientific papers have documented the regression of tumors. This occurred after the patient experienced a high fever as the result of a serious infection.
Asthma Risks from Tylenol
Possibly the most startling research to date on the dangers of forcible reduction in fever involves the extremely high correlation between Tylenol (acetaminophen) use and asthma.
Researchers at the University of A Coruna in Spain asked the parents of 10,371 children ages 6-7 and 10,372 adolescents aged 13-14 whether their children had asthma.
The caregivers also reported how often the children had used acetaminophen within the previous year. Researchers also examined usage during the first year of life.
The children in the younger age group who had received the medicine only once per year were at 70% greater risk for asthma.
Those receiving Tylenol once a month or more were shockingly 540% more likely to have asthma.
The study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, also found that children who had even a single dose of Tylenol before their first birthday had a 60% risk of developing asthma.
In the older age group of 13 and 14 year-olds, asthma was 40 percent more likely if they had taken acetaminophen within the previous 12 months.
Young teenagers were 250% more at risk if they took it once a month.
The researchers speculated that Tylenol, called paracetamol in the UK, may reduce a potent antioxidant called glutathione in the lungs and blood. This can result in damage to the lung tissue.
Dangers of Treating Fever with Ibuprofen
Lest you think that you will simply switch to ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) to bring a fever down instead of the risky Tylenol, know that NSAID painkillers carry their own set of risks for children.
There is a clear link between the use of these painkillers and kidney problems.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the number of instances of acute kidney injury (AKI) at one children’s hospital over an 11-year period.
The researchers found that of the 1015 patients admitted for this serious condition, 27 of the cases were due to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®).
Most concerning, these problems occurred in the vast majority of cases (75%) despite the correct dosage being used!
Children younger than five were more likely to have severe cases of acute kidney injury requiring dialysis.
Avoiding Febrile Seizures
Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children up to the age of 5. They can be scary to witness.
The good news is that they are not dangerous in the majority of instances.
Conventional medicine maintains that no one knows why febrile seizures occur. “Some evidence” suggests that they’re linked to certain viruses.
However, old school doctors know that low blood sugar will bring on such episodes in susceptible children.
This is due to the rapid metabolism and threat of dehydration that can occur with fevers.
My physician father used to recommend to parents to have a child sip 50 percent diluted fresh fruit juice.
This keeps the child hydrated and blood sugar levels in the normal range to prevent a seizure from occurring.
For sleepy children, he suggested administering 4 ounces of fruit juice diluted with water rectally using a bulb syringe.
The body will readily absorb this nourishment rectally without it running out.
If your child is prone to febrile seizures, it is important to consult with a holistic practitioner about natural strategies.
This avoids the need for forcible reduction of fevers with drugs that risk long-term side effects.
Note that homeopathic cell salts for fever are a safe and helpful tool to consider instead.
Fever Therapy (for low grade or no fever)
You are now hopefully convinced that fever is your friend, not your foe!
And, that forcible reduction with medication is a risky proposition for your child’s health.
If you or your child tends not to spike a fever easily, know that you can help the process along with the traditional remedy known as fever therapy.
This involves the simple use of a hot bath, aka “fever bath”.
It is quite different than other types of detoxication baths.
Fever baths are a wonderful way to bring the body’s natural defenses to your aid to fight an illness where little to no fever may be present.
It can also be helpful for those that are immunocompromised and too weak to spike a fever naturally.
Please note that fever baths are not appropriate for very young children and pregnant women.
In addition, those who experience problems getting overheated should avoid this therapy.
If you have a chronic illness, reach out to your health practitioner before trying it especially if you live alone.
Fever baths were frequently recommended by old-time doctors, the kind who used to make house calls.
My father was one of these!
The popularity of fever baths is returning anew in this modern age where parents are increasingly seeking the wisdom of old to avoid the use of dangerous medications with their children unless absolutely necessary.
Here are the steps for conducting an effective fever bath for either yourself or your child according to the Heartland Naturopathic Clinic.
How to Take a Fever Bath (5 Steps)
In preparation for your fever bath, be sure to have a thermometer handy.
Drink plenty of tepid water before, during and after the fever bath.
In addition, have something warm like a cotton robe or sweatsuit plus socks to wear afterward.
Use Hot Water That is Comfortable
Start the bath with the hottest water you can stand without it being terribly uncomfortable.
Ideally, the bathwater should be filtered as the chlorine in hot tap water gets airborne and can harm beneficial respiratory flora.
No soap or bubble bath products should be added to the water. For adults, a small amount of Epsom salts in the bathwater can supercharge the effects if desired.
Plain filtered water works just fine, however!
It is important that you do not experience any discomfort with the water temperature.
It is easiest to gauge the right temperature if you sit in the bath as it is filling rather than trying to get into the bath after it is drawn.
If you are preparing the fever bath for your child, take care to ensure it isn’t too hot.
My Mother-in-Law who is a nurse taught me when my children were babies that testing the water with your elbow instead of your hand is a good way to ensure it is not too hot.
In my experience, you don’t even need to sit in the hot water all the way up to your neck to achieve great results.
I’ve found that simply sitting in very warm water waist-deep is sufficient to achieve an artificial fever effect.
No need to feel like a boiled lobster with this process!
Take Your Temperature While in the Bath
Take your temperature with an oral thermometer while you are in the bath.
After your temperature reaches 101 F/38 C, stay in the bath for 20 minutes more.
If at any time you feel the need to get out because you are too hot, do so!
Your goal is to keep your body’s temperature at that level for the full 20 minutes, but less is still beneficial if you aren’t used to it.
You may experience heavy sweating by the time your body temperature reaches 101 F/38 C similar to the effect experienced in a ginger bath.
Drink as much water as you like, but it should be room temperature. Cold water especially if iced, stresses digestion considerably and can interfere with stimulating a higher body temperature.
Be Careful of Lightheadedness
When it is time to get out of the bath, be very careful as you may feel faint.
Dry off and cover yourself quickly including a pair of socks so you don’t chill.
Covering your head with a towel is also a good idea even though the head/hair does not get wet.
This is because most body heat is lost via the head.
Go to Bed Immediately
Get into bed immediately. You will likely be very hot and sweaty.
This is good and what you want!
Stay covered up and sleep if you can.
Change Damp Clothing after Resting
After you’ve been in bed under a blanket for at least 45 minutes (and up to two hours), your body temperature will have cooled off back to normal.
Get out of bed and quickly remove the damp clothing and change into dry clothes. This prevents you from getting chilled.
Your fever bath is now complete.
How Often for Fever Baths?
Fever baths may be used up to twice per day during the worst point of infection.
They are most beneficial before the infection has peaked out, which is the time just before you start to get better.
I actually used a fever bath recently when I had a cold to speed detoxification and healing.
It blew that thing out and it was gone in about 12 hours flat!
With my children, I never had to use more than one bath per day or two baths total before they were well again. They also have never needed antibiotics….ever (the oldest is now 23).
(1) Ibuprofen Can Present Risks for Kids
(2) The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare
(3) Fever Therapy When No Fever is Present