Fever Is Our Friend

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I find myself having the same conversation about fevers with parents over and over, so I thought perhaps it’s time to write a blog post about it.

People of my generation were brought up to fear fever.

 ‘Aaaarrrghhhh….Fever….quick, mobilise the paracetamol ASAP before smoke starts coming out of their ears, and their BRAIN EXPLODES, leaving them a vegetable FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE!!!’ 

Or something similar.

Unfortunately this message has become part of our zeitgeist, and is proving hard to stamp out.  It’s like a knee-jerk reaction – a child’s temperature goes a bit high and parents reach straight away for the Calpol, even if the child is actually quite okay within themselves, and just needs rest and fluids.  In fact by suppressing the fever, you are in fact likely to prolong it.

So I am hear to shout a new gospel – FEVER IS OUR FRIEND!  Let me elaborate.

 What’s a fever for?

Fever is a NORMAL AND HEALTHY response to foreign invaders, like bacteria and viruses, and other toxins.  The body can detect these invaders, and sends a message to the brain to raise body temperature, which then makes the environment inhospitable to our foreign friends.  A bit like someone with fair skin sitting in the midday Australian sun… they would soon die.  The increase in temperature, as well as being unpopular with the bacterial beasties, also messages the body to increase certain immune responses, to help ward off infection.

As a homeopath, I view fever as a very encouraging signal that the immune system is working.  If homeopathic remedies provoke a fever reaction, I view this as the time to hang out the bunting.  We want the immune system to be kicked into action during detox, and it is heartbreaking when parents then suppress this response immediately, and long before it approaches ‘dangerous’ levels.

And this brings me to my second point – what are dangerous levels of fever?  In reality, fever does not harm the brain or the body, although parents should definitely make sure there are ample fluids going in, as the body does require rehydration during fever. Left untreated, fevers rarely rise higher than 104 or 105 degrees.  ‘Febrile seizures’ is the phrase that seems to turn parents’ blood cold, but actually even these are not harmful, don’t cause brain damage, and occur in to up to 5% of children at some point.

Like all things, there are rare exceptions… times when the feedback mechanism, for a variety of complex interplays, doesn’t quite regulate as it should.  But this is incredibly rare.  And it might interest parents to know that  brain damage won’t generally occur until fever is over 42 degrees (107.6 degrees farenheit).   This is considerably higher than most parents can even imagine letting a fever run.

So it is my firm belief that this great fear of fever is unwarranted, particularly when a child passes infancy.  Just let the fever go… keep your child hydrated, do monitor it, let them throw off their clothes if that’s what their body is telling them to do… TRUST the intelligence of the body.  It generally knows what it’s doing….

Further reading:  How to Raise A Healthy Child in Spite of your Doctor – by Robert S. Mendelsohn M.D. 

 NB: I am not a licensed medical doctor, and therefore if you are concerned during a fever, seek advice from a medical professional. 

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