Fever - Friend or Foe?
Do you have fever phobia? If so, you are not alone. Fevers are one of the top reasons for doctor's office visits and many a parent has spent an anxious night monitoring their sick child for any spike in temperature. But fear not! A fever is actually a sign that the immune system is functioning well and fighting infection. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has finally gotten on board and agreed with what naturopathic doctors have been saying for years: Fever, however, is not the primary illness but is a physiologic mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection. There is no evidence that fever itself worsens the course of an illness or that it causes long-term neurologic complications. Thus, the primary goal of treating the febrile child should be to improve the child's overall comfort rather than focus on the normalization of body temperature.
A fever stimulates the activity of the immune system, encourages white blood cell activity and can kill off certain bacteria and viruses. What's not to love?
Confused about what to do with your feverish child? Consider the following guidelines:
1. Treat the child, not the number - A child who is happily playing with a 103 degree fever is probably fine, while the lethargic and miserable child with a 101 degree fever might need some intervention.
2. Consider some home remedies - lukewarm (not cold!) baths or compresses, homeopathic remedies or herbal tea can work wonders to make a child (or adult) comfortable without suppressing the immune system.
3. Use fever-reducing medications sparingly - If the above recommendations are not enough to comfort the child or if the parent or health care professional is uncomfortable with the severity of the fever, consider using a fever-reducing medication. My recommendation is to start with a weight appropriate dose of Ibuprofen. Only if Ibuprofen is not tolerated, should Acetaminophen be used. Acetaminophen use may be linked to an increase risk of asthma and can be damaging to the liver.
Fevers in an infant (under 6 months), lasting longer then 5 days, over 104 degrees or accompanied by concerning symptoms need to be evaluated by a heath care practitioner. Also, trust you gut, if you are worried - seek help. Mama, and papa, know best.
Please join me in my crusade to help end fever phobia!