Did you know that the majority of phone calls made to the pediatrician are concerning FEVERS? In this post, I’m combining years of research and some of my favorite resources to help shed light on the truth concerning fevers. The misconceptions and mishandling of fevers is a topic that I witness on almost a daily basis. This is a long post, but is well worth the read.
“There is a strong motivation to do something when your child is not feeling well. Fever, more than almost any other common condition, causes great parental anxiety. Parents fear fever not only because it makes their child look and feel ill, but also because they’re concerned that the fever means there is a serious medical problem going on, or that the fever is going to harm their child. The majority of calls to pediatricians are related to fevers in children” –Attachment Parenting Pediatrics
“By far, the greatest number of after-hours telephone calls are questions regarding the “management” of fever with drugs. Undue attention to a child’s temperature and mishandling of fevers generate a great deal of unwarranted parental anxiety, avoidable medical complications, and countless calls and costly visits to doctors and emergency rooms. As long as we remain captive to the medical myth that nature made a mistake in causing a fever during illness, our children will be put at risk” -Susan Markel, MD, (board certified pediatrician)
I wrote a post about fevers a few years ago, telling the story of how my research with fevers began. They started with my middle child about 6 years ago when she graced us with her 105 fevers every time she got sick.
It always went something like this:
Get thermometer out.
Read the temperature.
Call the doctor immediately.
End up at the doctor, hospital, or ER.
Always think something was terribly wrong.
Nothing was ever wrong.
Dr. visits usually worsened the problem.
Went home even more confused.
During this time, we were always told the SAME thing:
Alternate Tylenol & Motrin ever 4 hours. So we did what we were told.
The fevers typically lasted around 3 days.
After going through this scenario about 5 times, something in me clicked.
Learn About Fevers. Research.
I remember the last time we went through this scenario. Fever was at 104.5. Called pediatrician and was told to come straight in. After bloodwork, etc… was told that everything seemed ok, but if the fever got higher to go to ER. Of course that night, the fever went higher (105) and we ended up in the ER. After a miserable night in the ER, we were told that everything was fine. I was so confused. The funny thing is, they were right. EVERYTHING WAS FINE! I just didn’t know that back then.
That’s when my research began.
Why was I always so panicked about fevers, but was continually told that everything was fine? Why was I always told to suppress the fevers? Why was I alternating Tylenol & Motrin every 4 hours? Why would the fever spike again before each dose?
“FEVER PHOBIA”: misconceptions of parents about fevers.
In 1980, a paper published by Barton Schmitt, MD contained the results of a survey in which 81 parents were asked their understanding of fever. All parents were inappropriately worried about low-grade fever, with temperatures of 102°F (38.9°C) or less. Most parents (52 percent) believed that fever with a temperature of 104°F (40°C) or less could cause serious neurological side-effects. As a result, almost all parents in the study treated fever aggressively: 85 percent gave anti-fever medications and 68 percent sponged the child with cool water temperatures far below 102°F (39.5°C). Their over concern was designated by Schmitt as “fever phobia.”
“Doctors do a great disservice to you and your child when they prescribe drugs to reduce fever. Fever phobia is a disease of pediatricians, not parents, and to the extent that parents are victimized by it, doctors are at fault.” “Fever phobia” is made worse by hearing myths about children being severely harmed by having a high fever.
Follow up study in 2001, “Fever Phobia Revisited: Have Parental Misconceptions About Fever Changed in 20 Years?” Read more (HERE)
In a fantastic article “Eliminate the Fear, Not the Fever”: “Parents are left to fear that their child’s temperature will keep rising unless measures are taken to control it. Yet, reducing the child’s temperature will do nothing to make the child well, and our bodies have a built-in mechanism that will prevent an infection-induced temperature from reaching dangerous levels”.
I remember the very first book I read when I began my research on fevers. Dr. Mendelsohn (a pediatrician of 30 years) wrote a book called “How to Raise A Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor”. He has a chapter on FEVERS.
“Fever: Your Body’s Defense Against Disease” is the title of Chapter 7 in Dr. Mendelsohn’s book.
Dr. Mendelsohn writes about the useless and dangerous practice of fever suppression through drugs, and counters the myth that high fever causes seizures. “Many parents are fearful of fevers because they have heard of convulsive seizures and believe their child may experience one if the body temperature is allowed to rise too high. High fevers do not cause convulsions. They result when the temperature rises at an extremely rapid rate and are relatively uncommon.” Only a small percentage of children with high fever experience convulsions, and those who do suffer them do not have any aftereffects. Simple febrile seizures are self-limited and harmless, although they are one of the most frightening things that a parent can witness.
Dr. M teaches: “Fevers produced by viral or bacterial infections will not cause brain damage or permanent physical harm. Fevers are a common symptom in children and are not an indication of serious illness unless associated with major changes in appearance and behavior or other additional symptoms such as respiratory difficulty, extreme listlessness, or loss of consciousness. The height of fever is not a measure of the severity of the illness”.
“Numerous studies have shown that fever enhances the immune response by disabling bacteria and viruses. Also, with a rise in temperature, iron is removed from the blood and stored in the liver, further disabling the rate at which bacteria can multiply”
Dr. M teaches how we have been misled to view fevers as a bad/scary thing, when really fevers are a good thing. Typically a common cold, sickness, illness, virus, or bacteria is associated with fever. Why? Fever is how the body fights.
“The pervasive belief that fever is dangerous and must be suppressed disregards the scientific evidence demonstrating its beneficial role in inflammatory diseases. The immune system depends on the fever to accomplish myriad tasks when gearing up to fight infections”
Fevers are not to fear!
I learned that a fever can safely get to 105 without needing to panic!
The body can safely get to 105 without something needing to be “wrong”.
When a child has a fever, it produces white blood cells (which are a good thing, they kill bacteria).
Anytime a fever reducer is introduced, it rids the body of white blood cells, which makes the body work overtime to fight illness. Fever reducers actually prolong the illness by suppressing the body’s natural healing process. The fever then lasts longer because we are interrupting the body’s natural response to fight the illness. Fever reducers also deplete the body of glutathione. Glutathione is critical for helping the body eliminate toxins and fight illness.
Fever is an important part of how children’s bodies remove wastes and toxins.
We have been led to believe that we must give fever reducers,
when really they do more harm than good!
ESPECIALLY WHEN GIVEN FOR FEVERS AFTER VACCINES. *Please research this further.
Fever reducers mask the symptoms and may provide temporary relief.
Fever reducers do not treat the symptoms.
Mask & Treat: Big difference.
Fever reducers come with risks.
Letting a fever run its course does not.
Fever is a natural defense.
Fever is a healing response.
Fever stimulates the immune system.
A fever is the body’s most effective weapon for fighting disease.
“Give me a fever and I can cure the child.”
FEVERS TODAY (in our household)
It’s been 6 years since that last visit to the doctor and ending up in the ER later that night. It doesn’t matter what the thermometer says anymore. I rarely use a thermometer. I’ve learned now how to feel a fever with my hands. Bodies are either hot or very hot and it doesn’t matter because it won’t change anything. We let the children know that they are doing an awesome job fighting off whatever illness or sickness is going on in their little bodies. We let them rest, give them fluids, and do anything to alleviate the uncomfortableness of a fever. And then we let the body do its job.
Fevers typically last 12 hours instead of 3 days.
At almost exactly 12 hours, the fever breaks.
The body is healed and immunity is gained.
No fever reducers given.
No doctor calls.
No ER visits.
Just a hot body, being loved on and cared for.
Body Effectively healed.
During fevers in our home, our main concern is that our children do not suffer. No-one wants hot and miserable children. Our number one goal is to make sure they are resting peacefully and soundly and staying hydrated. Many things can provide relief to the misery and uncomfortableness of a fever. Our go to aide is homeopathic chamomile tablets for discomfort and irritability. The most important thing however, should always be to treat the sickness, not trying to suppress/reduce the fever. Building the immune system during fevers is very important. Lots of fluids, healthy nutritious food (if child has appetite, typically they do not), rest, herbal teas, & homemade soup broths, & essential oils. A drop of high quality Young Living essential peppermint oil can reduce a fever in minutes. It doesn’t suppress the fever, but it can help lower the temperature. See #6 below on treating symptoms of fever with essential oils as well.
I absolutely love Dr. Palevsky’s (MD & board certified pediatrician) list of 14 things for general guidance of fevers:
1) Fever is an important part of how children’s bodies remove wastes and toxins. The immune chemicals that produce the symptoms of fever are always present and active in our bodies, on a day-to-day basis, even when we don’t have an elevated body temperature. They serve us by getting rid of the wastes and toxins we accumulate from our daily activities so that we don’t require an elevation in our body temperature to burn them out. The immune chemicals that cause fever don’t just magically appear in our bodies when we develop a fever. They circulate in our bodies all the time to help us stay well by keeping our body temperature stable, and by maintaining homeostasis in our cells, tissues and organs. Fever develops when these immune chemicals become up-regulated and amplified in our bodies, when the amount of wastes and toxins increases in our systems to a greater extent than what our bodies are capable of removing on a day-to-day basis through the normal processes of elimination: stooling, urinating, breathing, sweating, resting and sleeping.
2) The accumulation of wastes in our bodies occurs due to 1) poor food choices and overfeeding through food and nervous system stimulation, 2) increased stress from chaotic schedules and home environments, 3) poor sleep patterns, 4) lack of down time and proper rest, 5) difficulties at new schools, or at school in general, 6) emotional upsets and unsafe environments, 7) environmental air, food, water, skin and nervous system toxic exposures, 8) frequent use of over-the-counter and pharmaceutical medicines, and vaccines, 9) pushing ahead with our lives and not listening to the messages our bodies are giving us, and 10) living a life that’s opposite to the cycles of nature (e.g., animals hibernate in the winter, and humans in the northern hemisphere keep a schedule as if it’s still summer time). The keeping of a diet and lifestyle in opposition to the laws of nature is a drastic set up for waste and toxin build-up in our bodies, leading to an increase in the chemicals that produce fever, and resultant symptoms of flu, cough, illness, depression, stomach upset, etc. Therefore, fever is something our bodies use to help us get well. Fever forces us to stop what we’re doing and pay attention to what our bodies need most in order to become more optimally well.
3) Focus your attention on treating your child who has an elevated temperature, and try not to focus primarily on the number on the thermometer. Stay with your child. See the Pediatric Checklist.
4) Give your child a warm bath, several times per day if necessary, to help her sweat. Sweating will help cool your child’s body, and make your child feel better. You can use epsom salts, baking soda, or even hydrogen peroxide in the bath, to support your child in feeling more comfortable during the fever. Be mindful of cool drafts after coming out of a warm bath that can compromise your child’s health. You can also use lavender flowers, yarrow flowers, or elder flowers in the bath to promote healing and relaxation.
5) Fever does not cause brain damage, and is not automatically going to lead to a seizure in your child. Read (HERE)
6) To help your child feel better with the symptoms of fever, use one drop of lavender or German chamomile essential oil rubbed undiluted on the tops of both ears, and in the space between the largest vertebrae in the base of their neck and the vertebrae below it. It is also therapeutic to massage the oil down the spine, and place a drop or two on the center of the pads of both big toes. You can do this several times per day on these acupuncture points to help their bodies cope better with the chemistry of the fever.
7) Use the wet sock treatment after the warm bath: put a pair of wet, cool, cotton socks on your child’s feet, followed by a pair of dry, wool socks, and put your child to bed. Dr. Palevsky thanks his naturopathic physician colleagues for this smart therapeutic intervention. Many parents report how much it helps to improve their children’s symptoms of fever and upper respiratory issues.
8) Make sure your child drinks as much fluids as possible, and check that the urine is clear to slightly yellow in color. Dehydration in children with fever will make your child feel worse and compromise her ability to heal.
9) Refer to the list of resources below for other remedies to help support your child through the fever.
10) Continue to observe your child for mental status changes (see Pediatric Checklist below).
11) Dr. Palevsky does not recommend the use of over-the-counter medicine for fever reduction. He does not believe these medicines are safe for human consumption, and there is growing literature to support his position (see below: Resources). He also understands that most often the fever becomes prolonged in children when these medicines are used. In other words, the fever doesn’t last as many days, and goes away quicker, when parents try to refrain from using these medicines.
12) Fever helps the body eliminate wastes. Stopping the fever with these medicines stops children’s bodies from eliminating the wastes. But, the body is “smarter” than that, and will continue to rage on with the fever until it is allowed to burn out the wastes… or not. If the wastes aren’t eliminated promptly, they hang around and cause more irritation to our children on a chronic basis. Often, children will have a subsequent acute illness accompanied by fever, soon after their initial febrile illness, when the fever is suppressed with over-the-counter medicines.
13) Most over-the-counter medicines use up important immune chemicals in children’s bodies (e.g., glutathione) that are needed to deal with the removal of the wastes that caused them to have the fever in the first place. Less glutathione in the body leads to less elimination of wastes and, therefore, more accumulation of wastes in the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. This state of health leads to the need for, and the development of, further episodes of acute illnesses. The body cannot function in an optimal way if these wastes are allowed to accumulate in the body, thus, the reason for further episodes of acute illnesses. With continued use of over-the-counter medicines to suppress the fevers, children will further deplete their glutathione stores, which could eventually increase the potential for them to develop the onset of chronic illnesses.
14) Some over-the-counter medicines also inhibit the production of other immune chemicals (e.g., prostaglandins) that children’s bodies need to help them eliminate their wastes. As a by-product of this inhibition, children will produce other irritating chemicals (e.g., thromboxanes and leukotrienes) that have longer lasting inflammatory properties on their health, leading to illnesses that are often worse than what they were originally dealing with when the fever developed in the first place.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO LEARN ABOUT FEVERS & FEVER REDUCERS:
*To learn about the risks in giving fever reducers & pain relievers. Read more (HERE)
*Tylenol/Acetaminophen reduces the glutathione level in the human body by on average 70%. Why is that a bad thing? What is glutathione? Watch this short 5 minute video explained easily by a doctor (HERE). Please do not give tylenol to a child after a round of shots.
*What Every Use of Acetaminophen needs to know. Read (HERE)
*Robert Mendelsohn, M.D., How to Raise a Healthy Child, Inspite of Your Doctor, Ballantine Books, New York, 1984
Dr. Mendelsohn’s book does a great job of taking the fear out of our children’s sicknesses & illnesses and giving us (the parents) the power to know what to do. I highly recommend this book.
*Eliminate the Fear, Not the Fever. Read more (HERE)
*The Importance of Fever, by Dr. Tenpenny. Read more (HERE)
*Fever Phobia study: REF: Am J Dis Child. 1980 Feb;134(2):176-81.
*Healing the Whole Child Naturally, Dr.Palevsky. Read more (HERE)
* “We are fearfully and wonderfully made” –Psalms 139:14