Fever: What to Do By: Lauren Feder M.D.
When I was growing up, my mother took the doctor’s advice and always gave us medicine at the first sign of a fever. Today, an increasing number of physicians advocate a different approach to fevers that recognizes the body's own natural healing capabilities. Still, many parents feel panicked when they find their child has a temperature, and will schedule a physician’s visit or run to the emergency room when homeopathy and simple home treatments will alleviate a good deal of the child’s discomfort. For my own children as well as my patients, I follow some basic guidelines for determining the severity of a fever and the treatment options. While a fever can sometimes require a doctor’s attention, in many instances home remedies will allow your child to heal naturally and comfortably.
Why do we have fevers?
A fever is a valuable defense mechanism that indicates the body’s immune system is stimulated by an infection or other illness. The fever and its accompanying symptoms, while annoying, are vital in helping to strengthen the immune system and ward off future infection. Fever is often accompanied with a faster pulse, more rapid breathing, and flushed skin. Your child may feel hot, have chills, or sweat, and mood changes, ranging from listlessness to irritability, are not uncommon.
Care and Remedies
Although there are many remedies for fevers, I will cover just a few of the more commonly used ones. When your child has a fever, find the remedy that matches his or her symptoms best. Before self-treating a high temperature, familiarize yourself with your practitioner’s guidelines regarding fevers, and don't forget about the good, old-fashioned sponge bath! While the standard approach recommends fever reducers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, I usually prefer to use natural remedies before conventional medications, which can impact the immune system and slow the healing process. Aspirin should not be used in children.
Warmth: Assess your child’s condition and temperature. Place your hand on her forehead, belly, arms and legs, and compare warm and cool areas. For cooler areas such as the legs and feet, warm them up with a hot water bottle to help disperse the heat away from the head.
Diet: Simple vegetable and chicken broths, room temperature water, and warm tea can be soothing. Avoid dairy, protein, refined sugars, and heavy foods. During a fever, avoid protein, as your child expends much energy for a healthy immune response, and protein in the diet requires energy for digestion.
Lemon Compress: For high fevers, use a lemon compress wrapped around calf and foot. The lemon will cool and balance temperature throughout the body. If wrap dries quickly repeat every 15 to 30 minutes.
Aconitum napellus (Aconite) is useful for the early stages of an intense fever that comes on suddenly. Often the person goes out on a windy day and, a short time later, comes down with a fever. Aconite will typically be effective for a fever that's accompanied by anxiety, restlessness, and a thirst for cold drinks.
Belladonna is also useful during the early stages of a sudden fever. However, a person who responds to Belladonna radiates heat and may have a flushed face and a throbbing feeling, as well as delirium and a lack of thirst. The head is hot, and the arms and legs cold. If your child’s symptoms are not distinct, Belladonna is the most common remedy for a simple fever (one without other symptoms).
Chamomilla can be helpful for the fevers that often accompany an infant's teething misery. Chamomilla is for the child who is very irritable and difficult to please. Often one of his or her cheeks appears red, the other pale, and the child's fever becomes worse at night.
Gelsemium is good for a child who is trembling with chills and wants to be cuddled. He or she looks exhausted with drooping eyelids, and may be dizzy with generalized achiness. Gelsemium is a common flu remedy.
Phosphorus is useful for the child with chills and sweats during the night, and cold limbs. He or she characteristically craves ice cold drinks despite being chilly and is often quite hungry.
Briar Rose is an excellent all-around children’s remedy. It is useful for strengthening the immune system during a fever.