Fevers are not an illness. They are a process occurring in the body as a response to another stimulus. The fever itself is the body’s reaction and defense mechanism to an illness. The fever itself doesn’t need to be eliminated, but the offending agent that is causing the fever reaction.
Fevers may occur in response to an infection, burn, heat stroke or dehydration.
Fevers are an important part of the body’s immune system response. Most bacteria are unable to survive at higher temperatures. The fever response creates an environment inhospitable to bacterial growth, thus helping to kill them off. Fevers also promote the body to produce and release a series of chemicals that help boost our immune system response.
The fever is a defense reaction your body makes. We do not want to suppress a fever as it can obstruct your immune system’s response. A fever should be supported and allowed to run its course. A fever may be uncomfortable and scary in the moment, but if allowed to run its course it makes your immune system and body more robust afterwards. Fever suppressants confuse your body’s instinctive response. Continuously suppressing a fever will actually hinder your immune system’s response to future infections or pathogens.
If you or your child does have a fever it is important to watch for signs of distress. The height of the temperature doesn’t necessarily reflect the severity of illness.
You should seek medical care for a fever if your child seems very ill, has a stiff neck or severe headache, projectile vomiting, seems dazed or unresponsive, has sharp abdominal pains or is rapidly getting worse despite your efforts. Watch for signs of dehydration as well including dry mucous membranes, sunken eyes, changes in levels of consciousness, and tenting of the skin. Babies may have sunken fontanelles or soft spot if they are getting dehydrated. You should also seek medical attention if the fever gets alarmingly high: above 38 C in a baby under 3 months, over 38.3 C ages 3-6 months, above 39.4 C over 6 months or any child with a fever higher than 40 C.
So, what should you do if you or your child has a fever? It is most important to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and address the underlying infection causing the fever. Provide plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, consume light meals and rest to allow the fever to run its course. Babies can be nursed often to maintain hydration.
A tepid bath can be helpful during a fever. Fill the tub with water about one to two degrees cooler than current body temperature. This will help to slowly cool the body’s internal temperature. Anything much cooler will be a shock to the system.
Applying a cool cloth to the forehead, temples, back of neck or wrists can also be of comfort.
Since a fever is your body’s response to an infection, it is best to treat the immune system. Use your favourite immune supports like Vitamin C, Echinacea, garlic, elder or Magic Socks.
If you fear the fever is getting too high or your child is showing signs of discomfort, you can temporarily provide relief from a fever with spearmint leaf or lemon balm tea or other fever supports.
Next time you or your child has a fever, remember that the fever itself is not an illness, but a response by your body to fight off the illness. Support the fever. Allow it to run its course. Keep a close eye on the progression and provide relief as needed. Don’t fear the fever.
This article is intended for educational and information purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you require medical advice, diagnostics or treatment, please contact your nearest healthcare professional.