Fever: Friend or Foe?
Fever: Friend or Foe?
Depending on your background, you may have been taught that if your child is sick and gets a fever that it is important to bring the fever down. Well, with the exception of a few situations, this is just not true. A fever is actually your body’s innate response mechanism to destroy harmful viruses and bacteria that may be attacking it. If your child is experiencing a fever in response to an illness, it means that his immune system is functioning properly. Trying interrupt the body’s natural process by bring the fever down could likely prolong their recovery time and drive the infection deeper.
If a pathogen invades your body, it triggers the release of pyrogen, a substance that signals your brain's hypothalamus to raise your body's temperature. Increased temperature directly kills microbes because most bacteria and viruses actually grow better at temperatures lower than the human body. Some of the benefits of a raised body temperature include increase in antibodies, more white blood cell production, more interferon (a natural antiviral and anticancer substance which block the spread of viruses to healthy cells) and impaired replication of many bacteria and viruses.
In most cases you should avoid giving your child medications to lower fever, since these medications will typically only suppress the natural healing mechanisms of the fever and extend the duration of the sickness. The article “Fever in Children -- A Blessing in Disguise” by Linda B. White and Sunny Mavor, lists several studies supporting the fact that lowering fever actually prolongs illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT recommend fever-reducing drugs. Instead, the best course of action is to let the child rest and ensure that they stay properly hydrated. Offer lots of water, broth or diluted fresh juices. This is very important to prevent the fever from getting too high, which can be dangerous.
If your child is under 3 months old with a fever or experiences a fever over 104.5 or has a seizure with a fever you should consult your doctor about how/if to bring the fever down. In the event that the fever goes too high for too long, particularly if the child refuses to drink or is vomiting frequently, a retention enema of a small amount of purified/sterile water can be a useful at-home emergency action to bring the fever down, because water is quickly absorbed through the colon providing instant vital hydration. If the child stays well hydrated, their fever will usually rise and then break every few hours for a few days until they have fought off the illness. When the fevers stop, they will have a renewed strength and appetite. So don’t be afraid to trust their body to do what it was designed to do and kick that sickness.