When my two children were young, each had a fairly different constitution:
My son would get intense fevers of 40°C or more for a day or so, and then the next day would be running around, none the worse.
My daughter would get milder temperatures that were definitely elevated but just never reaching the same levels. She would be lethargic and unhappy for days at a time, with the fever neither breaking nor really peaking, and her illness could drag on for a good while before she was fully herself again.
So it is interesting to me that doctors at Wellington Hospital are currently involved in research that connects high fever with higher recovery rates in critically ill patients.
How high would you let a fever go before you reached for the Paracetamol?
A normal temperature can range between 36.5 and 37.4°C and can fluctuate throughout the day, (and for women throughout the month). When a temperature reaches 38.5°C it is considered high but it can reach 40°C and still be within safe limits.
The holistic health care approach is generally to recognize the fever as an integral part of natural health and work with it accordingly
If instead we use drugs to ease the discomforts, we may undermine the benefits of the fever.
Even medical science is clear that a raised body temperature can reduce germ activity and potentially kill any offending virus or bacteria, but somehow, and without any hard evidence to support the practice say the researchers, it has become common to prescribe Paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Asprin (though these days not Asprin to children under 12) in order to bring a temperature down to more ‘acceptable’ levels.
The trouble is, there is a lot of misinformation and fear around dealing with fever, especially in children.
The main fears are connected to brain damage and seizures, which both sound pretty compelling.
But if you really investigate the data available it turns out that it is extremely difficult (some say nigh on impossible) for the body alone to reach a temperature so high as to induce brain damage. Heat stroke is where the real danger lies, when the body’s thermostat fails due to an external source of heat.
The issue with seizures is also more alarmist than proven
While some say that their children were relieved from terrifying seizures with drugs that brought down the fever, others report that bringing down the fever brought on seizure. So far it would seem that there are no hard facts to support the idea that drugs will reduce the chances of seizures. And while certainly distressing, febrile seizures rarely present any residual health problems.
What does all this mean in a nut shell?
- Fever is a natural defense against infection indicated in faster recovery and balanced natural health.
- A good doctor will prescribe drugs to help you cope with the discomforts of a fever, not to eliminate it.
- As a general rule, it is not unsafe to let a fever run its course (consulting a doctor for any concerns around the cause).
There are varying opinions on when exactly we should call the doctor
I have adult friends who believe staunchly in riding it out and one such friend who insists that her untreated malaria fever completely transformed her life by curing a deeper spiritual malady.
I also know families that have a wonderfully relaxed attitude to fever and absolutely view it as part of normal growth and fortification – with similar stories to my son of intense fevers and quick recovery, and an attitude of surrender into the fever that demands little more than sleep and water.
To be on the safe side for ourselves and for our children there are some good common sense ground rules
- Stay clear and rational with a digital thermometer to monitor the fever (under the tongue is more accurate than in the armpit)
- Weigh up all the symptoms: Low distress and high fever is probably less serious than high distress and low fever
- Keep up fluid intake
The Australian ABC page for Health & Wellbeing has a fairly sensible fever factfile that tell us...
Adults should see a doctor…
- after three days of fever
- for a fever over 40°C
- if shivering and shaking
- for a severe headache, drowsiness or confusion
- if overseas illness is a possibility
Children should see a doctor….
- if they are under six months old
- for a fever of 40°C or more
- if they won’t eat or drink and seem to be peeing less
- if there are unusual or persistent signs of distress and physical symptoms
As the ‘carer’ it is much better to manage stress by being well-informed
Instead of worrying and creating anxiety in our patient, we can be present, calm and confident and work more effectively to help the body do its job.
And the more you look into it, the clearer it becomes that organic health products have an important part to play in restoring the powerful role of curative fever. A good natural health remedy will help the patient to cope with the discomforts of fever while supporting the healing process for a deeper, more fortified sense of health and wellbeing as the outcome.
When we use 100% pure essential oils for fever we gently attract the heat away from the brain and help to calm blood flow without undermining the curative effects of the fever itself. We use therapeutic essential oils with natural analgesic and calming properties that have been used for centuries to help in pain management and to improve relaxation.
Based on over 20 years of work in holistic health care using therapeutic plant oils (including child and maternity care), I recommend Lavender Sweet (gentler) or Lavender True (stronger but still safe), with Chamomile Roman. Adding Spearmint for children over four years of age is also good.
For babies… add 1-2 drops (Lavender Sweet and Chamomile Roman) in a bowl of luke-warm water, soak and wring cloth, and wrap around ankles, repeat every 30 minutes, monitor temperature in between.
For Infants… add 2-4 drops (as above) repeat every 20 minutes.
For Toddlers… add 3-6 drops (use either Lavender Sweet or True), repeat every 15 minutes until the fever begins to drop.
For Children… same as above but add some Spearmint in equal amounts (1-2 drops of each oil).
The water can get a little cooler, the older the child is. And you can also sponge the body down if the child is very uncomfortable, repeating every hour (but assuring you towel dry quickly and well in between applications).
When you buy pure essential oils, always try to buy certified organic or wild aromatherapy products, from a reputable natural health care store.