Fevers: Good or Bad?

Image by Bruce Eric Anderson

Social media really lets you know what other people think, and what’s going on in their homes.  I’ve quickly gathered, mostly through the “magic” of Facebook, that many parents are afraid of fevers.  They worry as soon as their child spikes one and they quickly rush to either call the doctor or give Tylenol or another fever-reducing medication.  They obsessively take their child’s temperature, worry that it is “really high” if it is over 101, and try to make the fever stay gone.  Some even alternate a couple different fever reducers just to make sure that fever stays away.

But is this really the right way to handle a fever?

No.  Parents who react this way do not understand what a fever really is, nor the proper way to treat it.  A fever is not an illness.  It is merely a symptom of an illness, a sign that the body is trying to fight off some type of “bug” that has gotten in.

Think of it this way: when some bad bacteria or virus has invaded the body, it has done so because the body provided it hospitable conditions.  The body instinctively knows that a higher temperature will create an inhospitable environment and kill the nasty, invading bug.  So, it reacts by spiking a fever in order to create that condition.

What happens when you rush to lower the fever?  Suddenly the bad bug can get a foothold again, because the temperature is no longer high enough to kill it!  This prolongs the illness, not only by initially preventing the body from killing it, but also by allowing it to multiply and spread through the body even more.  The body will bring the fever back just as soon as it can, often well before the medication has technically “worn off” and might spike it very high, very quickly to try to rapidly kill the bug before it can spread further.  This can become a dangerous situation, especially if the parent reacts to lower the temperature again.

What’s the Harm?

Some of you might say, “Okay, but my child is miserable and doesn’t rest very well with a fever.  Isn’t it better to lower it and allow them to sleep?  What’s the real harm in lowering it a little?”

Unfortunately, a lotFirst of all, Tylenol and ibuprofen can be quite dangerous.  They’re the #1 and #2 causes of liver failure in this country (and other developed countries, including Canada and the UK).  Tylenol depletes glutathione, which functions heavily in immune function.  Also, since these medications are foreign substances, and therefore effectively small doses of poison, the body’s resources are directed towards clearing the body of this “poison” before it can do any harm, instead of fighting the actual illness!

So you’re risking liver damage (over time, or with an overdose; this becomes much more likely if you’re following the outdated advice to switch back and forth between Tylenol and ibuprofen every few hours, or giving larger-than-average doses because the doctor said it was “safe”), depleting glutathione and the immune system’s functioning, and diverting the body’s resources to clearing the Tylenol from the system instead of the illness.

That’s why a child whose fever is treated really might be sick for days longer.  Would you rather have an unhappy, uncomfortable child for 12 – 24 hours, or 3 – 4 days?  That can be the real difference between treating or not treating the fever.

Image by sunshinecity

So I’m Supposed to Do Nothing?

Obviously it flies in the face of our instincts as parents to do nothingWhen our child is hurting or sick or upset, we want to do do something.  But the vast majority of illnesses are really over-treated because of anxious parents who just want to do something to help.

There are things we can do.  Medicating isn’t recommended.  But there are other ways to help.

First, once you’re sure your child has a fever (and you don’t even need a thermometer to tell: a child who is hot but not sweaty has a fever.  Hot and sweaty is normal and just “hot.”  The body inhibits sweating, the mechanism by which it cools itself, so that the fever can be maintained.  That’s why “dry heat” means fever), note the child’s behavior.  You do not need to know the exact temperature; it is not important. 

Some may worry about brain damage, but this is extremely unlikely unless the temperature gets up towards the 105 – 107 range, but typically the body will not naturally allow the temperature to go high enough to actually cause itself damage.  The fever is a way to help the body fight off illness, and it will not harm itself in the process.  Extremely high fevers that can cause damage are often because the parents tried to artificially lower the fever, or caused by vaccines/medication.  Normal, natural illnesses do not cause these damaging fevers.

Other parents worry about febrile seizures.  These generally occur if the temperature spikes very high, very quickly.  This, again, is usually in reaction to a vaccine, a parent’s attempt to lower the temperature artificially, or some other “unnatural” toxin being introduced to the body.  Natural illnesses usually do not spike fevers very quickly, they tend to rise slowly, and febrile seizures are extremely rare.  Should they occur, though, they are not harmful.  They are part of the body’s attempt to regain homeostasis and they do not cause permanent damage.  They are scary to watch, but they will not hurt your child.

Instead, just note your child’s symptoms and work according to those.

Is the child:

  • Otherwise acting normal?
  • Seeming sleepy?
  • Nauseous or vomiting?
  • Fatigued but unable to sleep?
  • etc.

Children who are otherwise fine or who are sleepy need nothing.  Either leave them alone or put them to bed.  Their body will fight off the junk while they rest (or not).

If the child does have other symptoms, treat those first.  Try to stop the vomiting by allowing the stomach total rest for at least 30 minutes, then introducing Gripe Water, breastmilk, or ginger/fennel tea.  If the child cannot stop vomiting for 30 minutes, strong black tea with honey and/or activated charcoal can help to settle things down.  Do not offer food until after the child has not vomited for at least a few hours and has slept.  Digestion takes a lot of energy, and when sick, the child’s energy is better used to fight off the illness than digest food.  Homemade rehydration drinks, raw or lightly cooked(pastured!) egg yolks, or homemade stock can all be excellent, nourishing “foods” for someone who has just gotten over a bout of vomiting.  (Note: my kids have NEVER vomited longer than 12 hours and Daniel never has at all…and this is what I’ve done.)

If the child is merely restless, try a bath with epsom salts and/or lavender oil.  Make sure the bath is warm.  If it is too cool, the body will react by raising the fever higher to compensate.  Climb in with your child and snuggle, breastfeed if you can.  Then wrap your child in clean, warm clothes and put them to bed.  Usually the epsom salts and/or lavender oil (essential oil only please) is calming enough to allow the child to sleep.

Arnica (topically or orally) can help with body aches.

Ginger tea can help clear stuffy noses and help sore throats.

Belladonna may reduce pain or slightly (naturally) reduce the fever — this wouldn’t be my first choice, but if the child just cannot sleep, you could try it.

The point is, you don’t do nothing.  You treat the other symptoms, not the fever, enough so that your child can rest.  And of course, lots of cuddles are always good. :) 

If your child can sleep, let him, as much as he wants.  My daughter’s early illnesses (11 months to about 18 months) typically resulted in her spending most of the day and night asleep, but then the next day she’d be fine.

And of course, don’t forget to pump up the immune system with raw garlic, coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, elderberry, and all those other wonderful food-and-herb items that can make a big difference!

(I do think FCLO makes a huge difference.  The flu we had a couple weeks ago is one that’s been going around here.  Most people who encountered it were sick 4 – 7 days, and many passed it back and forth between family members, ultimately being down for 2 or 3 weeks!  It ran through our house in only about 5 days and never came back.  We had all the same symptoms, but severity and duration was shorter.  Ben, who was not consistently taking FCLO, was sick the longest, at about 4 days.  Bekah was sick for about 12 hours, Daniel for maybe 8 — and he only had the fever and lack of appetite, otherwise was playing and acting normal — and I had it for a day.  It was no big deal for us while most others struggled.)

It’s also interesting to note that I have never treated a fever.  Not even when my daughter had a temp of 104 at 16 months (I think that was the last time I even bothered to check).  She wanted to snuggle, then sleep after we took our bath.  She did sleep part of the night in my bed because she was restless, but she slept, and when she woke in the morning her fever was gone.  It did not come back.  It ran its course in about 15 hours.  I have never had a child with a fever longer than 24 hours, and I honestly don’t remember ever having one longer than 18 hours.  I don’t think it is a coincidence at all that I don’t treat fevers and they don’t last long. 

So I Should Never Treat the Fever?

In general…no.  There should never be a natural situation in which a fever could become dangerous.  It could happen that your child is irritable and unable to rest or sleep at all.  In this case, I’d try belladonna first (Daniel was teething along with his fever/flu and would not stop squirming in pain and screaming…a dose of belladonna and he was asleep 5 minutes later).  Some parents who do not know alternative remedies or do not have them available may choose to treat a fever that is clearly making a child miserable and unable to rest after exhausting all other options.  But this should be very rare, lowering the fever should not be your first goal.  This has never happened to me.

If a fever is caused by a non-natural cause, like a drug reaction, vaccine reaction, foreign poison/toxin introduced into the body — seek medical help.  This will probably require additional treatment that is beyond the scope of home care.  When possible, avoid these situations.  Of course, this is not always possible; there is always the chance that your child could get into something when you are not looking!  (Good reason to keep poison locked up, but accidents do happen.)

Finally, yes, I do take a rather extreme approach to natural health and I am, in almost all cases, anti-drug.  I believe that drugs are best saved for true emergencies and should not be used so casually.  If it’s life or death, take the drug!  (Hopefully, in that cause, under a doctor’s care!)  If it’s a minor, temporary annoyance, like ear infections, fevers, colds, flus, headaches, etc. — just ride it out and use natural comfort measures.  I’m of the opinion that our bodies cannot be ‘deficient’ in drugs, so we should not turn to them as a primary means of getting well.  We can be deficient in vitamins, minerals, etc. and so we can support our bodies with natural means to correct any deficiencies and help our bodies fight for themselves.  I haven’t encountered, nor have I been able to think of any scenario in which I feel my family would ever need drugs.  We don’t keep any in the house at all, not for adults or children.  This is purely my opinion here and I’m not asking anyone else to adopt it as their own.  I’m putting it out there to explain my perspective and why I feel so strongly about some of these health issues.

Do you treat fevers?  Why or why not?  How do you help your children when sick?

Comments

  1. says

    Like you I don't use Tylenol, etc to treat a fever. If the girls can still play, I actually don't treat it all all. If they're listless then I will use a homeopathic treatment for the fever, but generally not as often as the package says. appreciate the post.

  2. sara p-c says

    my dd is only 7 months, but the few times she's had a fever (usually up around 102.5 or so), we've just kept her cuddled, and breastfed as much as she wanted, and the fever was gone in a day or less. she's fine as wine, and no worries about over-dosing on tylenol or advil/motrin.

  3. J.J. says

    I strongly encourage parents be well educated about febrile seizures. When my son had one, he turned purple and became completely unresponsive. We truly thought he was dying. There is no time to learn what it is and what to do when you are in the middle of one. I had never even heard of febrile seizures before that eventful night. Be informed and prepared.

    • Rhiannon says

      I had the same thing happen. My son had his first febrile seizure and we had to call 911 because he turned blue from not breathing. Every Dr we have seen since has told me i need to give him alternating Tylenol and motrin if he starts to have a temp. He gets the seizures at 102 every time. I would rather not give him the medication but i worry because we live so far from a hospital. The first one his O2 leval was below 60 for more then an hour.

  4. says

    I'm a new mom, and the times when my 8 month old had shown signs of illness, i.e. fever, diarrhea, etc., I have just kept an eye on it, layed low, breastfed more often and prayed. I'm surrounded by people with fevers and flus and infections and more Dr.'s appointments for coughs than trips to the supermarket. I grew up just fighting things off, and I plan to do the same with my children, using wisdom, of course.
    http://www.uniquelynormalmom.com

  5. Jlang says

    I'd love to know where you got the info about Tylenol and Motrin being the top two causes of liver failure! I refused both when I was pregnant and most people thought I was nuts. It would be nice to be able to show them your source.
    Thanks so much!

  6. Aimee says

    I haven't ever treated a fever with a fever reducer either. I believe they are helpful in killing the bad bugs. My friends often call me as they know I tend to be of a dictionary for medical issues (wanted to be a nurse for most of my life), and when they tell me they are giving them tylenol/motrin, whatever to reduce a fever, I tell them to stop. I explain the benefits of a fever, and most of them are hearing it for the first time. Jameson has barely been sick, but when he has been sick, its been a very fast illness with a fever of about 102* then gone the next day. Question with the Arnica, do you use cream and rub it on the body? I have heard lots of benefits of Arnica but don't have it in my first aid kit (yet). I usually collect a bunch of new items when an illness comes on.

    In November, when Jameson had croup so badly we had to go into the ER (after treating it for 36 hours) that is the only time he has ever been treated with antibiotics (1 dose) they were worried it was epiglotitis (hib or something). And he got lots of steroids, they had to intubate him, and he was in the hospital completely under for 36 hours. Scariest time of my life, but i do feel I made the right decision. I had used my arsenal and he kept getting worse, (stridor and caving in of his chest). Unfortunately, during intubation (which took 45 minutes because his airway was so swollen and they used a newborn size tube on a 2.5 year old) he stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating. They had to resuscitate him. Again, scariest moment of my life. The docs were convinced the croup was a secondary infection because he had had a fever of 102 four days prior. They said, oh that was pretty high. I said, it wasn't bad. He slept with me, and it was gone by 5am. He complained of his teeth hurting (had his last molar coming in). They were even more bothered that he wasn't up-to-date with vaccines, I pick and choose which ones and at which times he receives them. He has only had 4. While my son was sedated one nurse felt it very necessary to talk to me about how they were going to get him up to date with his immunizations while he was in the hospital, and I absolutely said, NO. His immune system is compromised right now, we WILL NOT be giving him vaccines. She was very bothered by this, but I stood my ground. After 12 hours he was already trying to breath over the tube, and one doctor would have taken him off the tube, but he went off duty, and a new conservative doc came in and added sedative/paralytics to his IV to keep him completely under. Still after 24 hours the respiratory therapists said it was dumb to keep him intubated because he was breathing over the tube and it kept setting off the alarm. The doctor finally agreed to lower the sedatives and bring him out of his sedation to remove the tube when the shift changed at 6am.

    All the doctors were completely shocked at how fast the swelling went down and how well he did. They said that was the shortest amount of time they had ever had a croup case under. They were expecting him in the PICU for five to seven days. I am convinced it is because he had never had a round of antibiotics I nursed him for 27 months and allowed his body to naturally fight illness and fevers. He asked to nurse when he came out of sedation, and even though I didn't have any milk, it still comforted him. The lovely nurse that day was from South Africa and we got into some really great conversations of things the Americans do so poorly here (low nursing rates, circumcision, which she said she couldn't stand and wouldn't help at all with them). I am glad I took him to the hospital, it was time, but also, it made me question some of my beliefs as the doctors treated him. I am happy to say I am stronger in my beliefs now, than before, but I really hated being questioned and looked at like I was one of those "crazy mothers" they all read about in their papers. Overall, the care was wonderful minus a few people. Oh and even though they were convinced there was some other infection going on, my son just had croup. No RSV, no influenza, no vaccine-treatable disease. My instinct was right. Mother's intuition.

  7. jill says

    As the pp pointed out, febrile seizures are very scary. It came on sudden and the little one stopped breathing. The fever was sudden, the result of roseola. I'm just the grandma, with the little guy and his mommy living here. I worked on getting to the back in the ER and found they were trying to force chest x-rays, cat scans and other invasive procedures and my daughter freaking out. We did finally allow a urine test and still regret that. The nurse pulled his foreskin back and told us his penis was nasty and disgusting and we should cut that skin off. Yeah, thank goodness for nursing. I told her, nurse him, she said, here? Yup, keep him there for as long as he wants. We did have some worry over not doing all those tests. Then the pediatrician put him on antibiotics. A few days later, he broke out in spots and we had to take him to an unknown dr. in another town. It worked out great. By then I recognized his illness (I raised 4) and the dr. did too and pulled him off the antibiotics. He recovered nicely.
    By the way, the ped rechecked the little guys penis and proclaimed it fine and clean and not disgusting.
    He hasn't been sick since, that was last fall and takes his probiotics and his whole food diet daily and loves it.

  8. Courtnay says

    one of the best ways to bring down a fever is a very hot bath. as hot as they can stand it. (you will have to get in and hold them in the water and use cold clothes/packs on their head to protect their brain) my son had a fever of 104 for over a day and a really hot bath for 30 mins brought it down and he was better from his illness within 24 hours. i don't think it's ok to let your child be hotter then 103 ish for any period of time; plus you have to be careful cause children will potentially have a seizure once they reach 104. i know people its happened to. and yes it was a natural fever. :)

  9. Manda says

    I found this post very informative and helpful… I feel like you put words and reason to something that I kind of knew in my gut and helped me feel reassured about what to do if my little lady gets a fever. Thanks! :)

  10. says

    Being the season that it is I've been doing some reading about fevers and how to treat them. Thankfully ::knocks wood:: we have not had to deal with any fevers yet, but I'm sure it's in our future! I disagree with the frequency with with parents seem to utilize OTC pain relievers for whatever reason. I also agree that fevers are a good thing. I think a lot of parents' fear of fevers are caused by medical professionals and the way they react, which is a whole different post! On the other hand, I'm sure it's very hard to be the parent of a sick/hurting child so I understand why many parents want to give them a dropper-full of OTC (i.e. "safe") meds to help them feel better or sleep. Most times they're just doing what they feel is best. I do wish our society wasn't so fearful of fevers and that they were able to more easily differentiate between low and high grade fevers.

    Oh! And also, I was recently reading about how dosing your child before/after a vax with OTC pain medicine (as a lot of parents AND doctors recommend!) actually can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. I was suprised to read about that because it's nothing I would have realized. Makes me thankful that we aren't fans of OTC pain meds because dosing prior to vaxs has been recommended to me several times.

  11. ModernAMama says

    Stephanie,

    I could write a whole BUNCH of posts on how our society is afraid of all things non-mainstream and how doctors contribute to that. :)

    As for the OTC meds/vaccines, yes, they do reduce effectiveness. But they also can make reactions more likely because Tylenol depletes glutathione, a primary component of immune function. There's a whole host of issues there, really!

  12. says

    I keep hearing how lowering the fever doesn't reduce the fever-causing chemicals that help the body fight infection …. but my own experience says to leave the fever. When I start getting chills (as I did last night, actually) I grab a hot water bottle and snuggle up under some blankets. It NEVER lasts more than 24 hours.

    A question about belladonna — is that homeopathic belladonna (i.e. very dilute)? I hope so because in its regular strength belladonna is a very powerful drug and hallucinogen. I wouldn't give it to a child.

  13. Tiffany says

    You raise some very interesting points and I would love to research this more for myself. I think your post would be even more interesting/informative if you would include some source links or quotes so that the analytically-minded among us can research these points for ourselves. I have no doubt that you have researched these things, but I am myself somewhat of a skeptic and like to research thoroughly before I make a big decision like deciding to quite using Tylenol or not to give my child vaccinations (a topic which I have researched and have found compelling enough that my 16-month-old hasn't had a single shot…)

  14. says

    Great post! My little guy is about 14 months old and we haven't yet had to deal with fevers, but I already knew I would let them run their course so it was great to get some extra info on that. :)

    In regard to the stuff that you mentioned about Tylenol (acetaminophen), I have some questions… What are your thoughts on using acetaminophen for teething pain? Maybe your kids haven't really had much teething pain, but for my son, the teething pain is VERY intense. He usually handles pain pretty well, but teething is very, very hard on him. We usually stick with natural remedies for it…homeopathic Chamomilla, highly diluted clove oil, whiskey…but a couple weeks ago, he was cutting one of his molars and none of those things seem to help at all. He would wake up at night, just screaming in pain and though it was our last resort, infant acetaminophen was the only thing that seemed to help at all and allow him (and us) to get at least a couple hours of sleep. So…any ideas?! I really would love to not have to give him the acetaminophen, but I hate seeing him in such intense pain…plus not being able to sleep. :(

    Thanks so much for any help!

  15. ModernAMama says

    Tiffany,

    There's a link in the comments section on the Tylenol, and I posted to Facebook with a bunch of links on vaccine research. :)

    Jessica,

    Have you tried (homeopathic) belladonna? Chamomilla didn't see to do much for my son, who, at times, is a screaming, inconsolable mess when teething. But a dose of belladonna and he's out. That has made the biggest difference for him. I prefer not to use Tylenol (and don't have any), but I know people who have when absolutely nothing else helped. Although I don't think it's the best solution, there can be a place for medicine when all options have failed. That's the proper place, really — not the first resort that most parents use it for!

  16. jen says

    this is all easy to say when your child has never had a febrile seizure. i prefer to not pass judgement on those who haven't walked in my shoes.

  17. says

    I have always been anti-medicine in normal situations and to me flus and cold come in that range. I had to fight my ex as regards medicating the children for fevers and coughs. I think most parents use these things to make themselves feel better and, sadly, more often so that they can get on with their lives. Even adults medicate themselves so that they can get on with living and working, not realising that they are still sick at work, are putting others at risk of infection and are stressing their own bodies including hearts. Looking after a sick child can be a bonding experience for a parent and in a non-rushed household you will find that other family members make way for such extreme times. One way to lower temps is to place iced faceclothes on the feet. Much better to draw the fever out through the feet than the traditional way of cold compresses on the head. Thanks for bringing this topic out. Cherrie

  18. jill says

    Cherrie, I so agree. People dope up on Nyquil and other types of things so they can act like nothing is wrong. It drives me crazy. I do know that in a lot of cases that if you miss a day at work you will be in trouble or lose your job so some people just have no choice.
    Jan, I don't think anyone here is passing judgement, at least I hope not. It's all so easy to do, and I force myself not to do that. I think most everyone here is agreeable on taking the least interventions possible, and there are those who are learning. It is very frightening when a child is sick. I remember trying to imagine my child with a horrible illness and hoped and prayed it would never happen but knew that it could. I really thought if it did I would lay down and die. I didn't. When my grandson stopped breathing, I let his mom & police officer with the defibrillator handle it, I'd only be in the way. I took care of the phones, turning off the stove and waving down the paramedics. I packed the diaper bag and got my daughter into the ambulance with her baby. When I got the call of my own grown son paralyzed in a hospital I almost shut down, didn't want to dress, drive to the hospital, didn't want to admit it was really happening. Again, I usually only cried in the waiting room or car, but I needed to try to keep everyone sane, taking their shifts at the hospital to keep track of all treatments.
    So, while it is hard for some to imagine it happening, the threat is all too real that at some point, small illness or large, we will be dealing with a profession that won't always understand our point of view.
    I had one nurse accuse me of causing my child pain and that I was a horrible Mom. Just ask my daughter, I kept her off very heavy drugs, and I had to fight for her rights to get rid of IV's, catheters, pitocin etc. We managed her pain quite well, mostly with rest and a very overly good menu.
    Sorry again for being so long winded.

  19. Emma says

    I will suggest amber teething necklaces. They've been super. It might be too early to tell, but both of the kids have been way less irritable today. I haven't given them any tylenol for teething pain, but they seem happy and pain free with the necklaces. Both of them are sleeping better, and the rashy redness on their faces has cleared up. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable difference has been the lack of drooling! No more soaked shirts and bibs! Plus, the necklaces are adorable. I took the kids strolling in the mall today and got many compliments. You can find them here:

    http://www.amber-teething-necklaces.co.uk

  20. Nicola Robertson says

    I will love to know from where you got the information about Tylenol and Motrin are the top two causes of liver failure! I ignored both when I was carrying and everybody thought I am crazy. It will be happy to show your post to them. Thanks for this analytical writing.

  21. jill says

    hi, I'm not sure where the blog author gets her information but on a whim i googled it and actually a ton of things popped up. I picked one on acetaminophien (tylenol) and here's the link.
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/19/should-you-ever-take-tylenol.aspx
    I'm sure when researching this there may be arguments on both sides and each of us has to make a decision for ourselves. I personally will use it off and on but i try to find other methods that will alleviate the problem. The only time I used it in larger proportions, alternating the two every three hours is when the little guy had febrile seizures. Once his fever was controlled to a lower number we tried to just keep it in checck with other fever relieving measures.

  22. says

    I will say the new news that Tylenol may be toxic is so scary, yet there have been no further discussion about alternatives in mainstream medicine. I’m sure I’ll go to my well-visit in a couple of weeks for my one year old and the Dr won’t have an alternative plan if I ask about it.
    There are lots of great suggestions to try, thanks for sharing. I will say that making sure a parent is aware of how quickly a temperature is rising is super important. The seizures that happen when a temp spikes quickly is what we need to be aware of. Once a child has one febrile seizure, they are more at risk for future ones if/when they develop a fever again.

  23. Sarah :) says

    Modern Mama,

    This is a very interesting post (the first time I’ve ever come across this argument), and I am sympathetic, but I wonder: Is there any way that you can truly know that all your natural remedies and letting things alone is what keeps your family from fevers, or could it be that you just genetically have stronger immune systems? I always wonder in situations like this (where it is simply anecdotal evidence – though very convincing evidence – I don’t mean to imply anything negative by saying that, merely that you’re not citing a study).

    I grew up on a farm, and me and my siblings got all our recommended vaccines at the recommended times, but we also drank cistern water, played outside in the dirt, and never used hand sanitizer. I’d say our immune systems were pretty strong. On the other hand, I knew a family growing up with a mom who was definitely interested in natural immune boosting things (I’d describe her as a medium level naturalist, whereas you seem to be a high level naturalist), and her kids purposefully didn’t have all their vaccines, but they were CONSTANTLY getting sick, and having to stay home for weeks at a time while all 11 family members passed the illness around. Also, she had celiac disease (though none of her kids did). Anyway, the only conclusion I could come to was that there was something genetic going on that explained the differences in our families general health. I was just wondering if that had ever occurred to you, or what you thought of that idea. I am all in favor of natural remedies, as opposed to unnatural ones, but at the same time I don’t want to trust my child’s life (potentially) to the anecdotal evidence of some woman I found on the internet, when it turns out it was more due to her family’s genes, and it didn’t help my child at all.

    Just wondering…… ;)

    • Kate Tietje says

      Hi Sarah,

      I have heard several others say the same thing. I even know one mama who experienced very high, long-lasting fevers in her child…until she stopped using conventional medications and switched to natural. Then this issue stopped happening. (Not perfect but much stronger evidence, given that she tried both methods in the same child.) Additionally, my husband and I both were prone to fevers and ear infections as children…my 4-year-old has had only one ear infection in her life, a week ago, and did not require antibiotics. So there’s a definite difference in my children’s health vs. mine and my husband’s as children.

      I’m sure genetics plays a role but it’s not everything. That family you mention, what did they eat? Did they play outside much? There may have been other factors at play too. Simply using natural remedies doesn’t guarantee health, and in fact won’t be very effective if you are eating an unhealthy diet, avoiding the sun, etc.

      Finally, I always encourage everyone to do their own research, and consult with a trusted medical professional when making health decisions for their families. Nobody should just take any advice they read on the internet. This is especially true if there is a serious situation. If your child has a minor cold, sure, look stuff up and try home remedies — colds are not generally a problem. If your child is seriously ill (or you are), you might choose to look on blogs like mine for how others have handled the situation, but you should also consult with a medical professional. Blogs and other internet sources a great place to get someone’s opinion and perspective and start your own research, but they are NOT a substitute for medical advice or using your own judgment.

      • Sarah :) says

        Thanks, I know that genetics aren’t EVERYTHING, I just wonder how much of a role they DO play…. but thank you for your thoughtful response :) I pretty much agree with you, and after linking to your article on facebook my friends seem to agree with you too. Now all I have to do is mention this to our pediatrician…. :D

  24. says

    I generally do not freak out about fevers for my two youngest till about 102.5 or higher… My 6 year old has leukemia so we HAVE to go to ER once it hits 101.5 and Tylenol is generally the only thing we can treat fevers and pain with. :( He in maintenance, so luckily the amount of fevers he gets is drastically reduced. (once every three months rather than once a week!)

  25. Veronica says

    Hi there Mama!

    I am sooo encouraged by your post! I am very much in favour of getting well the “natural way”!!! All four thumbs up! :) Raw garlic – INCREDIBLE!! And so are raw onions, lemons and ginger root!!

    I do have a little 15-month-old girl, and I’m sure you can imagine how tough it is to try to get some raw garlic, onions, or even lemon juice with honey into her system. So I was wondering – how would you treat the flu with your little ones? Do you have any suggestions? Ideas? How did you strengthen your kids’ immune system when they were that young? (and you saw they were coming down with the flu, or an ear infection).

    Thank you so much!!!
    Blessings!!!!

  26. cia parker says

    The Waldorf approach to fevers is to not reduce them with either antipyretic drugs like Tylenol or by sponging or giving cool baths. As long as the calves of the legs are cool, which they will be as long as the fever is needed, you should just keep the patient in bed and allow him to pull the covers up or down as needed, and keep him well-hydrated. Once the fever has done its job and is ready to disperse, the calves of the legs will feel warm, and then you can soak cloths in tepid water which has had a lemon squeezed into it, and wrap them around the calves of the legs. This really will lower the temperature, I remember its lowering my daughter’s temperature by two degrees when I did it!

  27. Rochelle says

    Are fevers ok In newborns as well? At what age would you allow to naturally treat a fever? I’ve read and heard that fevers in newborns are dangerous?

    • says

      Rochelle… babies less than 3 mo. old are NOT supposed to get fevers. If so, you need to call the doctor. If they’re over 3 months it would depend on the situation. If I had older kids who were sick with colds or we’d been around people sick with colds, then I wouldn’t worry so much, but if everyone was healthy and my 5 mo. old developed a fever, I’d be more concerned. I’d do everything I could to keep them drinking, comfortable, and definitely keeping an eye on their fever…. how hot, how fast it was climbing, any signs of dehydration or weakness. Call the doctor if you’re unsure. When they’re tiny, it’s better to be safe especially if you’re uncomfortable with natural treatment.

  28. says

    I love fevers! Seriously. It’s one of those things every single parent will experience, and it’s a great starting point for using natural medicines like herbs to help the body do it’s job. There are actually stages of a fever. Knowing what they are and why your body is going through each of them is a the best way to work with your kids body and help it do what it was made to do.

    First you’ve got the warming stage where the body is heating up. Most people feel cold here so help them stay warm. This is the time to to drink hot teas with stimulating herbs such as ginger or cinnamon. It’s also time to focus on boosting their immune system so it can work to rid the body of the cause of the fever. Using herbs like Echinacea and Yarrow are great starts.

    Next you’ve got the hot stage where the body is hot and has leveled off at a certain degree. This is when your kiddo will feel restless and no good. This is when comfort measures come into play. You don’t want to really bring their fever all the way down to make them comfortable (which is what meds do), but you can bring it down some if they’re really miserable. Elderflowers and Boneset are great herbs for teas and tinctures to help. There are also home rememdies like apple cider vinegar, egg whites, etc. that can help too. Just make sure they still have a fever. That’s the point.

    Then you’ve got the breaking point stage. This is after the fever has done it’s job and the body is trying to slowly come back to normal. This is when your kid is hot one minute then cold the next, and this is the easiest time for a child to get dehydrated because they sweat a lot here. Make sure they drink small sips of room temp. fluids continuously.

    Lastly you’ve got the recovery stage where their body is trying to get back to normal. It’s healing and repairing itself. This is where good nutrition slowly comes back into play and lots of rest!

    Hope that helps show you how to work with your child’s fever at the different stages. Most of these stages are very recognizable. All you need to do is have your herbs on hand, and you’re all set!!

  29. Petra says

    I agree that people are often far to fast to turn to meds to reduce fevers and in fact just after reading this I turned to a mainstream doctors advice site, which also warned physicians that fevers are the bodys natural way of fighting off infections. In fact, the think the main perpetrator of over using fever reducing meds is parents who simply want their kids to go to sleep, rather than be kept up by a fever, and who do not think of the reason the fever exists. However in the category of vaccines I have to say that you should DEFINITELY vaccinate your child. While vaccines can cause problems, they are the main way that humans have been able to eradicate many previously life threatening diseases. In fact, smallpox, the only disease we have fully eradicated, was able to be erased by a huge support of the vaccination. In general, if you worry about the vaccinations, keep a close eye on your child after, and talk to a doctor about any concerns, letting them treat any side effect, but give your child the vaccine. Precaution is crucial.



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