The best way to deal with a child’s fever is to go along with it, instead of cooling it down
Fever is a sensible, rational activity of the body when it’s faced with certain types of stress. It reflects activation of the body’s garbage incinerator, burning up debris and toxic matter that are of no use to the body’s normal functioning, including bacteria, viruses, breakdown products of the body’s metabolism and other extraneous proteins in the bloodstre
In the case of children, fever can serve a very useful purpose. Children are continuously rebuilding and remodelling their bodies as they grow. As with any renovation project, debris results. In anthroposophical medicine, the theory is that childhood illnesses are simply a way of disposing of unwanted cells and tissues, so colds, skin eruptions and fevers are normal expressions of a normal process, and parents may often do damage when they become excessively concerned.
In a column in The New York Times entitled ‘Too many parents are afflicted with fever phobia’, American science author Jane Brody highlighted what the paediatric literature points out, namely that “undue attention to a child’s temperature and mishandling of fevers generate a great deal of unwarranted parental anxiety, avoidable medical complications, and countless calls and costly visits to doctors, clinics, and emergency rooms.”
According to Ms Brody, our natural thermostat is found in the hypothalamus, located deep in the brain just above the brain stem; this is normally set at a range of 97 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 38 degrees Celsius) in infants or young children. When it’s time to turn on the incinerator, the immune system goes into action and pushes the thermostat up. A fever both cooks and starves foreign bacteria, first by turning up the heat to kill it and then lowering levels of iron and other nutrients in the blood that help to feed the bacteria. Reducing fever through drugs or other means can in fact interfere with the body’s own healing mechanism.
Fever itself is acknowledged to be of little consequence; even the dreaded febrile seizures rarely cause injury to a normal brain unless they go on for more than an hour.1 Body temperature almost never goes as high as 107 degrees F (42 degrees C), the point at which brain damage is a possible danger,2 except when the body is prevented from cooling itself off through a restricted fluid intake or air circulation.
One possible danger of fever is dehydration, which can easily be prevented by providing ample water to the feverish person.
Drugs like aspirin and paracetamol work by forcing the hypothalamus to lower the body’s thermostat setting.1 This artificial lowering of body temperature interferes with the immune system’s attempts to raise it. And if the body is intent on having a fever, it will resist having it lowered by a kind of pendulum swing: body makes fever, drug reduces fever, body raises temperature higher and makes fever worse to assert itself.
What’s more, according to Keith Block, MD, a drug may completely shut down this otherwise responsive action to the problem, possibly setting the stage for even more serious illness.
Reye’s syndrome (a potentially fatal illness that affects the brain and liver), increased pressure on the brain, and fatty degeneration of internal organs like the liver are all conditions that can result from giving children aspirin to lower their fever during flu or chickenpox.
Even natural techniques for lowering a fever that don’t have significantly adverse effects, such as cold-water sponge baths, can delay recovery by slowing down the body’s natural healing system.
When my oldest daughter was about seven years old, she developed a fever. As it was summer and rather hot, I tried cooling her and sponging her off, but the fever resisted for about four days, more than the usual one or two days she’d had at other times. She got well, but I kept thinking about it. Then I read Jane Brody’s article where she pointed out that the body should be helped when it wants to have a fever. I remembered that one common way to treat a fever used to be by wrapping patients in blankets to warm them up and speed up the process. Many of my students have told me that their grandmothers used to do just that.
When my youngest developed a fever, I decided to try this new approach. This time, instead of cooling her, I warmed her up by wrapping her in blankets and giving her hot stuff to drink, although I did keep a cold washcloth on her head to keep her brain from overheating. The result
was that she fell asleep, sweated copiously and was finished with her fever in two hours.
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that fever originates in the small intestine, which is on the Fire Meridian. In my experience, fevers in children raised on natural foods or a mostly vegetarian diet generally come from an overconsumption of animal proteins like milk products, chicken and meat. If that’s not the case (as in vegan children), it may be due to exposure to pollutants or chemicals, or perhaps even something strange the child has picked up off the floor.
My first-born daughter once got a fever and indigestion because she drank some overchlorinated water from a pool; the problem passed in a day as soon as the toxic matter worked its way out of her body.
If a fever arises as part of a childhood disease, all the natural ways of handling a fever will still help, and a fever that’s part of a cold or flu is also best treated with natural techniques. But parents should pay attention to fevers that come on after immunization. These are common, as vaccines force foreign proteins into a child’s bloodstream. In these cases the toxic matter or debris has been introduced by injection and not the usual internal/mucous membrane channels, so the reactions may also be stronger.
When that happens, home remedies may not be enough, and it may be best to consult a medical or homeopathic doctor. Also, if a fever lasts more than a day or two, if there are additional symptoms like headaches and neck pain, or if it comes on as a result of another illness, consult a health professional.
The best way to deal with simple childhood fevers is to help the body do its job. I call it the ‘grandmother system’: warm it up and go along with it, instead of cooling it down and going against it.
Here are some simple home remedies and things that will help:
o Don’t offer solid foods, but do offer plenty of fluids, either warm or at room temperature, like chamomile tea, diluted apple juice, water that’s plain or with lemon, or traditional barley water. To make barley water, simmer 2 Tbsp of barley in 1 1/2 cups of water, covered, for an hour, then strain and serve.
o Keep the child warm wrapped up in blankets, while feeding fluids every 15 or 20 minutes. Keep the head cool with a washcloth dipped in cold tap water and wrung out, and change it often. When the child breaks into a sweat, healing is on the way.
o If the child is restless, draw a bath that’s the same temperature as the fever, measured with the same thermometer. Note: 101-102 degrees F (38-39 degrees C) as bath water will feel hot to you but will feel just right to someone with that same body temperature. Put the child in the bath and allow some playing and splashing about for 15-20 minutes. Then wrap the child in bedclothes and put him/her to bed. I’ve done this with my children from when they were eight months old, and it has consistently proved to be one of the most successful fever remedies I’ve ever used.
Ginger kuzu drink
Here’s a recipe to help you or your child process a chest cold more quickly.
1 cup cold water
1 Tbsp kuzu chunks
1 Tbsp shoyu or natural soy sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Add the kuzu to the water and place it over medium heat, stirring all the time (this is important) until it’s thickened and clear.
Add soy sauce, then the ginger, and mix well.
Serve hot. This makes one or two servings, and is best made fresh every time.