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It’s hard to watch when our loved ones suffer from a high temperature. Many have sent emails and asked in my Facebook group, “Should you let a fever run its course in young children?” While we can all agree on plenty of fluids, I’m not quick to use over-the-counter medications to reduce it. Some pediatricians suggest that you let the fever go during flu season.
Fear-mongering is not something I want to do. Fever phobia and other misconceptions are also things I avoid. My family has been able to fight off illness faster and prevent repeated infections with my home remedies over the years. So, let’s look at what causes a fever and when to seek medical attention before looking at natural remedies for fever.
[Note: I am not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional and do not play one online. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.]
What Causes Fever?
Fever is an illness or natural response that causes the body to raise its temperature. Fever is an indication that your body is fighting off infection. It is normal for the body to raise its temperature. We should let this natural immune system response continue in most cases.
Fever can be caused either by a viral or bacterial illness. In rare cases, it may also be caused by heatstroke, poisoning, environmental toxins or malfunctioning hypothalamus. A simple viral infection can cause fever, which will usually disappear as the body heals. However, there are some exceptions. More on this later.
When is a child’s fever too high?
Despite what seems like popular belief, in most cases, a low-grade fever less than 103°F will not cause brain damage, and a fever stemming from an infection will usually not go above this unless other factors (hot environment, etc.) are present.
Many times, the illness, and not the fever, causes brain damage or other health problems in people who have suffered from illness. The Natural Institutes of Health and the U.S. Library of Natural Medicine states a fever less than 107°F is unlikely to cause brain damage or other problems unless accompanied by more severe symptoms. (Although I don’t like letting them go this high and have never had a child’s fever anywhere near this high).
Fevers that are high enough to cause febrile seizure do not necessarily indicate a serious problem. Most febrile seizures pass quickly and don’t cause permanent damage. They aren’t a symptom of epilepsy.
The book is highly recommended. How to raise a healthy child without the help of your doctorFor a detailed explanation of the dangers and benefits of fever, see this article.
If one of my family members has a fever less than 103-104°F that I know is not the result of poisoning, severe bacterial infection, heatstroke, or toxins, I find it best to wait it out. However, I will keep an eye on the person and make home remedies to improve their comfort.
This is my preference in this particular situation. While I’ve never found temperatures at this point or lower to be harmful, it is always important to do your research and talk to a medical professional if you feel the situation warrants it. In my experience, most fevers from illness hover in the 101-103°F range and are an effective part of the immune system’s response to infection, like making antibodies.
Should You Let Fever Take Control?
A fever should not be reduced for several reasons. Since fever is part of the body’s natural way of fighting illness or infection, reducing the fever can make the illness last longer, as it lets the virus live for a longer time.
OTC conventional fever remedies, also known as antipyretics may cause more harm than good. Motrin (the most commonly given medication to reduce fever and body temperature in children) can have side effects and even cause organ damage. Tylenol, Motrin, Tylenol, and Advil can cause liver damage or bleeding in the digestive tract if taken regularly.
Antipyretics and other medications are also foreign substances that the body must process and filter. This takes energy that the body could have been using to fight the disease.
A fever is uncomfortable and can cause discomfort. However, home remedies can be used to soothe the patient. It is possible to relieve body aches and discomforts with the same medication that reduces fever. While certainly, medical intervention and pyretic medicine are absolutely warranted at times, they aren’t my first line of defense for a mild fever or common cold.
When should I take my child to The ER if they have a fever?
A fever is usually a normal and healthy immune response that we should let run its course. However, there may be exceptions. While I let most illnesses run their course in our home, I don’t hesitate to seek medical help immediately if the situation warrants it.
The need to talk to get medical advice quickly in cases like this is one of the many reasons why I’ve used telemedicine services where I can speak with a doctor online quickly. Of course, it doesn’t always replace going to a local doctor or even the emergency room, but it is a helpful first step in evaluating a situation.
When should you visit the doctor?
These are generally the times I go to the doctor if my child has a fever. Still, a parent’s intuition/research and conversation with your healthcare provider are essential for determining when a fever is severe. When:
- If a child is less than three months old, he or she has a fever of more than 100.4 Symptoms that are serious
- A fever above 104 degrees? This can indicate a more serious infection or poisoning.
- Fever lasting more than 2 consecutive days
- Other symptoms include stiff neck, listlessness or sensitivity to light.
- A person cannot eat for more than 30 minutes or is showing signs of dehydration.
- Refusal of drinking water
- Trouble breathing, shortness or other signs of respiratory distress should be sought immediate medical attention.
- The person has been exposed toxins or poisons which may have contributed to the fever.
- My mother’s intuition says there is something more serious going on, even if the child appears fine
Naturally, I am a mom and not a doctor. The above guidelines are mine. You will want to come up with your own together with your doctor’s advice.
Natural Remedies to Fever
While I try to avoid unnecessary over-the-counter medications to treat fever, I’m also not in favor of letting an ill person suffer any more than is necessary. There are many home remedies that can be used to ease the pain of those suffering from severe illness. This is how I treat most diseases.
TIP: You can print this version and keep it handy in a cabinet. Even though I am the one to help a family member when they don’t feel well, I’m often not the best at remembering to do these things when I’m sick. This way, my husband can help me remember to do these things when I’m under the weather.
More Wellness Mama
What should you do if a loved one is ill? Do you have any natural remedies to fever? Let us know!
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Fever: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus.
- Leung, A. K., Hon, K. L., & Leung, T. N. (2018). Febrile seizures: an overview. Drugs in context, 7, 212536.
- Geddes L. (2020). The fever paradox. Scientist new (1971)., 246(3277), 39–41.
- Ghanem, C. I., Pérez, M. J., Manautou, J. E., & Mottino, A. D. (2016). Acetaminophen from liver to brain: New insights into drug pharmacological action and toxicity. Pharmacological research, 109, 119–131.
- Kim, M., Lee, E. J., & Lim, K. M. (2021). Ibuprofen Increases the Hepatotoxicity of Ethanol through Potentiating Oxidative Stress. Therapeutics and biomolecules, 29(2), 205–210.