Nothing is more distressing for a parent than a child with a fever. Keep in mind however that a fever is a normal, natural process used to enhance the bodies healing capabilities. While distressing to observe and to experience, fever is actually a sign that the immune system is working at its best. Common triggers of fever in a child include infection (most common), medication reactions, dehydration, and sometimes teething.
So what is going on when your child has a fever? The process of fever begins with stimulation of White Blood Cells (WBCs).These WBCs release a substance called endogenous pyrogen which stimulates the brain’s hypothalamus to raise the body’s thermostat setting. With a new “normal” temperature now set, the body perceives that it is cold and begins to heat up by increasing its metabolic rate, shivering, or seeking warm environments. Blood flow to the skin is constricted to prevent further heat loss and the skin appears pale. Finally, once body temperature rises to the set temperature, the skin flushes and sweats. Other occurrences are a decreased appetite, lethargy, aches, and fatigue.
Fever generates many actions in the body of a child.First is simply the thermal action of raised body temperatures.Elevated body temperatures do not provide a beneficial environment for bacterial growth and survival.A temperature of 103.1° F is bacteriostatic meaning that it prevents bacteria from replicating.When body temperature reaches 104.9° F bacteria are killed (bacteriolysis).Body cells begin to die at 107.6° F.
Other purposes of fever are thyroid stimulation, an increase in blood circulation, an increase in liver activity, and an increase in interferon production.Thyroid stimulation, increased circulation, and enhanced liver activity all promote the metabolism and elimination of toxins produced as the body fights the infection.Increased interferon promotes the anti-viral and anti-bacterial actions of WBCs.
As you can see, the impact of a fever greatly benefits the child by upregulating all healing mechanisms. Failure to mount a fever or blocking a fever prevents beneficial antibiotic effects, prevents toxins from being metabolized efficiently, and decreased the efficacy of WBCs. Obviously a fever that is too high is also harmful, so watch your child carefully and take steps to lower body temperature to a safe level if necessary. In most cases however, fever in a child is a safe bodily function that needs to be watched carefully and supported however possible.
Because fever can be a distressing process to watch a child go through, the following are some ideas to help support the body as it heals.
Normal temperature: 98.6°F. This can vary based on many things such as recent exercise, consumption of hot foods, hot weather, overbundling, stage of menstrual cycle, or room temperature. Children tend to run slightly higher than adults.
Fever: 99.5-104.5°F. A fever in this range is a normal bodily response. Watch child carefully, keep well hydrated, and do not give food.
Fever of concern: 104.6°F+. Please call your doctor when body temperature goes this high. Hospitalization may need to be considered.
Support during fever:
Crucial to managing fever in children is proper hydration. Water is preferred, although herbal tea may also be used, especially during chill phase. If vomiting or diarrhea also occurs, hydration with rice water is recommended. Rice water can be made by adding 2 cups of water to ¼ cup of brown rice and cooking until rice is fairly soft. Pour off excess water and drink. This is a great source of electrolytes.
No food should be taken during fever.Typically appetite is very low and this should be respected.The body needs to rest from digestion and dealing with foods.
If your child’s fever rises to a level that you are not comfortable with, a tepid bath can be used to bring it down.A tepid bath is a warm bath, not cold and not hot.A cool cloth can be placed on the forehead as needed.
If fever fails to go down or continues to rise despite measures taken to lower it, or if seizures occur, Call 911 and have your child hospitalized.
There are numerous homeopathic medications that can be very helpful. Please pay attention all symptoms your child experiences as these will be needed to prescribe the best remedy. Examples of common symptoms include dilated eyes, one cheek flushed with one cheek pale, sudden onset, a clingy child, a very irritable child, etc. The more specific and complete the easier a remedy may be found.
Finally, take a deep breath and allow the body to go through its process of healing. A child with a fever, though uncomfortable and distressing, is very common but they will be back to normal before you know it.