Fever: A friend or Foe?
We naturally want to help our children, as loving parents, feel better when the inevitable fevers, flu’s, colds and various illnesses arise in childhood. Many will reach for popular over-the-counter remedies to suppress fever and alleviate symptoms in the belief that these products are reliable, effective, and safe.
But how safe are they really? And what are the risks when fever is suppressed and symptoms masked? Does fever have a critical function in fighting sickness that we have lost sight of?
A fever is one of the most extraordinary and complex healing processes in the body. It plays out like a symphony, orchestrated only when needed to stimulate an immune response, destroy invading organisms and promote the restoration of health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics voiced concerns in a 2011 study, concluding that parents need to understand the fever itself is not endangering to a healthy child. In contrast, it's actually beneficial and the primary goal of treatment should be to improve comfort, rather than lowering body temperature alone.
Traditionally, fevers were respected and understood. People knew that the fever would build and then break, like a wave rolling into shore. Now, without knowing or understanding the process, most try to suppress it immediately using antipyretics, or substances that lower temperature, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
Antipyretics may quickly lower temperature, but in doing so they silence the body, hinder immune system development, allow the invader to survive and potentially induce chronic disease development.
A fever is defined by an oral temperature exceeding 38.2° C. They are usually self-limiting and short in duration. There is no evidence of fevers worsening the course of the illness or causing long- term neurological complications. It is important to understand, that the fever itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying disharmony.
Yes, fever can be uncomfortable. A child with a high fever will often seem irritable, lethargic, glassy eyed, and listless. This alerts you that the body is mobilizing defense against disease and you, in turn, must care for your child in the most appropriate way: encouraging rest and fluids. On the other hand, there may be no reason to treat even a high fever if your child seems happy, active and alert.
“Fever phobia” is made worse by hearing myths about children being severely harmed by having a high fever. Many people know of children or adults who had a high fever and ended up with some sort of injury…brain damage or hearing loss. These problems are never caused by fever. The likely explanation is that they had a serious illness that gave them a fever, but it was the illness that caused the brain damage or other result. The fever was only the body’s attempt to fight the infection.
“Doctors do a great disservice to you and your child when they prescribe drugs to reduce fever,” writes Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, pediatrician and author of How to Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor. “Fever phobia is a disease of pediatricians, not parents, and to the extent that parents are victimized by it, doctors are at fault.” Parents are left to fear that their child’s temperature will keep rising unless measures are taken to control it. Yet, reducing the child’s temperature will do nothing to make the child well, and our bodies have a built-in mechanism that will prevent an infection-induced temperature from reaching dangerous levels.
When a child has a fever, it is not necessary to artificially lower the temperature. It is, however, important for the child to take in plenty of fluids, because in this time of elevated body temperature, it is easy to become dehydrated. Water, Broth, Liquid electrolytes and fruit juices are great choices because they replace electrolytes that are used up in the fever process. Rest during times of fever will allow the body to use its energy to fight off infection.
Make a commitment to spend time with your sick child. Any time that you feel concerned about the way your child is acting, or if your instinct is that something is wrong, do not hesitate to call your doctor.
Fever-your Body’s Friend & not Foe!
By:Laurence der Hovsepian