Fever: Friend of Foe

Fevers can cause anxiety in most people, especially parents.  There are many misconceptions about fevers and the dangers they cause; but are they truly founded?  I hope to dispel some of those myths and inform you of how to effectively use this amazing “gift” that the human body possesses in order to heal itself!

What exactly is a fever?  Fever is an increase in body temperature above the “normal range”.  But what’s normal for you may not be normal for me.  Our body temperature varies depending on the level of activity and can even fluctuate at different times of the day.  The average range is between 98.6 and 100.4 Fahrenheit (F).  A fever is defined as an early morning temperature greater than 99*F or a temperature greater than 100*F at any time of the day.  FEDF:  Harvard Medical School’s Intelihealth.

What cases a fever?  Viruses, bacteria and parasites, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, diarrhea and urinary tract infections to name a few.

Why is a fever important?  When infectious micro-organisms invade the body it activates an innate immune response. This includes a release of complex mediators like cytokines, pyrogenic molecules, including tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa), interleukin (IL-1B) and interleukin (IL-6).  These signal the hypothalamus, a part of the brain to raise the body’s thermostat, which leads to chills and shivering.  This will increase the metabolic rate, which increases molecules to flood the blood stream in pursuit of the host’s invaders.  The fever will weaken the ability these bacteria and viruses have to reproduce, making an in hospitable environment for the invading organisms to exist.  When our body “turns up the heat” these microbes cannot replicate and will die off.  Talk about an awesome design!  Incidentally, animals will seek out warmer areas to give themselves fevers when they are ill.

Several studies have shown that by suppressing the fever, the body needs a longer time to recover.  In a study of children with chickenpox, acetaminophen prolonged itching and the time to scabbing compared to placebo treatment.  RED:J Pediatr 1989; 114:1045-1048.  And another study of adults found that aspirin and acetaminophen suppressed production of the patient’s antibodies and increased cold symptoms, with a trend toward longer viral shedding and prolonged symptoms.  RED:J Infect Dis 1990; 162:1277-1282.  “Adverse effects of aspirin acetaminophen and ibuprofen on immune function, viral shedding, and clinical status in the rhinovirus-infected volunteers.”

Scientist feel that by allowing fevers to naturally subside actually decreases the risk of developing cancer over the long-term because during a fever the immune system seeks out rogue cancer cells.  (These are single cancer cells that have not grown into tumors or into full blown cancer).  Rogue cancer cells are always present in the body.  It’s our healthy immune system that keeps these cells from taking hold and reproducing out of control.  Fevers actually are supercharging the immune system so that it can destroy these cells at a greater pace than normal.

What to do if you have a fever?  First and foremost; do nothing, meaning don’t rush to the medicine cabinet to get medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and never aspirin in children as that can cause Reye’s Syndrome.

Since the body is “heated up” it will cause dehydration, so encourage sips of water through-out the day.  Something like Knudsen’s Recharge can be helpful because of the electrolytes it contains.  Gatorade also has electrolytes, but it contains other ingredient that are not healthy.  Urinating at least once every eight hours is a good sign the body is hydrated.

Eat only if you are hungry.  The energy normally needed to digest foods will be used to help the immune system to do its job.  Bone broth is very beneficial if you have an appetite.  See recipe below.

Avoid white, refined, sugar.  Sugar can suppress the immune system for hours.

Do not allow the body to get chilled.  Dress warmly.  Eat warm food, drink warm fluids, take a warm bath with Epsom salts, or whatever else will help you to stay comfortable.

Get the bowels moving.  Enemas are a wonderful way to help bring a fever down.  Catnip or garlic tea can be used as an enema solution.  Or, eat fiber rich foods.

Rest!  Sleep, nap, curl-up on the couch.

Vitamin/Herbs:  Cod Liver oil, Echinacea, Elderberry, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, yarrow, peppermint, chamomile, catnip and capsicum.  Yarrow is helpful for serious fevers when taken in the form of a hot tea.

Essential oils can be used topically.  Dilute them in water, then moisten a wash cloth with the aromatic water and gently sponge off the fevered person.  Try essential oils like lavender, Roman Chamomile, Lemon, Jasmine Absolute, Bergamot, Rosemary, Thyme, or Peppermint.

Ginger Baths:  Add two to six tablespoons of powdered ginger, or ginger tea bags to bath water and soak.

Here’s another odd fever buster:  Warm your feet in hot water, then soak a pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out and put them on before going to bed.  Now put a pair of dry wool socks over the wet ones.  By morning the wet socks should be warm and dry and the fever reduced or gone.

When to be concerned:  A big worry for most people is that a high fever will cause brain damage.  According to Dr. Ben Kim this is unfounded:  “A fever cannot cause brain damage unless it reaches 107.6*F, and stays there for an extended period of time.  Since your brain has a built-in thermostat that does not allow your core temperature to rise above 106*F during an infection process, it is virtually impossible to experience brain damage from a fever caused by a bacterial or viral infection.  The majority of fevers don’t ever reach 105*F.  The highest temperature that I have encountered thus far has been 104.5F in a six year old boy who had suffered a hat stroke.

A small percentage of children can sometimes experience short-lived seizures when they have a fever, called a febrile seizure.  These seizures are caused by a rapid increase in body temperature, not by a specific temperature.  There’s no need to worry if your child experiences a febrile seizure, as they end quickly and do not leave after effects.”

There are a few cases of fever where you should seek medical advice:  Babies under the age of eight weeks, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or chronic disease and those that are acting strangely, extremely weak or you are suspicious that something more serious is happening.  This where your intuition comes into play.