It’s true. When we get sick, none of us use fever reducers. Not even for the baby. Sound crazy and dangerous? Read on, my friend! 😉
*Note: This post is in reference to our average, generally healthy family. It is about what we choose and why- it may not apply to all people in all situations. Please read the entire post before commenting, specifically, the final point.*
Will a Fever Hurt Me/My Child?
A rise in temperature requires medical attention when:
- It is caused by over-heating known as “heat-stroke”. I had heat-stroke as a teen and, although no brain damage was caused, I have been unable to tolerate extremely humid and hot weather since then. If I had been treated, it is possible I wouldn’t have had long-term consequences.
- If it is caused by poisoning. If a child ingests an unknown or dangerous substance, contact poison control immediately. Toxic substances can cause a fever.
What about brain damage??
- Brain damage is not a real concern until the temperature rises over at least 107.6 degrees.
- The human body doesn’t raise it’s temperature above 105 to 106 degrees in response to a virus or bacteria (source).
What about febrile seizures??
- Febrile seizures are not caused by high fevers, they are caused by a rapid rise in temperature.
- Febrile seizures are considered by most doctors to be harmless, though they can be scary.
- They do not cause brain damage.
- An especially long febrile seizure (over an hour) is cause for an evaluation by a neurologist, but seldom indicates predisposition to other types of seizure.
- If a child stops breathing during the seizure (or at any time), this can be dangerous and may require emergency medical help. (This is an update for some people who apparently thought I was saying not breathing isn’t an emergency. 😉 )
- Learn more here.
What about a high temperature indicating a serious illness?
- A high fever does not necessarily indicate serious illness. I’ve had a fever over 103 for nothing more than a cold.
- A lack of a fever does not mean a child is healthy. Consider the other symptoms. If a child is non-responsive or has bloody diarrhea but has no fever, call the doc! I had pneumonia (I was coughing up blood every few minutes!) with absolutely no fever at all.
What about dehydration?
- Yes, yes, yes! Finally there is something to be concerned about! 😉 Dehydration, especially in babies or very young children, can be extremely dangerous.
- A few easy ways to check for dehydration are:
- Pull back the lower lip and see how moist the mouth is. If it’s slick and wet, you’re good. If it’s a bit gummy, push those fluids. If it’s very gummy and dry, call the doc if you can’t get the child to drink.
- Monitor wet diapers/bathroom breaks. If the child is urinating infrequently and the urine is dark, that’s dehydration.
- No tears or sweat. A lack of tears when crying is pretty serious and probably warrants a call to the doc. If a child has very dry skin and is refusing liquids, this could be dehydration, so check inside the lower lip.
- Confusion, disorientation or non-responsiveness. Call the doc! These are serious and rehydration will probably require a saline IV.
- Keeping hydrated, rather than trying to remedy dehydration, is the best thing. Here are our favorite ways to get liquids into a child with a high fever.
- Coconut water: This is God’s original hydration drink! It’s full of electrolytes and has a mild flavor. Mix it with a bit of organic apple juice or some fresh lemon juice with honey.
- Broth: Full of nutrients, put some slightly warm broth in a sippy cup and stir in several good pinches of Celtic sea salt. The unrefined salt will help the liquid be properly absorbed.
- High-liquid foods: Try apple sauce, organic “jello”, yogurt, soup (pureed?) and other foods with a high water content.
What about very young babies or immune-compromised people?
- Very young babies: You may want to have the baby checked by a doc, but make sure that it is a doctor who will not over-react and medicate “just to be on the safe side”. And remember that you are asking for their medical opinion, you are not handing over the reigns of decision-making to them. You are the parent and you get to choose what medical advice to take and what advice to decline. Unless they can give me a very good medical reason to lower a fever, I’ll just let it do it’s thing.
- Immune-compromised individuals and those with serious chronic health issues have so much going on in their bodies that it’s not possible to give a simple answer to such a complex question. As with an infant, I would recommend making sure that you have a naturally-minded doctor who will not over-medicate. If they can’t give you a good medically-based reason to give drugs, seek a second opinion or simply decline their advice, depending on the situation. If there is a legitimate medical reason to control the fever (for example, being epileptic or having previous brain damage) ask a naturally-minded doctor for the most gentle option possible. (You can see a few examples of people with serious health issues that might require fever-reduction in the comments, below).