Why I Don’t Lower Fevers: Part Three

If you missed them, here are part one (why we aren’t afraid of fevers) and part two (why we think fevers are a good thing) in the fever series.

When our first daughter was born almost five years ago, we considered baby Motrin and baby Tylenol to be gifts straight from heaven! She wasn’t a bad teether, but she was always miserable after getting vaccines, so we followed the advice of the pediatricians and just kept her dosed with alternating Motrin and Tylenol for a few days. I shiver just thinking about it, now. These days, we don’t even have fever reducers in the house. Curious? Here’s what changed our minds.

Acetaminophen (The active ingredient in Tylenol)

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has long been advertised and a safe and gentle way to lower fevers. Even obstetricians will tell pregnant mamas that it is “safe” to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Parents are told that it is safe and gentle enough to give to the youngest of babies.

The question is, is it really so “safe and gentle”? My research convinced me that it isn’t. Although it is “well-tolerated in general”, that simply means that most people don’t have life-threatening side effects and/or the side effects they do have are not all reported. Here are the ones that have been proven to be caused by Tylenol.

Common Side Effects of Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

  • nausea/vomiting
  • muscle spasms
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • anxiety
  • insomnia

Less Common, More Dangerous Side Effects

  • Liver damage
  • Allergic reaction (throat/face swelling, difficulty breathing, hives)
  • Decreased blood platelets (thrombocytopenia)
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (acute pancreatitis)
  • Kidney failure
  • Death of the cells in the tubes that transport the urine from the kidneys to the bladder (acute tubular necrosis)
  • Breathlessness (dyspnea) and at least one case of acetaminophen-induced pneumonia
  • Skin rashes
  • Skin/tissue hemorrhage and necrosis (massive bleeding and tissue death- purpura fulminans)
  • Skin blisters (bullous erythema)
  • Blood pressure spikes and drops
  • (Source for above)

Pregnancy/Breastfeeding Warnings

  • Tests for safety during pregnancy have not been done (it is not legal in our country to test drugs on pregnant women) and there have not even been any animal tests done. It is unknown what effect acetaminophen has on the baby, but doctors have declared it to be “safe” because there is no proof that it isn’t. They have not seen conclusive proof that acetaminophen use during pregnancy causes “major” birth defects, so we are told is is “safe”. That doesn’t get my vote of confidence. (source)
  • Acetaminophen is found in breastmilk, but the amount is so small that it has been declared to be “safe” in spite of babies reacting to it. (source)

Ibuprofen (The active ingredient in Motrin and Advil)

Common Side Effects of Ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil)

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas
  • gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers
  • increased blood pressure
  • blurred vision
  • ringing ears

Less Common, More Serious Side Effects

  • allergic reaction (facial/throat swelling, difficulty breathing, hives)
  • gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • fatal ibuprofen-induced hepatitis (swelling/inflammation of the liver)
  • vanishing bile duct syndrome
  • jaundice
  • liver failure
  • decreased kidney function/kidney failure
  • edema
  • aseptic meningitis (not caused by bacteria)
  • destruction of red blood cells, causing kidney injury (hemolytic uremic syndrome)
  • abnormalities in blood (platelet dysfunction, neutropenia, agranulocytosis, aplastic anemia, hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, eosinophilia, and decreases in hemoglobin and hematocrit)
  • fluid in the lungs, preventing oxygen absorption (noncardiogenic pulmonary edema)
  • psychiatric reactions
  • (source for above)

Pregnancy/Breastfeeding Warnings

  • they think taking ibuprofen during pregnancy might cause an abnormality in the baby’s artery
  • prolonged labor and delivery have been noticed in women who used ibuprofen during pregnancy
  • animals given ibuprofen while pregnant have had less babies survive
  • there have been no studies on the amounts of ibuprofen in breastmilk or the possible damage done to a baby
  • (source for above)

These are real things that have happened to real people, just like us. Most of them had taken these drugs before without any noticeable problems. We all tend to think that “uncommon” side effects will happen to somebody else, not our own child, but the facts are that somebody will have those horrible reactions. Lowering a fever for a few hours isn’t worth the damage that could be done to my children’s bodies.

I’d much rather allow the fever to do it’s job or, if the child absolutely cannot sleep, use gentle herbs to lower the fever a bit. The next post in the series will go over non-toxic and gentle herbs that can be used to lower a fever without drugs.

More posts in this series

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25 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Lower Fevers: Part Three

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Jill! It makes me cringe to think about all the times I used to pop a motrin pill for sinus headaches. I would refill my little “pill bottle” in my purse, weekly! Now that I quit taking it, I hardly ever get headaches… hmm… 😉

  1. Chris Wheeler says:

    Thanks Justyn. This is a real eye-opener. I had already reduced the amount of motrin I was taking. Now that I know these facts, I’ll stop using it altogether.

  2. Melissa says:

    I am very interested in the herbs that bring down fevers naturally. I never bothered with fevers (as in reducing them) until my son had a seizure because his fever rose too quickly. My next 2 sons experienced the same thing. Now I usually give my daughter (my sons are now older) a fever-reducer when she goes to bed as prevention from another seizure. I’d much rather use herbs.

  3. Oh please come share Part 3 wth us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! I have been waiting for it. I have been wanting to do a “special feature” with all three partshttp://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/melt-my-heart-eco-kids-tuesday.html

  4. Ugh – just reading the ingredient label creeps me out – and that’s all the junk they’ve ADDED, not even the acetaminophen or ibuprofen itself!

    We did give my daughter acetaminophen for a few days after a febrile seizure a couple months ago, as I mentioned on one of your earlier posts. Do you know if it’s safe to give a toddler something like milk thistle or dandelion tea to help her liver detox (now that she’s not sick anymore)?

  5. I really do not think that this issue can be talked about enough! We do not give our children fever reducers either. Family freaks out about it, but our kids have always been fine. Thank you for linking up with us at Tending The Home Tuesdays!

    • Thanks for the comment and for hosting the link-up, Lindsey! I’m glad to be able to get this information out there. I know that it never occurred to me to question the safety of these drugs when I was a new mama. 🙂

  6. This was excellent!! Thanks for the research you did in order to write this. Now I know all the reasons why I have always been very, very slow in taking Tylenol!!

    Oh, and I linked up after you over at Simply Better. I enjoyed my visit with you today.

  7. I don’t use any fever reducers either. I do like homeopathy for fever – belladona and gelsenium can be very helpful depending on the exact symptoms.
    Thanks for posting at Wildcrafting Wednesday.
    Jennifer at The Entwife’s Journal

    • Fantastic blog name!!! Love it! 🙂

      That’s good to know. I’m pretty unfamiliar with homeopathic, but I will be posting about some herbs that we use that can lower fevers.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  8. Amanda says:

    Also to be noted is that acetaminophen is pointed to as a cause for depleting glutathione in the body. Glutathione is vital to the body for many things including detoxing. Depletion can cause mitochondrial dysfunction. When used in conjunction with inflammation, vaccines, and teething (which opens the blood-brain barrier), acetaminophen is a recipe for disaster for some children. Many mothers and fathers in the autism community can attest to this.

  9. We let a fever run it’s course as well although, I HAVE treated it when my daughter became so sick I felt I had no choice. Her fever was up over 106 (106.3) and we did have to give her motrin to bring it down when herbs were not helping. She had scarlet fever and the flu at the same time. Otherwise, we let fevers run their course.

    • Poor thing!! That does sound like a pretty extreme situation. I imagine she was having a hard time staying hydrated, too. Thanks for the comment, Kristin! 🙂

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