Vis Medicatrix Naturae: The Healing Power of Nature
A fever is the body's natural, powerful defense mechanism to a bacteria or virus. The immune system's first line of protection is to increase heat as to destroy the organism, then enhance removal to the major elimination processing centers like the liver, spleen and lymph nodes. Generally speaking, you should not suppress a fever with medications. Not only is this naturopathic philosophy, but scientific studies show that fevers enhance immune response.
An optimal fever is thought to be 102'-104' F (by mouth). This temperature has the most efficient anti-microbial and immune stimulating effects. It is not until fevers of over 105' F do we need to be concerned, and this is primarily in children as they have a bigger risk for febrile seizures. Children tend to spike higher fevers quicker than adults because their vitality and core temperatures are slightly higher.
How do we support a fever?
By encouraging the fever's natural course, of coarse!
1. Rest- stay at home. If you do not let the body put the energy it needs into fighting bugs, you may be setting yourself (and others) up for a longer course of symptoms.
2. Fluids- drink water more than you usually do (which is half your weight in ounces). Electrolytes- in addition to drinking water, add broths to your consumption of liquids for electrolytes. Add garlic and onions to enhance antimicrobial activity.
3. Fast- dont eat if you are not hungry. Let the digestive organs rest.
4. Get warm and sweat it out. A hot bath with hot tea is a great way to encourage an efficient fever.
5. Warming Socks!
What if the fever gets uncomfortably high?
Call your doctor if the temperature is above 104 and not responding to fever-lowering techniques, if your child has a stiff neck or seems seriously ill. (Warning signs: labored breathing, unresponsiveness, stiff neck, headache, or fever in a newborn.)
* A Lukewarm/tepid bath (not cold): Gentle sponge baths work really well, especially for children when a fever raises above 104'F. Keep the child (or adult) wrapped in warm blankets and expose one limb at a time to moisten skin with a cooling sponge. then return to warmth with a blanket and move onto the next limb. Keep repeating this procedure until the fever lowers to a more comfortable level. This can be done for hours. Also be sure to consume lots of water.
Caution with Tylenol (acetaminophen) or aspirin!
Suppressing a fever with medications also suppresses the body's natural defense mechanisms. Aspirin reduces the body's immune modulators which then turn down the heat. It can cause nausea and vomiting, trigger an attack for asthmatics, and even turn UP the heat with overdose. Aspirin can also lead to a dangerous condition called Reye's Syndrome when used in viral conditions (cold sores, chicken pox, the flu, etc). This complication affects many of the body's organs including the liver and brain. If you must, use acetominophen but only with 1-2 doses if necessary.
For more immune supportive treatments or have questions about treating a fever, please contact Dr. Birr to make an appointment.
Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.