Your whole you, Fever
You feel warm and achy…
Do you become concerned and reach for an over-the-counter fever reducer to take right away to make yourself more comfortable? That isn’t your only option, and I believe there are healthier ways to respond. When you lower your temperature with acetaminophen or other fever reducers, you override your body’s inner wisdom that keeps you in balance.
A fever is a symptom, not a disease and, is not something to eliminate. Rather, it is a helpful and necessary part of the healing process of an acute illness, such as flu or other viral illness, urinary tract infection, or ear infection. A calm attitude towards fever and illness can serve you well on your road to recovery.
When you let your fever run its course, you will most likely recover more quickly and completely.
A fever (oral temperature >99.4F) is an increase in your body’s temperature, which sets the natural immune response process in motion. It initiates the rapid production of bacteria-eating white blood cells and the destruction of virus-containing cells. Higher body temperatures stimulate a decrease of certain minerals (iron, zinc, copper) in the blood that are needed for bacterial replication. Other body processes are altered, as well:
- your heart beats faster, carrying blood more quickly to your organs
- respiration and metabolism speed up, boosting oxygen intake and consumption
- other immune mediators increase and become more protective
- your body perspires, helping it to cool you, naturally
- your body alters its metabolism to starve bacteria, which naturally creates a lack of appetite for you
- a feverish body aches to encourage your physically slowing down and resting, allowing your body time and energy to heal
Again, letting a fever run its course will increase the likelihood that you will recover more quickly and completely.
Fever makes the immune system more physiologically efficient.
Most immunocompetent (ability to develop an immune response) adults and children (not necessarily infants) can run a fever of up to 103°F for a few days with no danger, as long as they remain adequately hydrated. The brain has an internal regulatory mechanism preventing normal fevers from getting higher than 105 or 106 degrees. Impaired temperature regulation can allow the body to rise to 105 degrees or higher, possibly indicating the presence of a more serious underlying condition (bacterial infection, brain tumor or heatstroke, for example) which requires immediate medical attention.
In caring for yourself when you have a fever, the goal is to minimize discomfort and help the fever achieve healing, not to focus on lowering the fever itself. One or more of the following therapies may be utilized.
- Sponge down your body with tepid (not cold) water if the fever goes above 103°F: expose and sponge one limb at a time until it feels cool to the touch. Dry and replace it under the covers before going on to the next limb. This helps the temperature drop 1 to 2°F and can be repeated as needed. Using water that is too cold may cause chilling. Discontinue treatment if this occurs and re-warm your body.
- Sponging your face and forehead alone can also give relief. A feverish, but not desperately ill, body can occasionally be immersed in a tepid bath to reduce a fever. Keep a hot, feverish person cool, and a chilly feverish person (one who feels cold to the touch and shivers) warm.
- Make sure to get plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (water, diluted fruit juice, real fruit popsicles, etc.) and rest with minimal stimulation
- A dark room, soft music, or listening to a book being read contributes to a restful environment.
- Only fluids or very easily digested foods should be consumed by a person with an elevated temperature. The body needs to focus energy on the immune system, not digestion.
Homeopathy can provide comfort and assist in the process of fever. Your family’s naturopathic doctor or homeopathic practitioner is an invaluable resource for guiding the remedy choice. Prescriptions are based upon the total symptom picture (onset, mood, temperature, thirst level, what makes you feel better or worse). In these times of strong viral infections, message me to schedule a visit ASAP if you begin running a fever.
I would hope that you feel empowered to support yourself through sickness, but be mindful of calling your doctor, especially in cases of serious illness (see bullet points below).
There are times when fever, sometimes in combination with other symptoms, should initiate an immediate call to your doctor. General accepted guidelines include:
- Rectal temperature of > 100.4°F (in infants under 3 months)
- Temperature > 101°F (in infants 3 to 6 months)
- Fever of 3+ days long (in children older than 6 months)
- Temperature > 103°F (in children 3 months to 2 years; adults)
- True lethargy (limp, unresponsive, looks/acts very sick)
- High fever accompanied by any meningitis symptoms: strange rash, bad headache, stiff or painful neck, light sensitivity
The bottom line in fever response and in dis-ease, in general, is that bodies are designed to achieve equilibrium and naturally rebalance themselves when challenged.
Trust in your body’s wisdom!
Allowing a fever to run its course can be the best option for acute illness and future immune health!