4 ways to support a fever
Somewhere along the line, fever has become a dirty word. People get a fever and do all sorts of things to suppress it as if it is a bad thing. But fever is our body’s natural immune response that fights infection. When we suppress it, we shackle our immune system making it more difficult to defend against attackers. This was well illustrated in a study published in the Journal of Surgical Infections, Volume 6, Number 4, 2005.
82 critically ill patients were randomized into two groups. Tne group was given acetamenophen every 6 hours to keep fever below 101.3°F. The other group was treated only if their fever went over 104°F. The researchers found that the group that had their fevers reduced experienced 35% more infections (131 compared to 85) and had 600% more deaths ( 7 compared to 1). Because of the huge number of deaths and the increase infection by reducing fever, the researchers stopped the study as they felt it was irresponsible to continue.
Let’s talk for a minute about the dangers of fever because there are some scary things about it. The scariest of all being febrile seizures. Febrile seizures (seizures that occur only during a fever) are most common in toddlers 6 months – 5 years old primarily because their nervous systems are still developing. Rarely do febrile seizures occur past 5 years and they are virtually unheard of over the age of 8. A common myth is that they occur due to high fever, but it has been found that it is the rapid rise of temperature that triggers a febrile seizure.
Although they are horrific to watch, they are not dangerous and do not cause epilepsy. In fact, studies show that children who have had febrile seizures tend to be more intelligent than those who have not. They also tend to run in families so if Uncle Ed had them as a child, keep an eye on your children.
High fevers also tend to scare people as they think a high fever will cause brain damage. This is true but only once fevers reach 107.6°F or higher. This is very rare and usually only happens in instances of brain injury as fevers from infection generally don’t go above 105°F.
Although fevers aren’t dangerous and are actually helpful, let’s face it, they aren’t very comfortable. Fevers give you chills and make you feel achy. You’re irritable and sleepy and just want to go to bed. If you just go with it and support the fever, you’ll get better faster while giving your immune system a bit of a workout so it can better protect you the next time around.
To support a fever and get over the flu faster do the following.
Don’t lower the fever with drugs – You can safely get a temperature of 105°F. I know this is uncomfortable and will really suck, but it will only suck for a short time. If you want to bake a cake, will it bake faster at 350°F than 175°F? At 350°F of course. Taking antipyretics (fever lowering drugs) will make you feel better, but you’ll be sicker longer than if you let the fever run its course. Taking antipyretics often enough will eventually squelch your ability to even mount a fever leaving you with one less defense to fight disease.
Take a HOT bath – if your fever hovers around 101°F and won’t seem to go higher, take a hot bath. Sitting in a hot bath for 20 minutes drinking a cup of hot ginger tea will raise your body temperature, support a fever and help you get better faster. Put a cold cloth on your forehead to keep your head cool. Another alternative is to merely sit in the hot tub and then crawl in bed!
Sleep bundled up – usually when you have a fever you could sleep forever and are hot to the touch but feel freezing cold. This is no accident. The body communicates what it needs you to do. When you have the flu, it needs energy to fight the virus. Therefore, it sends you to bed so you’re not expending energy and it makes you feel cold so you will bundle up. By being in harmony with your body’s needs, s you are support its ability to fight disease.
Starve a fever – At a temperature of 99.5°F your digestive system begins to shut down so that the energy expended for digestion can move toward fighting disease. When you have a fever, you normally don’t feel hungry anyway but sometimes we’ll think we need to eat anyway. Don’t. Make sure you get plenty of liquids like tea or broth (no sugary drinks though) so you don’t dehydrate and leave the food for when your fever goes away.
Ultimately, your body knows best so do what’s best for your body and honor your fever.
Dr. Cheri King ND
Dr. Cheri King is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Oregon. She attended National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR where she graduated with honors in research for her work investigating detoxification diets.
She is a cofounder of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association, and received the Jim Lemkin World in Balance award for achievement in applying holistic healing principles in her own life as well as the lives of others. She also received the David Family Award scholarship and the Founders merit scholarship for outstanding performance.
She teaches nutrition and wellness at the Community College of Denver and sees patients at her private practice, Colorado Natural Health Center, in Louisville, CO.
For more information about Dr. King go to www.coloradonaturalhealthcenter.com