My daughter shattered my momfidence (that's mom confidence for those of you don't speak Emily) for treating fevers holistically at a young age. It wasn't her fault, she was diagnosed with Vesicoureteral Reflux around the time of her first birthday which caused her to have frequent urinary tract infections. Unfortunately, due to her young age, we typically never knew when she even had an infection until she spiked a very high fever and became very listless, sometimes all in a matter of a few hours. On one of those occasions she seemed particularly ill. By the time we were able to be seen by her pediatrician her fever was hovering around 102-103 degrees Fahrenheit and we couldn't bring it down. By the time the nurse took us back to the room to be seen, she was on fire. 106. The fever was climbing, and it was climbing fast. The nurse assured us the doctor would be in to see us shortly as she walked out of the room. Just then, my daughter looked up at me and proceeded to have a febrile seizure in my arms. It was the single most terrifying experience I'd ever had as a mother. After her episode I learned things like; the seizure occurred not because her fever was so high, but because it rose so rapidly (due to the infection), that febrile seizure's are actually pretty common and rarely dangerous or an indication of any seizure disorder or anything more serious, and that there is very little chance for any lasting effects or damage caused by the seizure... But that didn't matter, 'cause that shit was scary. And my momfidence? Shot.
The reason I bring this up today, is that I recently tuned into a fantastic podcast from Dr. Aviva Romm called, "Who's Afraid of Fever in Kids?"
Ummmm... ME. Right here, down in front.
And I know I'm not alone, as fevers are cited as one of the top conditions parents fear. So, while I'm really encouraging you to listen to the podcast in it's entirety (just click the hyperlink in the title above), below are some of my biggest takeaways from the interview.
First, fever is actually beneficial, and not harmful, in almost ALL cases. Fevers are not inherently dangerous. The body creates fever for a reason. When your temperature goes up, the body mounts an inflammatory response which fights bacteria, viruses, and other infections. Fever also activates white blood cells, antibodies, and other mechanisms to fight infection.
So, when should you call the doctor?
Most fevers are due to minor and self limiting infections or very minor bacterial infections. So things like cough, cold, viral sore throat, even many ear infections actually don't need medical treatment.
However, some exceptions to this and when you SHOULD call your doc or seek medical treatment would be:
- If your child has a fever for over 24 hours and no other symptoms (fear of UTI)
- Under 6 months old with high fever (over 103.5)
- Under 3 months old with any fever
- If your child has a stiff neck, headache, or can't stop vomiting
- If your child will not take fluids
- If your child is experiencing any severe pain
- If the fever is recurring (lasting more than 7 days)
You may also want to check out CDC Get Smart. There you can find guidelines for when antibiotics are appropriate for some common illnesses in kids.
So if you're not heading to the doctor, what are some things you can do before administering Ibuprofen or Tylenol to provide some comfort to your child? After all, Ibuprofen and Tylenol can have plenty of risks and implications of their own.
Avoid sugary foods, dairy, and starchy foods. Keep it light, keep it simple. They may not have much of an appetite anyhow.
Give your child regular sips of fluids. Water, fresh vegetable juice, homemade ice pops, herbal teas, etc.
Some fantastic herbs for fever include catnip, chamomile, and lemon balm. They are all pleasant tasting, soothing, and do bring fevers down a tiny bit, although not like Ibuprofen or Tylenol. They are very relaxing and can even soothe tummy aches and mild headaches. You can make teas out of them or take them in the form of glycerites or tinctures.
Ginger is another great herb to use for illness. It's antiviral, antibacterial, and great for soothing tummy aches and breaking up mucus and congestion. You can pick some up at your local grocer, or you can also visit Herb Pharm or Gaia Herbs to order all these herbs in tincture or glycerite form online. They will have dosage instructions right on the packaging based on the age/weight. Bulk herbs can be purchased through Mountain Rose Herbs for teas.
As moms, we're always just trying to do the very best things for our children. So don't be afraid to trust that momma intuition. If you are anxious or scared, or just feel like you need some reassurance or support, call your doctor. Everyone is on a different spectrum when it comes to feeling comfortable treating symptoms at home, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Hopefully this information provides you with some extra momfidence the next time you are faced with a fever. Once again, I encourage to listen to the podcast in its entirety. I wish I'd heard it years ago!
P.S. I am not a medical doctor. Information provided through this blog has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to take the place of your own primary care physician.