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Managing childhood fevers

A must read for every mother who wants to know what to do when their child gets a fever.

It is always worrisome when your child has a fever. Naturopathic medicine offers supportive therapies than can help your child weather the cold and flu. Managing a fever at home is generally fine when the fever is under 102 F, and the source of the infection is obvious, such as an upper respiratory infection. If the fever is of unknown origin, you need to see a physician. Also, any fever in baby less than 3 months old needs to be managed by a physician.

In managing a fever make sure you take an adequate temperature. The easiest for babies and young toddlers it to get an axillary temperature, which means to take the temperature in their armpits. You must add one degree so that it is the same as taking their oral temperature. Keep in mind, an axillary temperature is not the most accurate temperature. However, if the fever is clearly under 101 F then a less accurate measurement may be sufficient. If, on the other hand, the temperature is hovering between 102 to 104 or higher, you need to get a more accurate temperature, either orally or rectally. Any fever over 102 F is best managed with your physician.

Once you get a proper temperature, and it is below 102 F, and you know it is from a cold or flu, then you can manage this at home. You don’t necessarily want to give Tylenol, because a fever is the body’s way of fighting an infection. A fever kills the virus and bacteria, and raises the activity of the body’s defenses, the white blood cells. Ideally you want to support the body in having an efficient fever, and give the body supportive therapies to help naturally kill off the virus and bacteria.

My most recommended tips to getting over a cold and flu in babies and toddlers are:

  1. appropriate hydrotherapy - wet sock treatment or hyperthermia baths
  2. appropriate homeopathic medicines
  3. herbal remedies that are age appropriate
  4. vitamins
  5. adequate rest, hydration and nutrition.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water therapies, or applying water therapeutically. The two applications I recommend the most are hyperthermia baths and wet sock treatments. Hyperthermia baths actually serve to elevate the fever even further, and will often cause the fever to break more quickly, sometimes even immediately. This is, again, best for fevers under 101 or 102. A wet sock treatment is fine for any fever and is best applied at night. My handouts are given below.

Homeopathic medicine is very safe and I recommend having an emergency homeopathic kit. The best remedies are individualized. In homeopathy, you don’t have one remedy for fever (there may in fact be 15 remedies for fever) but you are looking at whether the child is clingy, weepy, drowsy, agitated, etc. While the art of homeopathy requires skill, it is still helpful to know the main fever remedies and have them on hand. They work by increasing the body’s ability to fight the infection.

\t-Aconite - sudden onset of fever or chills, then fever, especially after exposure to cold or wind; fearful, extremely thirsty and restless; pupils contracted \t-Belladonna - sudden intense fever, face flushed red, pupils dilated, eyes glassy or bright, dry burning hot \t-Chamomilla - irritable and capricious personality, they want to be carried but then are upset when you carry them, they want their doll, but then throw it down when they get it; this is especially for teething and earaches and they are screaming in pain \t-Gelsemium - droopy drowsy fever, droopy eyelids, very weak and sleepy \t-Pulsatilla - fever with symptoms that constantly change, no pattern, they feel better with open air, they are CLINGY and whiny, eyes are watery \t-Coryzalia - is a common cold remedy \t-Oscillococcinum is a common flu remedy

They come in 30C or 200C potency. I generally use 200C in children and will dissolve 3 to 4 pellets under the tongue every 3 hours. If you unfamiliar with homeopathy, it is a good idea to have a naturopathic physician or experienced homeopathic practitioner to consult with.

Herbal remedy: the main herbal remedy is echinacea. I prefer to buy it in glycerite form or chewable form, not in an alcohol base, as the children generally like the taste. Buy a reputable brand. This is safe for pregnant mothers, babies, and children.

Vitamins: Vit A, C, and D are the main ones I use for colds and flus. Vitamin A is anti-viral, Vitamin C and Vitamin D are for the immune system. More and more studies are coming out on Vitamin D and its use in children and in preventing colds and flus.

Adequate nutrition, hydration and rest. Let them rest. Give them lots of fluids. The main thing you want to prevent is dehydration. Make sure they are urinating or having a wet diaper every 6 hours. Keep them away from fruit juice and sugar. My mother used to give me a jug of orange juice - if only she knew that a glass of orange juice paralyzes the white blood cells for 2 hours. Keep them away from the ice cream, popsicles, and other sugary treats that you may have received in the past when you felt bad. They only feed the bacteria and bad bugs. Broths and brown rice are good foods if your child has an appetite. If they have no appetite, let them be. An old naturopathic adage was: fast a fever, feed a cold. While I don’t generally recommend fasting, I certainly won’t push it if they don’t have an appetite. Hydration, however is a must.

If you do want to give a tylenol or acetaminophen because your child is extremely uncomfortable, make sure you dose sufficiently, every 4 hours. A febrile seizure is more likely to occur if your child has a quick spike in temperature, particularly when the child has been given Tylenol, but then has not been adequately redosed, and the temperature quickly rises.

I have generally found the above measures wonderful at both quickly getting children over their cold or flu, as well as preventing it from lingering or turning into an ear infection.