Dr. Stephanie Gessner
Feeling Hot Hot Hot: A New Perspective on Fevers
Fevers. There’s a scary undertone to the name, and we are taught to fear them from a very young age. While fevers can, in fact, be very scary, they are misunderstood. Most often we detect a fever and want to immediately bring it down, but this way of treating them may actually be counter-productive!
To understand them we must know what their purpose is. Fevers are meant to do two things. First, the increase in internal temperature activates our immune system. Second, it slows down the bacteria and/or virus from reproducing and spreading.
So, if we really stop to think about it, fevers are our body’s incredibly intelligent way of getting rid of whatever it is that is making us ill.
Let’s use an analogy. Think about cooking chicken for example. We place it in the oven and want to make sure that it cooks all the way through. Why do we want to cook it through? Because there are potential bacteria in raw chicken that could make us sick. We don't want to take the chicken out of the oven too soon (or too late) so we monitor it carefully until it is done to perfection.
Well, our body is an oven, and a very intelligent one at that. When it detects bacteria that could potentially make us ill, it raises its temperature to essentially "cook" it off. So when we bring that fever down right away with medication, we are essentially leaving the chicken raw inside and allowing the bacterial to live.
I do understand however, that fevers can get too high. We don’t want to burn the chicken either.
So how do we know when and when not to treat a fever?
Well, there are a few things to look for.
The first is that the temperature of the fever itself doesn’t matter as much as the symptoms you are seeing or feeling. For example, your child may have a fever of 103 but is still acting normal, communicating, smiling, making eye contact, and is taking in fluids. Your child could also have a fever of 101 and act very lethargic and not want to drink any water. The later example is the one to be more concerned about.
It is also important to note that fevers fluctuate throughout the day as our body is regulating due to internal and external factors. Typically fevers tend to spike at night. This is because the energy the body used during the day for other functions is no longer needed so it can focus on fighting off the bacteria. How intelligent is that?!
(**There is one exception to this! In a baby under 3 months of age a fever of 100.4 is considered a medical emergency. So in our very young ones we must pay careful attention to their temperature.)
I am aware that we just feel and look crummy when we have a fever. So what can we do other than immediately bring that fever down?
First, it is crucial to stay hydrated!! I’ll say it again, hydration is incredibly important when we have a fever. So if you have a little one still breastfeeding, let them nurse as often as you can. If you have a toddler, try getting them some electrolytes along with plenty of water (Just be sure to not give them too much sugar because that will feed the bad bacteria). You can also make some popsicles if they don’t like to drink a lot of water.
The second is to monitor for behavioral changes. Make sure they are communicating normally. Make sure that they aren’t having any difficulty breathing and that they still have normal skin color. Check that they are peeing regularly or making wet diapers (again dehydration is something we want to avoid). Don’t worry too much if they are not very interested in eating or seem a little tired (not lethargic), that is completely normal.
The third is to make them as comfortable as possible. Skin to skin with little ones is a fantastic way to do this. Babies and toddlers have a harder time regulating their own temperature so being in contact with your body will actually help them regulate their body temperature. How cool is that?! You can also offer them a cool cloth to put on their neck or a room temperature bath if they are a bit older.
And last, but absolutely not least, get adjusted!! Chiropractic care helps your brain know better what is going on inside your body. The adjustments help to boost your immune system by allowing the nervous system and the immune system better communicate in order to keep homeostasis in the body. Thus, your immune response is more effective.
So next time your child spikes a fever, don't immediately reach for the Tylenol. Remember the signs to look out for, but know that their little body is doing exactly what it should to keep them healthy!