It seems that nowadays when ever someone I know has a child with a fever, their immediate response is to give their child acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you fall into this camp, read on. You may be interested to find out that it is actually healthy for your body to get a fever.
First, let’s look at what a fever is and why your body gets a fever. A fever, or elevated body temperature, is your body’s natural response to inflammation or infection. It is your body’s way of fighting off viruses and bacteria. This means that a fever is actually a good thing. Your immune system or your child’s is working properly; that is a good thing! A fever is not actually a disease, but it is a symptom of some illness that your body is doing battle with.
Under most circumstances, if my child has a fever, I do not worry a lot about it, nor do I give them medication. I try to do things for them that will help their immune system fight better, such as rubbing some lavender oil on them, keeping them well-hydrated with water or fruit juice (never anything with added sugar in it because sugar actually lowers your body’s immune response) or herbal tea, letting them rest and letting their bodies immune systems function the way they were made to. If they have an appetite, I will make them pretty much whatever they are hungry for as long as it is healthy and does not contain excess sugar or refined carbs. No popsicles, moms! Instead freeze some fruit juice and let them have frozen juice pops. Typically, I have found that this allows them to get well quickly.
When I see that they are very uncomfortable, I put them in a bathtub of warm water and just let them play. They always welcome this, and almost always emerge feeling better and with their temperatures lower. Many times I do this before bedtime and they rest very well then.
When I look to medicate: It takes a lot for me to break out the ibuprofen or acetaminophen (remember, you cannot give your child aspirin if they have a fever because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome), but if my child is extremely uncomfortable, can’t rest, is not able to take liquid and is not helped by a bath, then I will give them medication. I have no desire for my children to suffer, but I also do not want to mess with their normal immune response by breaking out the medication every time their temperature rises. My thoughts are that if my child is so miserable that he or she can’t stay hydrated or rest, then it is time to medicate. Once the fever comes down, I make sure my child drinks a lot of water and juice and/or herbal teas, and I monitor them closely.
Most of the time, fevers are no big deal… they are just your body doing what God made it to do. There are times when it signifies a grave illness, however, so be wise about calling your pediatrician or doctor. If your child is playing and happy in spite of his or her elevated temp, they are probably just fighting off a routine illness. If they are extremely irritable, uncomfortable or lethargic, if they have any symptoms at all causing you undue concern, or if your infant under 3 months of age has a fever, call your doctor!