What To Do When My Child Has a Fever


Ricky Ngo, DC and Megan Rall

In order for every parent to make an informed decision when their child has a fever, we need to be very clear on what the benefits and risks are of having a fever. Many of you just did a double take when you read that a fever can have a benefit, but in fact, a fever is a very important thing for your body to be able to produce. The body’s temperature can increase for a number of reasons:

  • Chemicals called cytokines and mediators are produced in the body in response to an invasion for a microorganism, malignancy, or other intruder.
  • The body is making more macrophages, which are cells that go to combat when intruders are present in the body.  These cells actually “eat-up” the      invading organism.
  • The body is busily trying to produce natural antibodies, which fight infection.  These antibodies will recognize the infection next time it tries to invade.
  • Many bacteria are enclosed in an overcoat-like membrane.  When this membrane is disrupted or broken, the contents that escape can be toxic to the body and stimulate the brain to raise the temperature.

A fever actually helps the body destroy its microbial invader! It also stimulates an inflammatory response, which sends all kinds of substances to the area of infection to protect the area, prevent the spread of the invader, and start the healing process.

A fever is not a bad thing. A fever has a specific purpose and role to play in protecting you or your child.  In fact, acute inflammations in childhood protect against chronic, low-grade inflammations such as asthma and allergies later on. Excessive use of vaccines, antibiotics and anti-fever medications compromise the ability of the immune system to create healing inflammations. Studies have shown that when the number of childhood fevers and inflammations is higher, the child’s risk of chronic inflammatory conditions later in life – including asthma, allergy and eczema – is lower.

Why then would we want to work against the body and give a child a fever reducing medication?  When a child has a fever, the child doesn’t feel very well. The child can feel uncomfortable, not themselves, have a lack of appetite and may be more thirsty than normal.  Of course, no parent wants to see their child feeling badly, but if you understand that the fever is killing a viral or bacterial infection, producing lasting immunity, or even possibly killing cancer then you will actually be thankful that the body is doing exactly what it is suppose to be doing.

If your child is having a fever or feeling ill, before reaching into the medicine cabinet, think about this advice from author William Bullein: “The best doctors are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.”

Dr. Diet: Studies have shown that eating little to no food during an illness activates the immune system’s function, so don’t pressure your child to eat during an illness. Also, make sure your child has plenty of fluids.  Stay away from sugary drinks because sugar will feed the bacteria and can cause excess inflammation.

Dr. Quiet:  When adults aren’t feeling well, we crave quiet and rest.  Little ones need the same thing, they just don’t know how to tell us that!  Let your child lie on the couch or in bed, read stories and spend some quiet quality time together.  You can also place a cool rag on your child’s forehead or put him in a room temperature bath. The water should not be cold. The goal is to keep him comfortable, not reduce the fever.

Dr. Merryman:  Let your child know that there is nothing to be scared of.  Parents must heed this advice as well!  Oftentimes, we have illogical fear of a fever, when, in fact, we should have a merry attitude about it as it is a protector by doing what is natural to regain the body’s balance.  Calm your child and yourself by reminding him that his amazing little body is so smart that it is working overtime to protect him and keep him healthy!

While fevers lasting several days, excessively high fevers over 103 degrees, and fevers accompanied by other severe symptoms can be a reason to go to a doctor or emergency room, the average parent has somehow been taught to fear any raise in temperature at all.

Rather, parents should look to learn why symptoms occur and when they’re a benefit.  Many things we call “being sick” are actually the body getting well.  While in the case of severe illness and infection, parents should consult their doctor, many of the drugs commonly used are toxic to a child’s body and stop the healing process in it’s tracks.  The result: Illness is allowed deeper into the system and more serious problems occur further down the road.

Supporting health with the 5 Essentials of Maximized Living in sickness and in health is the best way to nurture a well body now and a well body later.