Fostering a Fever

March 19, 2020

Virus
So a fever is our body's defense mechanism to kill viruses. Our body uses energy to heat up to create an unlivable environment for the virus - viruses cannot replicate and become denatured (that means basically undone from their normal physical shape) and die when the temperature is too warm. The sad thing is that most of the information we receive is about how scary and dangerous fevers can be. This can be true if a fever is left unchecked and not managed. There are very simple, and then a little more complex things, that we can do to help manage a fever.
 
Use your common sense with a fever. If there is a fever and also signs of a bacterial infection - pain in a specific organ, pus, heat, swelling or redness over an area of the body then you should contact your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor for additional instructions and treatment. Always stay within your level of comfort and ask for help if you are feeling out of your comfort zone. A viral fever should last no more than 1-2 days with good management, if a fever is worsening or extending beyond this timing, contact your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor.

Do they have a fever?Checking_fever

Do we need a thermometer to check a fever - nope. What happens if you don't have a thermometer in your house? There are other ways of determining whether your child or partner has a fever. The power of us loving the people we live with is that we usually touch each other everyday - give a hug, hold hands. The great thing about this is that it helps us to have an idea of what our child or partner's body temperature normally feels like. During a fever the body radiates heat even through the clothes. So hug your child, touch them - place a hand over their shirt at the upper chest. Do you feel heat radiating through? Do they feel warmer than usual? Are they flushed? Are they telling you their head hurts or they have an achy body? Are they warm, not feeling great but behaving like they usually would = mild fever. Are they glassy eyed and can hardly get themselves off the couch = higher fever. My daughter is 14 years old, we've been through many a fever in our household and when travelling and have never once taken her temperature. We know just by observation and touch.
 

The anatomy of a fever

Managing a fever means helping the body to warm up efficiently so that the temperature comes up to kill the virus, while at the same time opening the pores in the skin to allow some heat to escape so the temperature doesn't become dangerous or super uncomfortable to us. Then the fever naturally breaks and the body temperature comes down for some time before it goes through the cycle again. Fevers generally follow the pattern of the viral replication - this means the fever naturally goes up and breaks and comes back down. This is somewhat individual but typically varies from rising every 2-2.5 hrs before breaking.
 
When you are helping to mange a fever this means that you will need to do some work every 2-2.5 hrs - which I understand is tricky when it comes to multiple people in your household, and especially because fevers are most often active at night. This is a natural process as the fever follows the diurnal (day-night) rhythm of the inflammation cycle - you know how pain, fevers and other symptoms always seem worse at night - well they don't just seem worse, they are worse at night. I think the idea of it being work to manage a fever is why people tend to just give tylenol or another medication that is anti-pyretic (fever reducer) and analgesic (pain reducer) because it is easier. The trouble is if you do this you are taking away the body's ability to fight and kill the virus and you instead need to also give anti-virals to do that job - which most people don't know and don't do, so the viral infection lasts longer and more symptomatic.
 

Helping the fever to do its job

Children are usually great feverers, while many adults (and some children too) have suppressed their fevers enough times that they are not great at building a fever anymore. We can improve this ability.
 
To help your body build a fever:Cold_virus
  • Give warm beverages - especially ginger, garlic, onion, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves. (Horseradish, mustard and thyme are warming too and have specific functions if there is a cough or chest congestion involved - Horseradish eaten or Mustard plasters applied over the chest can help to loosen up congestion, and Thyme taken as a tea is an expectorant so it can help to get phlegm moving up and out)
  • Bundle up in layers of clothes and blankets
  • Do a foot bath with a fingertip pinch of cayenne pepper added to the water, and 1 drop of clove and/or cinnamon essential oil
  • If you have chest congestion - do a Mustard plaster - 1 tbsp of Keen's mustard powder mixed with 4 tbsp any kind of flour, add enough hot water to mix into a paste and spread on half of a clean cloth rag, fold over the other half so no paste is exposed. Using your hand apply a thin swipe of olive or coconut oil to your patient's chest or back and apply the mustard plaster over top. Put a snuggly fitting t-shirt or PJs on to hold it in place. Periodically check for heat by sliding your fingers under one edge - this can burn the skin if you do not use oil on the skin and if you let it heat up too much - but you'd have to be not feeling the temp for that to happen. Keep in place as long as the heat is not too much.
  • If you have congestion in the head and chest - do Warming socks - wet a pair of thin cotton socks and wring out until they are just damp, put on the feet and cover with a dry pair of wool socks. Get into bed. This works over time to draw blood away from the head taking the congestion down then as the feet warm up the blood will come back up the body bringing nutrients to fight that infection. As the feet cool the blood moves away from the upper body again in a cycle that continues until the socks are dry. If they are too uncomfortable they can be taken off.

 

Once the fever is up and going:Broth

  • Give lots of fluids to stay hydrated and allow the fever to build until it breaks. Low appetite is normal - this goes with folk saying "feed a cold, starve a fever" - we want to continue with fluids like coconut water, electrolyte replacers even homemade ones, water and herbal teas, and have the patient eat as they are desiring - preferably juicy, easy to digest foods that are rich in protein - like homemade chicken vegetable soup, vegetable or bone broth or miso soup. These foods provide the body with the type of fuel it needs for energy to heat up the body. We want to avoid high sugar items including too much fruit as sugar feeds the virus and suppresses our immune system, high fat foods as they digest too slowly and can irritate the stomach and caffeinated or alcoholic foods/beverages as they are diuretic so they dehydrate the body.
  • If the patient is glassy eyed, headachy, fatigued, achy bodied, or uncomfortable - now we need to make sure the pores open so that heat can continue to build in the core but escape to keep us comfortable and from being worrisome in the brain especially of young children, we can do the following:Fever_bath
    • Body temperature bath (not cold) with fever tea added - yarrow, peppermint and catnip - you can watch that floating child go from glassy eyed to feeling so much more comfortable right before your eyes as their fever breaks. Dead sea salts or epsom salts can be added especially if the body is achy
    • To drink - lots of fever tea, room temp or cool (not cold) water
    • Pat dry after the bath and dress in light PJs/clothes to allow heat to continue to release
    • gently tuck them into bed until the next round

The extras

There are additional homeopathics, and herbs that can be very beneficial for helping with fevers - they are good to keep in your medicine cabinet as you never know when you'll need them. Contact Dr. Laura, ND for specific instructions for yourself and your family members. We carry most of these remedies in the clinic.

  • Homeopathics - Aconite and Belladonna can help that fever be really efficient and ease the burden on little people and adults alike.Yarrow
  • Tea herbs - Fever tea is 2 parts yarrow, 1 part peppermint, 1 part catnip - 4 tbsp steeped in 4 cups boiling water until it is cool enough to add to bathwater; 1 tsp per 1 cup steeped at least 5 mins to drink
  • Tincture herbs - Children and Adults Cold and Flu Elixir dosage varies per body weight, this is a yummy potent anti-viral, vitamin C-rich, and fever encouraging tincture that can be used in the midst of a cold.

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