We parents have all been there, that moment when our child has their first sickness, accompanied by the dreaded first fever. If you’re like most parents you probably freaked out, called the doctor, and got a bag packed to rush your child to the emergency room. You were worried about your baby . . . and rightly so. There’s nothing like a fever to remind you that some things are just beyond a Mama’s control.
For decades we’ve been told that fevers are bad and were given medications to tackle them head on. Children were given antibiotics – “just in case,” pain relievers, and over-the-counter fever reducers. Temperatures over 99 degrees were enough to warrant a trip to the hospital and mothers were panicked when a child (because of a fever) skipped a meal. Thankfully, these “remedies” are losing favor.
While the natural medicine community has long recognized the benefits of a good fever, mainstream medicine has slowly caught up. Scientific evidence supports the idea that fevers serve a vital role in the development of the immune system and a child’s healing process. Unfortunately, with a new stance comes uncertainty in how best to address a fever. Years of fear-based approaches have left doctors skeptical and parents uncertain.
What To Do If Your Child Gets a Fever
As a mama who just happens to be a traditionally trained Naturopath (who is also married to a Physician) I can sympathize with the parent who doesn’t know what to do or where to turn when their child is sick. Here is a quick guide for managing your child’s fever at home:
- A fever is a good thing; if your child has a fever of 102 degrees or below, leave it alone. The body heats up to kill viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in higher temperatures. This healing process cannot be replicated via medication.
- If your child is not eating, don’t panic. When your child is sick, their body directs all energy towards the intruder and healing process. It’s okay for your child to skip a few meals, as long as they are remaining hydrated. If you’re still worried, offer foods like rice, unsweetened applesauce, smoothies, and broth.
- If the child’s fever gets too high, draw a lukewarm bath. Add a few drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil and repeat every few hours as needed. The purpose of the bath is not to break the fever but to allow the fever to function within a safer range. (Read The Basics of Essential Oils for Children for some safety tips.)
- To manage symptoms, apply essential oils, nurse, swaddle, and cuddle. There is no medication you can give a child that replaces the warm healing touch of a mother.
- If your child is dehydrated, make a glass of water; add lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt, and a few teaspoons of honey. This is nature’s “Gatorade.” This drink will re-hydrate and replenish electrolytes without the toxins, additives, and high fructose corn syrup found in commercial alternatives.
- Keep your child warm (wrapped in a blanket), but do not add layers and overheat.
- If your child’s fever lasts longer than 3-5 days and luke-warm baths are unsuccessful, the child is not drinking, eating, making tears, is inconsolably crying, or is not making wet diapers, call your doctor. In some rare instances, a trip to the emergency room might be warranted.
Although all parents worry when their child gets a fever, you can take comfort in knowing it’s not a villain to be feared. Fevers are natural, normal, and are a good response to a bad invader. Let the fever run its course and manage the symptoms without unnecessary medications and from the comfort of your own home.
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