Fever: It’s not the enemy you think it is

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fever, boy lying down with thermometer in mouth, adult hand on his forehead

People tend to panic when someone has a fever. In many households, the first thing an adult will do if he or she have a fever is reach for acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) to “get it to go away.” This is especially true if the feverish person happens to be a child. Fever is not the enemy everyone thinks it is. It actually has a purpose and can be helpful in overcoming illness.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to give medical advice. The Hot Mess press is not responsible for anything someone might do or not do after reading this post.

What temperature constitutes a fever?

fever, woman in gray sweater and scarf, holding drink and thermometer with arm over forehead

Body temperature fluctuates throughout the day. A “normal” body temperature can range from 98.2 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. In her e-book “The Importance of Fever,” Doctor Sherri J. Tenpenny, DO, AOBNMM, ABIHM, states that fever is medically defined as an early morning temperature of 99 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Fahrenheit at any other time of day.

Is there a specific cause of fever?

While there doesn’t seem to be a singular cause of fever, there are numerous health conditions under which fever might be present. If a pathogen invades your body, such as bacteria or a virus or a parasite, you might develop numerous adverse symptoms, one of which could be fever. Perhaps you recall more than one instance where fever was a first obvious sign of illness. While we know how to recognize fever and also understand various circumstances whereby it might be present, scientists don’t really know what is physiologically happening in a body to produce a fevered temperature. They do know that it has to do with cytokine interaction with the brain’s hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is kind of like our body’s thermostat.

Fever is usually harmless

Although you or your child might feel downright icky if you have a fever, the condition itself is usually harmless. Note use of the word “usually” — more on that, later. If your body temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you might lose your appetite, feel achy or even develop chills and tremors. It’s important to understand that fever indicates that your body is functioning properly. It means your immune system has recognized that there’s a problem and is taking steps to rectify it.

Yes, you or your child might feel miserable while this is happening. However, many medical experts agree that if you allow a fever to run its course, it can help eliminate the pathogen, overcome illness and restore good health.

Alleviate symptoms with natural remedies

white bowl, green herbs, bottles of essential oil

No one wants to feel ill, and we certainly don’t like the idea of watching a child suffer. The good news is that there are numerous ways to alleviate symptoms of illness while letting a fever do its job. At the same time, it’s important to not let a body temperature get too high. What exact temperature is too high? More on that later, also.

The most effective means for providing comfort while a fever runs its course is adequate hydration, as well as placing a damp cloth over the eyes or on the back of the neck. Soaking in a tepid bath (not too cold, not too hot) may also bring comfort and keep temperature at a safe level. There are several essential oils that are known to help relieve fever and accompanying symptoms. Make sure you educate yourself on using essential oils first, especially because not all oils are safe for children.

Too-high temperatures, fevers that aren’t harmless and more

large red letters spelling out emergency

Just as there isn’t one specific cause of a fever, there also isn’t a degree of temperature that makes any and all fevers unsafe. For instance, if you’re an adult in otherwise good health, a temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit is not likely to be life-threatening to you. However, if a baby under six weeks of age would develop this same temperature, it is considered a medical emergency! Sometimes, a body temperature that reaches a certain degree will stimulate febrile seizures. This is another instance where it is wise to seek immediate medical attention.

If a fever is prolonged (doesn’t decline with use of remedy or on its own) it is always best to obtain medical examination because it can be a sign of a serious bacterial infection or other illness.

Benefits of natural remedies over prescription or over-the-counter drugs

When we take synthetic medications, we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that they are making us better, as in providing a cure for illness. While antibiotics can kill bacteria, most drugs commonly used to treat a fever are merely alleviating symptoms while doing nothing to cure illness. There is ample evidence that many drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can have serious, adverse health effects, especially if used for an extended period of time.

Strengthening the immune system is a key to good health. It’s a fact that when the body has been able to naturally combat a virus or other illness, the process of allowing the immune system to function naturally ultimately strengthens the immune system.

Things to keep in mind regarding patient care

As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to get chills or to feel cold even if your body temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. In fact, it’s possible to feel hot and clammy one minute and freezing cold the next. In caring for someone who has a high temp, simply ask what he or she would prefer as far as covering with a blanket or wearing light or heavier clothing. The same goes for what to eat and drink. One person might want to sip a cup of hot tea or broth while another wants to chew on ice chips or sip something cool to drink. ALWAYS stay hydrated when fever is present! Dehydration is dangerous and can quickly become a life-threatening situation.

One thing you do not want to consume while ill (or any time for that matter!) is white, processed sugar. It will only make matters worse internally. It is also important to replace electrolytes when you’re sick. Many store-bought drinks contain high levels of processed sugar, which is not good. There are several water products on the market today, however, that contain electrolyte replacement ingredients. You can also look up recipes to make your own healthy drink at home, such as by mixing some raw honey (NOT for children under age one!) a dash of sea salt, some juice and coconut water.

Fever means a body is functioning properly

Using common sense, caution and well-informed decisions, an ill health condition should be closely monitored and treated accordingly. It is always best to err on the side of safety than to disregard symptoms and wind up in a worse or potentially high-risk condition. Interestingly, data shows that in studies where ICU patients were admitted in critical condition, they were less likely to die in the hospital if they became feverish within 24 hours of admittance. Studies also show that elderly community-acquired pneumonia patients are more likely to die  (as much as seven times more) if they do not develop a fever. Even more surprising, perhaps, is information published in the “Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology” stating that people whose medical histories include infections accompanied by fever are less likely to develop cancer.

The human body is an amazing creation comprised of complex systems that are designed to function on many different levels and to react to various circumstances, including illness. Sometimes, something that appears to be bad and, perhaps, causes us to worry right off the bat is, in fact, a sign that the body in question has a functioning immune system that is doing what it is meant to do.



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