Some of the most common questions we get from parents are about fevers. They are one of the most misunderstood processes that our bodies undergo. Our intention within this blog post is to educate people on exactly what fevers are and how beneficial they are for our bodies—especially children’s undeveloped and inexperienced immune systems—and to bust some of the potentially dangerous myths circulating around fevers.
We are so grateful for the knowledge and understanding that we have about fever because we would have been so fearful when our son had his first fever (and all of the ones to follow) had we not been educated on this topic. With that being said, we completely understand that all parents want to do what is BEST for their children and that means only doing what they think to be the best course of action within their knowledge. The information we present here is based off of our own knowledge, research, and experience, and we respect that everyone is open to form their own opinions and beliefs. However, we do hope you will take the following information into consideration when facing this issue in your life and in your family.
What is Fever?
It’s important to first understand exactly what fever is. “Fever is an elevated temperature of the human body that is substantially beyond the normal range. Normal body temperature fluctuates daily from about one degree below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to one degree above that number.” (1) A temperature is classified as a fever if it has hit 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit when taken by rectal, ear, or temporal reading or 100 degrees Fahrenheit when taken orally. (2)
The Journal of Thoracic Disease defines fever as “an elevated body temperature above normal variation due to an altered hypothalamic set point.” (3) The hypothalamus is a part in the brain that regulates the temperature of the body; in other words, it is the thermostat of your body. (1) When a pathogen enters the body, it will trigger the release of a biochemical substance called a pyrogen from the pathogen itself or from specific immune tissues. Once the hypothalamus detects the presence of the pyrogens in the bloodstream, it will raise the body temperature to help protect the body against infection or disease. (1)
It is important to know that there is a set temperature point on the hypothalamus, and it knows when to cap the temperature. If there ever were to be damage to the hypothalamus, it would result in a lower body temperature (not an elevated one). (1)
The Benefits of Fever
While a fever may be uncomfortable, research has shown that fevers not only hinder harmful microbial growth but also rev up the immune system to perform better, specifically improving the function of valuable white blood cells that destroy virus-infected cells and tumor cells in our bodies (5). What this all means is that getting a fever is one of the most beneficial processes the body can execute to swiftly and effectively overcome an infection.
The immune system is like a muscle, and it needs to be worked out and stretched to become stronger. Our body has tools such as fevers to aid in this process. Suppressing a mild to moderate fever by using antipyretics such as acetometaphine is doing the body a disservice because it is lowering the natural body process. This in turn decreases the functioning of the immune system and robs the body of the opportunity to become more immunocompetent—thus, more resilient in the future.
A warning about Tylenol
Most parents give their children Tylenol, or acetometaphine, before or at the onset of a fever. This is not only (unintentionally) suppressing the healing functions of the immune system’s job but also stripping the body of a very important and needed antioxidant: glutathione, which is responsible for removing harmful free radicals that could wreak havoc in our bodies. A lack of glutathione is especially harmful to our liver, which contributes to acetaminophen being the number one cause of liver failure in the UK and the number two cause in the US. (6)
Fever in Children
Children tend to get fevers more frequently than adults because of their inexperienced immune systems. (1) The fever itself is not an illness but merely a symptom of another problem or infection. (4) Having a fever is part of an effective immune response and a healthy adaptation to microbial invasion.
According to Dr. Erika Krumbeck of Naturopathic Pediatrics, “It’s not unusual for children to have very high fevers. In fact it is generally very helpful for kids to get robust fevers, as it signals a strong immune response which can quickly eliminate pathogens (the bad bugs). A fever isn’t intrinsically dangerous until it reaches 108° F (yikes that is high!), as that is the point at which brain damage can occur.” (6) It is normal for children’s temperatures to be elevated up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is not to fear—to most people’s surprise, this is a good thing!
However, if your child is an infant 3 months or younger with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, call your doctor immediately or go to the Emergency Room. (4)
Caring for a child with fever
The number one thing to do is monitor your child. How a child LOOKS is more important than the actual number on the thermometer. (2) If a child is listless, nonresponsive, crying uncontrollably, or in severe distress, please consult your physician. Again, a fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit is normal and can be beneficial! (2)
Secondly, you can assist the fever. It takes a lot of bodily energy to raise the temperature, so assisting the fever will help! Ways to do this are to take a warm/hot bath, lay under warm blankets, or drink hot tea.
Thirdly, it is imperative to remain calm and trust that this is helping the immune system to work harder and faster! Extra love and cuddles during this time are extremely encouraged.
In gratitude and good health,
Matt & Monica
+ The information in our articles are NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and are not intended as medical advice. +