Fever: A Hot Topic Worth Looking At


sick_kid w termoMyths vs Reality.
Fever is one of the most common reasons that parents seek medical attention for their children. Parental concerns arise in part because of the belief that fever itself is a disease rather than a symptom or sign of the body adapting to a cause. (1) Additionally, many parents over react in the treatment of fevers and actually add to the duration of the very condition the body is trying to eliminate. Fear and misinformation about febrile seizures add to parents' concerns and their often unwarranted mode of treatment. Understanding fever and its function in health is imperative in caring for our children more effectively.

What's the cause?
Children's temperatures generally run higher than adults. It is often perfectly "normal" for a child's temp to range between 97º and 99.4ºF (36º and 37.4º C) External factors like overdressing, physical exertion, hot foods can drive body temperature up a degree or two. Body temperature also varies during the course of the day, and during the menstral cycle.

Generally, fever is caused by an infection in the child's system. The body is raising the temperature to kill off the invading organism. A basic fever, one due to minor bacterial or viral illness, is a normal function of the immune system working at its best. Studies show that the survival rate in animals increases when a fever "purges" the animal of unwelcomed organisms.

Fever increases the amount of interferon (a natural antiviral and anticancer substance) in the blood. A mild fever also increases the white blood cells that kill cells infected with viruses, fungi, and cancer, and improves the ability of certain white blood cells to destroy bacteria and infected cells. Fever also impairs the replication of many bacteria and viruses.

What's the treatment?
In a study looking at how 161 pediatricians treat children's fevers, researchers found that half tell their parents to give both ibuprofen and ascetaminophen in alternating doses. According to Dr. Clara E Mayoral and her colleagues at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., this strategy could put children at greater risk from the drugs side effects, which include liver damage.

"Parents need to understand that fever is not necessarily a bad thing," she states, It's the body's response to an infection. Treating the fever does not treat the underlying cause." anti-fever drugs make people feel better when they have infections. The bad news is that they may cause the illness to linger longer," says Dr. Mackowiak, adding that people "should be aware that anti-fever drugs have a modest cost associated with relief and that cost is that they may be sick longer."

A Look at Seizures
According to a brochure published by the makers of Tylenol, fever is a very important thing for your body to be able to produce. It helps the body prevent or clear infections, whether they are viral or bacterial.

This same publication states that fevers are generally not dangerous until they reach a temperature of 106.3 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, it says that there is not really even much danger of a seizure from the fever until it has been at 106 degrees for 3 days or more! Furthermore, it states that, "even if a seizure does occur, there rarely is any residual effect at all." Febrile seizures last about 5 minutes (which may seem like years to the parent) and are considered benign without residual damage. Another study sites that parents and some nurses still worry that fever is a risk factor for serious complications even though these associations have long since been disproven.

When looking at fevers, we need to consider and respect that the body has a specific purpose for producing a fever, and trying to reduce it may not be in the best interest of our child's overall well-being. Sometimes our own fears and misinformation may override good judgement leading to unnecessary treatment and prolonged symptoms in our children.

What's a Mother to Do?
Most fevers in children are the body's own mechanism to establish a state of homeostasis by reducing infection. Frequently, fevers in children will elevate in temperature by the afternoon, causing additional, unnecessary worry in parents.

Since fever in children over two months of age is often a sign of normal body function, follow the guidelines your child sets: keep them warm if they are chilly, uncover them if they are hot. (Tepid baths may lead to seizures and alcohol baths are toxic). Give them plenty of sips of water to stay hydrated. Broths and drinks with minerals and electrolytes are helpful as well. If your child is breastfeeding; nurse, nurse, nurse! Avoid sugary drinks which hinder overall immunity and do not force them to eat solid foods.

In addition to the home care and possible outside management you choose for your children with fever, have their spines checked by your Doctor of Chiropractic. The nervous system affects the immune system both directly and indirectly and plays an important role in the immune response. Alleviating nerve system stress with the chiropractic adjustment allows for better function. Optimal health and wellbeing comes about when the body is working at its maximum potential.