It has been on my mind lately to write about home remedies for fever.
Fever phobia is rampant among the medical community which has now trickled into our homes (source). It seems that at the slightest spike in temperature, the imminent response from both parents and healthcare workers is to reduce it as quickly as possible.
I take a different approach in my household towards fevers and place a greater emphasis on supporting the body through infection versus treating the actual fever.
In this post we will further explore why our body produces a fever, common fever symptoms, and how to reduce a fever in a child naturally while still protecting their body’s natural defense mechanism against infection. These suggestions work for adults as well.
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Why do we get a fever?
The human body is a very sophisticated machine. It has so many checks and balances in place to keep everything running smoothly.
One of the ways our body protects itself against foreign invaders is by producing a fever.
Let’s look at this process at a glance.
When a virus, bacterial, fungi, or parasite enters our body, special immune cells (macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells) recognize their presence with the help of pathogen recognition receptors (PRR).
The activation of these receptors causes these cells to release loads of different chemicals and hormones (prostaglandins, pyrogenic cytokines, and tumour necrosis factor). Our nervous system then responds to these chemicals through a cascade of events which ultimately raises the body temperature. (source)
I like to relate this process to the movie 101 Dalmations.
Remember the part where all the dogs were barking? The barks travel from dog to dog from the countryside where the puppies are located, all the way to the inner city where Pongo and Perdita responded to the alert and rescued them!
Our immune system does the same, using chemical messengers to sound the alarm so our nervous system can raise our body temperature. This adaptive physiologic process has occured in mammals and even some reptiles, plants, and fish for millinea. (source)
Fever has been a normal response long before the invention of antipyretic drugs!
How does fever affect our immune cells and pathogens?
Fever has numerous beneficial effects on the immune system.
It causes our bone marrow to release extra neutrophils. Fever helps neutrophils mature more rapidly and also recruits stagnant neutrophils from body parts where they tend to hide out (such as the soft tissue of the lungs and intestines).
Increased body temperature also improves the function of many immune cells. It mobilizes natural killer cell activity and improves the phagocytic potential of macrophages and dendritic cells. (source)
Lastly, fever helps our immune cells release more of those important regulatory chemicals such as cytokines and nitric oxide. (source)
High body temperatures have direct effect on bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, decreasing their ability to replicate through various mechanisms. (source)
What is the downside of fever?
Fever increases the body’s metabolic rate. It is estimated that for every 1°C rise in body temperature, your metabolic requirements increase 10–12.5%. (source)
This is a fancy way of saying it will take a lot more nutrition to sustain all your body processes. Most moms know how hard it is to get their children to eat healthy foods and drink water on a normal day, let alone when they are sick.
There is a serious concern for dehydration due to the increase demand from cells.
Another common concern among both parents and providers is the risk of febrile seizures. Those who are at the greatest risk for febrile seizures include children less than 1 year of age who also have a family history of febrile seizures. (source)
Febrile seizures are feared because there is a belief that they can cause intellectual damage, increase the risk of developing epilepsy, and even cause death. Fortunately the scientific evidence completely debunks all of these fears. Febrile seizures are self-limiting and rarely leave lasting damage. (source)
There is also a plethora of data that shows that giving a child an antipyretic will not decrease the occurrence of seizures. (source)
Should we be treating fevers with antipyretics?
“There is mounting evidence that the increase of 1 to 4°C in core body temperature that occurs during fever is associated with improved survival and resolution of many infections. For example, the use of antipyretic drugs to diminish fever correlates with a 5% increase in mortality in human populations infected with influenza virus and negatively affects patient outcomes in the intensive care unit.” (source)
“In human volunteers infected with rhinovirus, the use of antipyretics was associated with suppression of serum antibody response, increased symptoms and a trend towards longer duration of viral shedding.” (source)
Even the father of medicine Hippocrates found benefit from fevers and placed no importance on treating them. (source)
All evidence points towards not treating fevers. I wrote an entire post about why we steer clear of Tylenol altogether.
Common Fever Symptoms
- A fever is considered to be a temperature greater than 100.4 F (38 C) in adults and children
- Shivering, shaking, and chills could be present
- Aching muscles and joints
- Full body aches
- Rapid heart rate
- Skin flushing or hot skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Loss of appetite
- Fussiness from children
Home Remedies for Fever
So far we have learned that it is best to allow a fever to run its course. That doesn’t change the fact that it is just miserable watching our little ones suffer. And if you are an adult with a fever, it’s a high priority to restore your health and get back to normal life.
Any home remedy you use to treat a fever isn’t necessarily to bring it down, but more to support the body so it can quickly destroy the source of the problem. The fever will then come down on it’s own.
Here is a list of things to do to relieve pain and support the body during fevers.
1. Epsom salt Baths with Essential oils
Epsom salt is perfect to use to reduce the pain from fever. It also helps to replace the lost magnesium from excess sweating. Most people are deficient in magnesium and whenever we have an illness, it is very important to replace lost electrolytes.
Epsom salt baths allow magnesium to be absorbed by the body through the skin. They are also very relaxing.
*Peppermint EO should not be used for children younger than 6 months old.
2. Immune boosting supplements
As we have discovered, a fever is a good sign. It is evidence of an intact immune system and we want to continue to support the immune system as naturally as possible.
One of the best ways to do this, especially when we don’t feel like eating or drinking much is to get the most bang for our buck with immune boosting supplements.
Some of these include elderberry tinctures, cod liver oil, living probiotics, and homemade bone broth. Bone broth is especially essential because it replaces lost fluid volume while providing easy to digest nutrition.
In addition to these supplements you will also want to let the sunshine hit your child’s skin if you are lucky enough to have a sunny day. Even a few minutes in the sun can be beneficial during illness.
3. Homemade popsicles with real fruit
Popsicles are a great way to hydrate a feverish kid. I recommend making them out of real fruit and coconut water to replace vitamins and electrolytes.
Here is an easy recipe for nutrition-dense popsicles.
We should be avoiding refined sugar in day to day life in general, but this is especially important when we are sick. When you buy store bought popsicles, make sure to look on the label and avoid refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup and chemical dyes. These will not help the body make a speedy recovery.
4. Garlic Oil Foot treatment
Garlic has super powers when you are sick. It is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, and enhances the immune response. (source) Get as much of this stuff in your system as possible when you are sick.
One of the best ways to do this, especially for kids, is to make a garlic oil salve and apply it to the feet at night and cover with socks. This simply involves taking 7 organic cloves of garlic and combining them in a food processor with 1/4 cup of coconut oil.
Slather that salve on your chest and feet whenever you can. It can be pretty stinky so we do this at night or when we are staying home.
5. Herbal teas
I like to brew a big pot of hot water and then steep these teas together to make one large batch for sipping on until the fever breaks.
6. Homeopathy for fever
Homeopathy is one of the best tools in the mama toolkit for reducing fevers and relieving pain from inflammation.
There are a number of remedies you can use dependent on the specific symptoms. Here are a few suggestions but I would also recommend getting a homeopathic materials medica for your home so you can have access to more information and be prepared for any family illness.
Aconite: Use when fever first appears if it came on after being exposed to cold and there is shivering/increased thirst present.
Belladonna: When there is a sudden onset of high fever with a flushed red face/red lips. Use this remedy when the fever is very high and you can easily feel the heat radiating when your hand is inches from the face. There will be a strong bounding pulse. (This is the most common remedy for fevers)
Ferrum Phos: Use in the beginning stages of fever when it develops more gradually or if Belladonna didn’t work after 3 doses.
Nux Vomica: Use for fevers due to overeating, side effects of drugs, or when there is also digestive issues present such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or indigestion.
When is a fever a sign of something more serious?
If you or your child has the following symptoms, you need to seek professional medical care. You can still administer the correct homeopathic remedy while you are on your way to your provider.
Lethargy (this means your child will be difficult to arouse, not just extra tired, snuggly, or sleepy)
Labored breathing (high respiratory rate or pulling in of the muscles around the chest)
Uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea (which make it difficult to manage hydration at home)
Prolonged Fever (high fevers that go on for days)
How to use this information
We have listed a lot of different home remedies for fever in this post but how do you know where to start?
The single most important thing to do when managing fevers at home is to stay on top of hydration. This key because the number one reason behind complications from fever is dehydration. If you are not able to get bones from organic grass-fed beef, chicken, or wild-caught fish to make your own bone broth, go to the grocery store and get a reputable bone broth brand so you can start consuming bone broth rehydration right away.
Find the homeopathic remedy that best suits the current fever picture and administer it right away.
Then you can use the other suggestions throughout the day to support the body’s immune system in eliminating the invader which caused this mess in the first place.