When your child has a fever, it can be very difficult to get them to eat anything at all.
The fact of the matter is, the digestive system literally shuts down so the body can reserve its metabolism for fighting infection. Digestion takes a lot of energy and anything that isn’t vital for immediate survival is put on the back burner.
If you have a hard time getting your child to eat with a fever, keep in mind it is absolutely normal.
It’s much more important to focus your efforts on hydration. We will talk further about the best way to accomplish this further in this post.
Ultimately, the best foods to feed a child with a fever are anything ultra nourishing and easy-to-digest. Let’s get to it!
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Should you starve a fever?
You may have heard the old saying, starve a fever, feed a cold. While there is some truth behind this saying, if your child has a high fever, it’s best to limit the type and quantity of foods. In the beginning, a liquid diet is best.
If you feed a child inflammatory foods during illness, you can further aggravate the problem by increasing the work of the immune system.
It can be very tempting offer any foods your child will happily eat just to get some calories in them, especially when there has been little intake for days. This can be counterproductive in the early stages of illnesses like the flu.
You should never give a child milk or other forms of dairy to a child during fevers because it is very hard to digest and increases both inflammation and mucus formation.
Other foods to avoid include wheat, heavy proteins, and processed foods.
Best foods to feed a child with a fever
1. Bone Broth
Grandma’s chicken soup recipe cures a cold for good reason…
Bone broth is the number one food to feed a feverish child because it is soothing to the digestive tract and provides all the essential amino acids necessary for tissue repair.
One cup of bone broth contains around 50 calories, 5g of fat, and 9g of protein. It is highly nutritious, containing a wide variety of vitamins and electrolytes including potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, chlorine and iron (source)
I always keep some of my homemade bone broth in the deep freezer in case an illness creeps up on us. I heat bone broth to lukewarm when I serve it to my son. You can always add an ice cube if you make it too hot.
If you can’t get your child to drink bone broth with a straw, you can spoon/syringe feed your child at least 2 tbs an hour during the duration of their fever so they will stay hydrated.
If that still doesn’t work, you can make your own healthy electrolyte replacement brew and try to syringe feed that.
2. Citrus Fruit Popsicles
A high fever means the body is strong enough to fight. I never suppress a fever with medication. However, as soon as I know my son has a fever, I have my husband run to the store and get some organic orange or pineapple juice. Then I fill up our popsicle molds with the juice.
Popsicles are one of the easiest things to get children to eat when they are sick and the coldness can take the edge off the fever.
I always make my own popsicles over buying store-bought so I can be sure the only ingredients are organic citrus fruit. This will help hydrate and give an extra boost of flavonoids and Vitamin C, leaving out any artificial flavors and dyes.
3. Herbal Tea
Different teas can be given throughout the day to hydrate and help soothe the uncomfortable side effects of running a fever.
Ginger tea can be given for nausea throughout the day.
Chamomile tea can be given before bed to help with sleep. Chamomile is high in polyphenols which helps to prevent viruses from multiplying. (source)
Mix together spearmint, catnip leaf, and elder flower for a fever reducing tea. This combo is from Rosemary Gladstar.
If your child is over the age of one, add some raw honey to their tea. Manuka honey is even better because it is powerfully immune boosting.
4. Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera is an excellent plant to feed a feverish child. Aloe is a superfood with its powerful medicinal properties which can help shorten the duration of an illness.
Some of the ways I have fed aloe vera juice is by spoon feeding, mixing it into my homemade popsicles, and adding it to smoothies or kombucha when we are on the mend.
You can find aloe vera juice at health food stores or on Amazon.
5. Coconut water
Coconut water is great hydration option that replaces lost electrolytes.
If you are dealing with vomiting or diarrhea, your child is losing a lot more than water and coconut water is an excellent way to replace these vital nutrients while hydrating your child.
I try to keep this coconut-pineapple juice stocked in my pantry during the winter so I can easily make some popsicles.
6. BRAT Foods
BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. All these foods are gentle on the stomach and highly nutritious with the exception of toast if it is made from wheat.
You can make homemade gluten-free bread from a mix which is quick, easy, and won’t cause the amount inflammation that wheat does to the body.
If your child has a very high fever, it may be better to wait to offer the BRAT diet. You can begin slowly with the liquid foods and use home remedies to support the body.
Once your child is feeling better and moving around, then it’s safe to offer these mild foods.
Whenever I am assessing if my child is ready for solid foods I live by the rule: “if I can’t keep him laying or sitting down, he is probably ok to try solid foods.”
7. Homemade Chicken Soup
The first day your child is well again, it is still a good idea to go easy on the digestive system. Start slow with some delicious homemade chicken soup using gluten-free alphabet noodles.
Serve it with some avocados on the side and between that and the chicken, you will provide plenty of protein and healthy fats.
Fevers should not be feared
I couldn’t end this article without a friendly reminder not to worry so much about a fever alone.
Fevers are proof that your child has vitality. If she didn’t, her body would be too weak to run a fever and the infection could take over.
If you haven’t already, check out my post on home remedies for fever. There is a lot of great information in there.
I also have information about the best essential oils for fevers if you are an oily person.
After reading this post, you will be armed with what to feed a child with a fever. If you follow these dietary guidelines and resist the temptation to artificially suppress a fever, you child will have enough nutrients and hydration to sustain the fever safely.