Childhood fevers can be a cause of concern for parents and caregivers, often triggering worry and a desire for immediate intervention. However, it’s important to understand that fever is not always a sign of a serious illness; in fact, it is often a natural defense mechanism of the body.
In this blog, we will explore the concept of childhood fevers as a part of the body’s immune response and discuss safe and holistic approaches to managing fevers in children.
Fever is the body’s natural response to fight off infections. When the immune system recognizes the presence of pathogens (bacteria and viruses) or foreign substances, it releases chemicals that raise the body’s temperature. This increase in body temperature helps enhance immune function, as many bacteria and viruses struggle to survive at higher temperatures. Additionally, fever stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting infections.
Fever is generally a positive sign that the body is effectively combating an infection, it’s important to ensure the child’s comfort and safety. Here are some safe and holistic approaches to managing childhood fevers:
- Monitor and Observe: Keep a close eye on the child’s behaviour and overall well-being. Monitor their temperature regularly using a reliable thermometer. If the child has active bouts, hydrated, and responsive, the fever is likely part of a normal immune response.
- Encourage Hydration: Fevers can lead to increased fluid loss through sweating and increased respiratory rate. Ensure the child stays well-hydrated by offering water, clear fluids, or breastfeeding more frequently for infants. Avoid sugary drinks or excessive cold fluids, as they can potentially worsen dehydration.
- Maintain Comfortable Temperatures: Help the child stay comfortable by dressing them in light, breathable clothing and keeping the room temperature moderate. Avoid over bundling or using heavy blankets, as this can trap heat and elevate body temperature further. Warm body temp baths are ok, do not put them in a cold bath to try and lower temperature.
- Rest and Sleep: Adequate rest is essential for the body to heal and recover. Encourage the child to rest and provide a calm and comfortable environment for sleep. Children usually sleep a lot more when running a temperature.
- Eating and nutrition: Children usually go off their food when they have a fever and the start of an illness. This is also a normal response and helps the immune system fight stronger (as the body does not have to concentrate on digestion). Children will be better off in the long run if you allow them to go with their hunger signals. Do not worry or try to force feed them. Hydration is key and smoothies to hide some immune factors such as Vit D and C are fine or sucking on icy poles for hydration.
- Consult a Healthcare Professional: If your child is very young (especially under 3 months), has a compromised immune system, or exhibits severe symptoms of respiratory distress or vomiting/diarrhoea over 24 hours it’s important to seek medical advice promptly. A healthcare professional can provide a proper diagnosis, guidance, and treatment options when necessary.
- Panadol/neurofen: you do not have to lower temperatures with medications if your child has a low grade fever. In fact it would help them more if you let the fever run its course as this is the immune system working and doing its job. Yes your child will be clingy, a bit whingy, sleepy, cranky etc. Keep your patience know their immune system is working, enjoy the extra cuddles and extra couch time. It is normal for low grade fevers to run up to 5 days on and off.
Scientific References on Fever as a Defense Mechanism:
- Mackowiak, P. A. (2015). Concepts of fever: recent advances and lingering dogma. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 60(11), 1632-1636.
- Evans, S. S., Repasky, E. A., & Fisher, D. T. (2015). Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature Reviews Immunology, 15(6), 335-349.
- Kluger, M. J. (2014). Fever: role of pyrogens and cryogens. Physiological Reviews, 94(3), 107-129.