Now that I am grown, and in charge of the care of not only myself and my child, (and my husband too– ladies, who am I fooling here? 🙂 ), I have begun to question many of the things I believed to be true from my childhood.
When my daughter got her first fever, I tried to play it cool, like any new mama does, (ha ha), and wanted to take the best course of action. Over the past decade especially, I have increasingly become what my friends and family affectionately refer to as “crunchy,” and what I refer to simply as taking a holistic and natural approach. Labels and emotional attachments aside, (please), my gut instinct told me not to fear the fever byt to support the symptoms. It was hard as a mama, to watch my little baby feel icky and to not be able to take her ailments away, but I trusted the fact that the human body is amazing and that a fever is a beneficial way for the body to attack the illness in an effort to heal what ails.
In my quest to understand fevers, I learned that low to mid grade fevers are indeed beneficial and should not be masked or reduced and doing so could be counter productive actions to the healing process. Fever grade is also not a good indication of how sick the patient may or may not be, so it is best to pay attention to the symptoms and not the number on the thermometer.
There is a lot of research supporting this ‘philosophy’ (if that is even the right term for such things), and the benefits of fevers have been acknowledged for centuries. At the onset of the 20th century, however, the pharmaceutical companies had begun their wildly successful campaign to drug the general population, and so convinced the masses that fevers needed to be reckoned with and nullified. The successes of the early aspirin campaign can still be seen today in the way we view and “treat” our fevers, along with many other illnesses.
Whatever camp you fall into, fever reducing or not– you must always do what is best for your family. The parent always knows what is best for their child, and there is definitely a time, (and a very much appreciated) place for modern, allopathic medicine. Every situation is different and a one-size-fits-all approach is not a realistic strategy for dealing with illness. There are many options available and you should pick which ones are best for you at the time.
I had the pleasure this evening of attending a (free!) seminar on children’s health and wellness and the treatments of illness. It was a talk given here in my groovy town at a local wellness center called Heart of Wellness. An inspiring ND gave a presentation covering cold and flu and fevers and ways to support them. A lot of it was info I had been recently exploring, and it was nice to see it presented from a respected doctor I an organized fashion. I aim to share some of the info with you, though I assure you, I will not be as organized as she was…
- Fever is the body’s natural response to infection, during which the body sequesters iron and zinc in an effort to heal itself.
- Fever, even at 102 degrees F, is well tolerated by a child and the increase in body temperature helps to kill bacteria in the body and help the body defend itself.
- Fevers themselves are not dangerous–it is the infection that causes it that is the danger.
- It is more important to make the patient comfortable and relieve symptoms than to reduce the fever.
- 107.6 degrees F is the temperature that begins to cause brain damage in humans.
- Fevers caused from infections rarely, if ever go over 106.2 degrees F.
- A low-grade fever, under 102 should be left alone
- Checking temperature from the arm pit will generally give a reading 1-2 degrees lower than the actual temp.
- Checking the temperature rectally will generally give a reading 1-2 degrees higher than the actual temp.
- Treating a fever is an issue of comfort.
- To reduce a high fever do so by sponging or bathing in tepid water.
- Hydrate! 4 ounces of water every hour for ages 6 and under. 8 ounces of water every hour for ages 6 and up. Electrolytes only need to be added in the case of diarrhea and prolonged fever.
- Cold water is not recommended and can cause shivering. (When the body shivers it increases it temperature–not the goal).
- No alcohol baths. Older wisdom used to suggest bathing in alcohol because of it’s cooling and quick drying effect on the skin, but it is not recommended for children.
- Do not force a sweat.
- Do not suppress a fever. Use natural therapies for comfort so the body can fight off the ailment effectively.
- Don’t give aspirin in under 18 years of age. (Reyes Disease). Use Ibuprofen (first choice) and then Tylenol if needed. Ibuprofen is quite effective with high fevers.
- “Magic Socks,” or “Wet Sock treatment.” You can view the details here.
- Fevers in babies under 3 months warrant a trip to the doctor asap.
TREATMENT and PREVENTION
- Healthy diet
- Steam inhalation of a bowl filled with hot water with 2-3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to open nasal passages and bronchi for children ages 7 and up.
- Salt water gargle with older children who are able.
- “Magic Socks,” or “Wet Sock” treatment. You can view the details here.
Healthy gut flora creates an intestinal barrier against bacteria. Stomach acid is the first line of defense killing off harmful bacteria that enters through the mouth, and whatever escapes that defense is handled by a probiotic.
Best sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as:
- sauerkraut and other fermented veggies
Beneficial bacteria is produced during the culturing of the foods and consuming them is the best way to maintain healthy gut flora. Not all kids are going to be into these generally sour tasting foods, so thankfully probiotics can also be supplemented. Two brands recommended were Seroyal brand (which is physician grade but can be purchased online–try iherb.com) and Jarrow brand.
Vitamin C granules were recommended to be added to water (and with stevia if you are so inclined). That method was also a crafty way to increase hydration in children if they won’t drink their water. The frequency of taking vitamin C is said to be more important than the dosage, due to the fact that vitamin C, like any anti-oxidant in destroying bacteria, or free-radicals, dissipates quickly. Through a very scientific process that I don’t care to explain, it donates an ion to another ion of a bacteria, and is then used up. (At least that’s what I think she said…) Point being, once vitamin C does it’s very specific job, it is used up, so you’ll need to re-apply often. Reminds me of sunscreen.
You can find vitamin C in a pill or powdered form. I like Emergen-C packets. Just don’t get the raspberry flavored ones, because they have added cane sugar to that flavor now. (Epic fail, Emergen-C)!
Zinc smothers the virus/bacteria, and lozenges and nasal gels are the most effective applications for respiratory ailments. I personally take a combo in pill form when I’m sick of Vitamins A,C,E, and Zinc. It’s made by one of my favorite brands, Carlson, and has helped me a lot this past season. Look for zinc acetate and zinc gluconate. The ingredients of citric acid and tartaric acid should be avoided if possible. It’s not always easy, so if the choices are zinc with those ingredients or no zinc, opt to take whatever zinc you can.
Bovine sourced, without rBGH. Colostrum, or liquid gold, is rich in antibodies and supports a whole host of ailments. Symbiotics Brand was recommended to be good. This suggestion is not for those with a dairy sensitivity.
One of nature’s many amazing miracle plants, Elderberry has been used for centuries in treated cold, flu and sinus. A recent study had shown elderberry to treat 54 different strains of influenza by reducing their duration by 3-4 days! Elderberry activates monocytes, or white blood cells, so it has also shown a lot of promise for cancer and AIDS patients and others who are immuno-comprimsed. Elderberry can come in a lozenge, powder, tea, syrup, and solid extract. It is also tinctured, but contains alcohol, so it is not recommended for children. Elderberry can be taken hourly, along with selenium, zinc and vitamin C. You can easily make your own elderberry syrup from the dried berries as well, and feel proud that you made your own medicine! 🙂
Note: Many of the herbs suggested in this post, such as elderberry, can be found in bulk along with other ingredients and finished products at Mountain Rose Herbs. It is my favorite and trusted source for health and wellness supplies.
Olive leaf is a new herb for me, but after hearing it spoken so highly of, it is definitely something I will seek out for my herbal medicine chest. It is anti-microbial, but should be taken in conjunction with probiotics. Since it comes in capsule form, it is only suitable for older children. It was suggested that it may help to relieve allergies as well. The suggested dosage was 2 capsules 3 times per day for prevention during cold and flu season, and to bump up the dosage dramatically during illness to at least 10 capsules per day. The doctor giving the seminar told of how she survived medical school relatively healthy and unscathed by the rigors of schooling by regularly taking olive leaf. (Also, she told of her collegue who had cured himself of Lyme Disease with olive leaf. Just a helpful FYI if anyone out there is suffering).
Siberian Ginseng is an adaptogen. It helps your body tolertate stress better and use stress hormones effectively. It can also be taken as a preventative. A recommended brand was Herb Pharm, who had an alcohol free option for kids and also Eclectic Institute who has a solid extract, which is like a very thick syrup.
Studies have suggested that Vitamin D does nothing to prevent and treat colds, but that is not a widely accepted idea among all health care professionals. Where I live, most are vitamin D deficient, so we supplement with vitamin D anyway. A simple test can be performed before supplemeting, to make sure it is necessary and how much of a supplement would be needed. Excess vitamin D can cause calcification deposits in the body, so it is best not to go willy-nilly in excess with this vitamin. A thought is that the wintertime deficiency of vitamin D contributes to the cycle and spreading of colds.
The sun is by far the best source of vitamin D, but supplements can be given, liquid being the best. It was recommended that below age 5, 35 units could be given per pound of body weight, per day.
Vitamin A is a strong anti-viral. It can be taken at high levels to cure illness, but should not be sustained at a high dosage.
Echinacea and Goldenseal
Echinacea being the long-time favorite for colds and is very effective in shortening the duration of colds. It is easily accessible and found in many forms, a popular one being a tea. It is common to find echinacea with goldenseal, which is also a very effective herb in its own right. Goldenseal is currently endangered though, so the ethical thing to do is to avoid it. A local herbalist in town suggested Oregon Grape to be a great substitution, so that is what I tinctured when making my cold and flu tincture for the season.
It wouldn’t be practical for a sick person to take all of these supplements when ill, but this list is a great resource for knowing what herbs will support the body best in times of cold and flu. Another hugely important factor when taking care of yourself and your family is the having the wisdom of knowing when to treat at home, and when to seek help! Some things are best left to the doctors, and sometimes not even “Doctor Mom” can fix them.
She sure can try though…
*As always, the Author is not an expert or a doctor. Nor is she a butcher, or baker, or candlestick maker, and thoughtfully encourages you to do your own research on topics of interest to you. The remedies suggested are not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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