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My generation of Xenials was raised to think that fevers were always supposed to be reduced, and most often were treated with acetametaphine or ibuprofen (Tylenol or Advil). Nowadays though, we know a lot more about the function of fevers and how best to work with them to help your body fight off viruses or infection. There are many natural remedies we can use alongside the fever, to help support the body and immune system naturally.
Fevers are the body's natural defense
It is commonly thought that a fever should be treated as an illness, when in fact it is merely a physiological response to infection or injury. According to a professor of pediatric clinical care and clinical pharmacology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Janice Sullivan “Fever is the body’s normal response to infection — it’s a natural defense mechanism,” She goes on to say that a high temperature triggers the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and inhibits the growth of viruses and bacteria. “If you lower the fever, you may be affecting the body’s ability to respond to that infection.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics on fevers
Most pediatricians, including the AAP, agree that "there is no evidence that children with fever, as opposed to hyperthermia, are at increased risk of adverse outcomes such as brain damage.7,9,21,–,23” In fact, the AAP not only says that there is no need to bring a fever down in an otherwise healthy child, but that the downside to treating a fever is that it can prolong the illness that brought the fever on, to begin with.
It should be emphasized that fever is not an illness but is, in fact, a physiologic mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection.8,–,10 Fever retards the growth and reproduction of bacteria and viruses, enhances neutrophil production and T-lymphocyte proliferation, and aids in the body's acute-phase reaction.11,–,14 The degree of fever does not always correlate with the severity of illness. Most fevers are of short duration, are benign, and may actually protect the host.15 Data show beneficial effects on certain components of the immune system in fever, and limited data have
When should you seek medical attention for a fever?
Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine says "there is generally no exact temperature that indicates you should take your child to the emergency room. As long as children are drinking, urinating and responding normally, for being sick, you can monitor them at home. Parents should focus on keeping the children comfortable, not reducing the fever. Give them lots of fluids, ice chips and popsicles, dress them in light clothing, and give them tepid baths to help them cool down."
Most medical professionals agree, seek medical attention if:
- A child less than 8 weeks old has a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher.
- A child who is undergoing chemotherapy or has a weakened immune system develops a fever.
- There is no clear cause for the child's fever (no cough, runny nose or known pain) and the fever has lasted for two to three days.
- A fever has lasted for more than five days, even if your child looks well.
5 Remedies for Supporting Fevers Naturally
Our main goal when a fever is present is to help support the immune system and keep the body comfortable. These are my top 5 natural ways to help support a fever during illness. Unless otherwise specified, these remedies are safe for use for both adults and children 2+ years of age.
#1 Herbal Tea
Hot herbal tea can be very beneficial during any illness. Not only can herbs help to reduce pain, support the immune system, and get much-needed fluids back into the body, but the simple act of drinking hot herbal tea while bundled up can help the body sweat out the infection. It's easy to make a great all around cold/flu tea, simply pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 slice of lemon, 1 slice of ginger, and a stick of cinnamon (or a dash of the powder). Allow it to steep for 10 minutes before steeping. You can keep pouring hot boiling water over the same ingredients throughout the day, to save on waste! Add a dash of raw unfiltered honey and sip to your heart's content.
Classic Cold/Flu Fever-Reducing Tea
Combine herbs and store in an airtight container until you are ready to brew! To prepare tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp. of loose leaf tea and let steep, covered, for 1 hour. Strain and sip throughout the day. Note: I like to use this tea infuser to easily make loose leaf tea.
#2 Essential Oils
Essential oils can help to relieve some of the side effects of a fever, such as achy muscles, headaches, stress, and more! Cooling antiviral and immune supporting essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, spearmint, rosalina, fir needle, cypress, lemon, sweet orange, palmarosa, tea tree, and marjoram can all be safely diffused throughout the room as well as diluted and massaged onto the body. You can find dilutions for pregnant women, children, and adults here. You can find a ton more safety information and recipes for pregnant women, babies, and children in my book The Complete Book of Essential Oils for Mama & Baby; Safe and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Children.
#3 Tepid Bath
One of my first line's of defense whenever anyone in my household gets sick is a good bath. I have been known to bust out the fine mesh bag and fill it with Epsom salt, herbs, and essential oils. It's easy to hang off the bath faucet and let the water run through it into the bath. I'm so into baths that whenever Syfy even has a sniffle, the first thing he asks for is a bath or shower! When dealing with a fever, you want to take care not to make the bath too hot. The reason for the bath will generally determine the temperature. If the fever is extremely high and you want to bring it down some, you'll want warm/cool water (not cold), but if you are combating achy joints and general ill feelings, a warmer bath can be utilized. Some ingredients are rock stars in a bath during illness and especially fevers. These include:
Apple Cider Vinegar - One of the surprising home remedies that really works well is raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar! Don't worry! You don't have to drink it for this remedy! Simply pour it into your bath or add it to a cooling compress!
Cooling Fever Compress
- 1 Tbsp. peppermint tea (or 1 tea bag)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. aloe vera gel
- 3 drops MRH lavender eo or PT lavender essential oil
- 3 drops MRH spearmint eo or PT spearmint essential oil (this can be substituted with MRH peppermint eo or PT peppermint essential oil for adults and children 6+ years)
Combine 2 cups boiling water with peppermint tea. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. (If using looseleaf, strain) Stir in 1 to 2 cups ice cubes, until the ice is melted and the water temperature is cool, not ice cold. In a small bowl combine the aloe vera gel and essential oils. Stir in the essential oil mixture and apple cider vinegar into the cooled peppermint tea. To use, dip a washcloth into the mixture, squeeze out until damp. Apply to the forehead and feet to help draw heat from the body.
Epsom Salt - Epsom salt is another wonderful ingredient to add to a bath during a fever. Soaking in an Epsom bath provides the body with much-needed hydration, magnesium, and even helps remove toxins from the body. Simply add 2 cups of Epsom salt to a full, warm bath and soak. Children should soak for a minimum of 10-15 minutes, while adults should soak for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. Go ahead and double up by adding 1 cup of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar to the bath too!
#4 Fluids & Electrolyte Drinks
Fluids are an extremely important thing to keep up with while sick with any kind of illness. Extra fluids are especially important when a fever is present because a fever can cause fluid loss and dehydration. Water, herbal tea, coconut water, and electrolyte drinks can all count towards your fluid intake.
Homemade Electrolyte Drinks - Our bodies require a certain balance of water and electrolytes to survive. Too much or too little of either and your body's chemistry gets out of whack. When you are feverish, sweating more, throwing up, or have diarrhea, you are losing precious mineral balanced fluids from your body. Drinking too much water while dehydrated can cause you to over water your system and dilute your electrolyte levels. You need to provide your body with a consistent and adequate supply of electrolytes to maintain specific bodily functions at optimal levels during illness. Avoid artificial flavors and colors by making your own homemade electrolyte drinks! It's very easy to DIY and the ingredients can be found in your pantry and fridge!
Flowerchild Immune Support Electrolyte Pops - If you thought your healthy kiddo was picky, just wait until they fall ill! My picky kiddo inspired me to create these immune supporting electrolyte pops when he refused to eat or drink anything I offered while he was sick. It turned out, popsicles were exactly what he wanted! These popsicles are the perfect cool treat to get more healthy fluids back into the body AND adults can enjoy them too!
#5 Immune Support
It's extremely important to support the immune system during any type of illness. Your body's immune system is the first line of defense to combat bugs and can easily be supported by eating/drinking a variety of fruits, veggies, and herbs! One of my favorite immune supporting herbs is elderberry! Clinically proven to be superior to Tamiflu by shortening the length of time you are sick and even helping to boost the immune system preventing you from getting sick when everyone else around you already is!
Elderberry Syrup - My favorite method of immune support, my homemade Elderberry Cold & Flu Syrup is very easy to DIY! I make it by the gallon for all of my friends and family because it's soooo much cheaper than buying a tiny bottle from the grocery store! Plus, you can add all kinds of other immune supporting herbs/fruits to make it even better!
Elderberry Orange Immune Support Gummy Snacks - What do you do when even the delicious taste of elderberry syrup fails to impress your picky kiddo? I just turn it into gummy fruit snacks in hopes that I can fool him into taking his herbal medicine! My Elderberry Orange Immune Support Gummy Snacks are the perfect immune boosting snacks that you can pop throughout the day! Adult-friendly...kid-approved!