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Why Some Fevers Can Actually Be Helpful to Your Health

on February 17, 2014

feverMegan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Nutrition and Health Coach.

This time of year often brings an onslaught of colds, coughs, fevers, the flu, and carious other illnesses that we wish would just never exist. For those who catch these illnesses, especially our kids, it can mean long days and nights of feeling like garbage, parents wondering what to give their kids to make them feel better ASAP, and days missed from school and work. Let’s face it – being sick stinks and nobody should have to face this issue more than they have to (which is why I am a huge proponent of preventative health care). For parents, it is the worst to see our kids not feeling well, sick, and going through something we wish they didn’t have to, but when illness strikes, especially a fever, here are some things you may want to take into consideration before rushing to the medicine cabinet to pop some meds that will bring that temperature down (notably in children).
Growing up, I didn’t get sick often at all, but I recall the five thousand times my mom would check my forehead to make sure I didn’t have a fever, as this must have been the tell-all symptom of getting or being sick. Like most parents, if a child (or adult) has a fever, it can raise concern, as you don’t want a fever to “get too high” – which is true. If I ever did have a fever, I can still recall the taste of the children’s acetaminophen I was given to nip that temperature in the bud. As I grew up, I thought that fevers were kind of evil and should be lowered as soon as anyone had one. However, what many people fail to realize is that a fever can actually be very helpful to the body, as long as it does not reach above 103 degrees for a prolonged period of time. DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor, nor am I trying to give medical advice here, so please do not take my sharing of this information as a written-in-stone approach to treat or approach fevers. If ever in doubt, ALWAYS consult a medical professional, especially when dealing with children.

Fevers, as you know, are an elevation in body temperature and most fevers range around 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit. A normal body temperature ranges from 97 to 99 degrees F and can vary from person to person, as well as different times of the day, usually highest in the afternoon when activity and environment temperatures are at their highest. Children can spike a fever when teething; adults and children alike get fevers when falling ill with common illnesses. A fever is a defense mechanism of the body that acts to destroy harmful microbes (invaders) to the body. It’s considered necessary to eliminate a disease agent that has entered and/or attacked the body because it’s the body’s way of addressing and localizing inflammation, often coupled with mucous production, to flush out and rid the body of this pathogen. Runny noses, coughs, rashes, and fevers are all evidence of a normal and general immune system response in most cases. Many times however, such body symptoms have been treated with immediate suppression through medication and does not give the body a chance to initially fight off what it can of the illness. While these symptoms are not fun to deal with for more than a short while (which is why many modern practices have led to the immediate treatment of suppression), it can actually lead to a quicker rebounding from the illness and prolonged protection.

I’ll try and break the cycle down here as easy as possible to understand why and how a fever is important for the body in many cases during a time of illness:
– We are constantly exposed to germs, which can enter the body through a break in the skin, contact with our respiratory tissue (inhaled or breathed in), or the gastrointestinal tract (ingesting through the mouth).
– Our white blood cells located all along the lining of our respiratory and gastrointestinal linings normally do a great job fighting off any of these germs before they become a problem, but sometimes an overgrowth of the “invader” cells can lead to illness.
– If an “invasion” is suspected, the white blood cells go into overdrive and a chill in the body can develop (why some people get the “chills” before or during a fever…it’s all part of the process). This chill actually signals the body to increase its temperature.
– After the chill, a fever usually erupts in the body either gradually over several days or immediately with a high fever (that is usually scary to deal with!).
– This fever development time is when antibody production is initiated to destroy the pathogen or virus. These temperatures actually encourage the body to make more immune cells that will destroy the illness.
– Fevers affiliated with viruses tend to create moderate fevers (around 99-101 degrees F).
– Fevers affiliated with bacterial infections tend to produce higher fevers to destroy the illness (around 100-103+ degrees F).
– Normally after a fever breaks, the body will respond with sweating, which indicates that the body has successfully completed its immune response to the illness.
So what’s the big deal about breaking a fever with medication? First, NEVER give aspirin to a child with a fever. This can cause Reye’s Syndrome. If a fever is naturally fighting off an illness in the body within normal measures (see below for when it’s NOT healthy to let a fever go), interrupting this process can actually cause the illness to prolong or not be resolved. Medicines like Tylenol, Advil, Ibuprophen, etc., suppress fevers and never allow the body to move through the stages of effective immune system function. Additionally, these drugs are processed through the liver or kidneys, and there has been much debate recently over how toxic acetaminophen can be to developing livers, in addition to disturbing the production of glutathione (which is a major immune contributor in the body).
Rather, here are some things you can do instead to support the body going through a manageable fever:
• Stay away from others, as to not spread the illness and to help give the immune system a break from being exposed to other possible germs.
• Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration and allow the body to flush the toxins out easier.
• Believe it or not, laying off of solid foods until the fever breaks can help greatly, as it allows the body to focus on fighting off the illness. Digesting food takes a huge amount of effort and energy by the body, especially in a time of illness.
• Lay off sugar and dairy as much as possible. Sugar feeds bacterial and viral cells, thus creating more work for the body to fight them off and dairy creates larger mucous production, which can take away from the body creating the proper amount to regulate the removal of the pathogen. Plus, it can add to an already large amount of mucous that is probably being produced by the body, which means feeling more miserable!
• Place cool towels on the feet and hands to draw the heat out of the top of the head.
• Do not use cold baths to bring down a fever, as this can shock the system. Rather, use cooler or “tepid” (lukewarm) water to create a gentle way to coax heat from the inner core and soothe the rest of the body.
• Rest as much as possible.
• Reduce stimulation like light, noise, and activities – this can take away from the body’s natural ability to cope with concentrating efforts to the immune system response.
• Massage gently up and down the spine to stimulate the immune system.
• Taking probiotics like acidophilus will help support the immune system in general, but especially at a time when the body is fighting off illness.
• Garlic is a natural immune booster and very effective in helping the body combat illness.
• Some herbal teas that are great for fevers:
o Lemon balm (helps the body perspire, which helps “sweat out” the toxins); be sure to hydrate with water in addition to replace fluids lost by perspiration.
o Chamomile tea helps to calm and relax the system.
o Peppermint tea is known to naturally cool a fever (but not suppress it in an unhealthy way).
• Take plenty of Vitamin C to help promote better immune response (preferably from citrus fruits and foods). Processed orange juice is NOT a good source, as it contains tons of sugar and has killed off all of the beneficial enzymes from the fruit.
• Get plenty of Vitamin D (here is where I think a supplement of D3 can be helpful).
• Avoid taking any supplements that have iron (or foods high in iron) during a time of fever, as the body tries to “hide” iron in the body tissues in an attempt to keep the infecting organism from using it for nourishment. This can cause undue strain on the body that is already working hard to fight off illness.

• Please note that some fevers, if left too long (for more than 3 days) or if they get too high (over 103-104 degrees in children) can cause serious complications like dehydration (the most common complication). — –
o Convulsions can indicate a brain issue from fevers that get too high and fevers associated with strep bacteria are known to cause permanent damage to the kidneys or heart.
• Fevers accompanied by restlessness, pain, agitation, listlessness, rapid respiration, or low pulse should also be immediately addressed by medical professionals.
• A baby 3 months or younger who has a temperature of 103 degrees F or higher needs to see a doctor immediately.
• A feverish child at any age with a stiff neck, throat swelling, or acting in a disoriented manner needs immediate medical attention, as this can indicate meningitis.
• Please also note that heat stroke and head injuries can also cause a high fever in addition to over-exposure to a cold wind. Emotional responses such as shock or trauma can result in fevers as well.

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching, LLC. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods, products, and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at: Follow Megan on Twitter and like her on Facebook


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