Natural Remedies for Fevers in Children
I have never given my children advil or tylenol. It's not to say that I wouldn't in an emergency situation or if they really needed pain management. But for a mild fever or mild aches and pains, I have always used natural home remedies that have been proven to be quite effective for my little ones. When we have the knowledge of home remedies, it can provide power and a sense of calm when things like the recent Canadian tylenol shortage happens. We also need to remember that fevers can provide a very beneficial healing aspect for children's cold and flu. A fever is a valuable defense mechanism that is the body's built in way to respond to infection or illness. Although a fever may be uncomfortable for both children and adults alike, it may help strengthen the body's immune system and help to reduce infection in the body. However, fevers that go on for too long or fevers that are very high do need to be checked out by a health care professional.
If your child has any of the following symptoms, they should be seen by a practitioner:
Extreme irritability, stiff and/or painful neck, listlessness
Fever higher than 40C (104F) that is not responding to home treatment
Fevers in infants 3 months or younger
Fevers that last more than 3 days in all children
About 4% of all children will sometimes have a seizure with their fever, know as a febrile seizure. These seizures are due to a rapid increase in the temperature, not necessarily by the height of the temperature. They generally occur between 6 months old and 5 years old and they rarely ever have any lasting consequences. However, once a child has already had a high fever and a febrile seizure, the child is more likely to have seizures again with subsequent fevers. Although seizures typically do not cause lasting damage, they can be very scary for a parent to witness. I do generally recommend contacting your doctor right away if it happens.
Conventional practitioners often recommend treating a fever with tylenol or advil, which is an effective way at quickly reducing a fever. However, when we quickly reduce a mild fever in a child, we also may reduce the body's own innate immune system activation. Essentially we are not letting the body do it's job. Although not often spoken about, tylenol can be harmful to the liver. In the United States, acetaminophen (tylenol) associated yearly overdoses account for approximately 56,000 emergency department visits, 26,000 hospitalizations and more than 450 deaths. Using advil (ibprofen) does not have the same risk to the liver, however common side effects with ibprofen are stomach aches, heart burn and diarrhea.
When my children have a fever, I monitor it closely and begin the following home remedies to naturally bring it down:
Using tepid, luke-warm water (never using cold or ice water), I use a face cloth or sponge to pat down their face, arms and stomach. I make sure to focus on behind the neck and ears as well as the forehead.
Although there is no research linking dairy and cold or flu aggravation, I often find it helpful to remove dairy from the diet when my children are sick, especially if they have stuffy noses and increased mucous production. Instead, I provide warm chicken or beef bone broths and luke-warm teas. Catnip, chamomile and Lemon balm teas are herbal teas that are relaxing and also have been traditionally used for fevers. I keep the diet simple, offering fruits and other easy digest foods like applesauce and cooked oats. If the child has no appetite, I typically don't push food but ensure they are getting enough fluids (make sure they are still urinating throughout the day).
Although such a simple concept, it can be challenging to put into practice at times especially with busy family homes and parent work schedules. If a child does have a fever they really need to be in bed resting, sleeping, reading a book or even watching a short movie (we rarely allow screen time in our house hold but this can be a time to do so!). Allowing the body to rest also allows the body to heal- giving it space and time to do the work it needs to. Keeping a sick child home also prevents the spread of the illness to other children in the community.
Homeopathics are extremely diluted natural remedies that often come in the form of sugar pellets. There are a few common homeopathic remedies that may be helpful to gently lower a fever.
Used when the fever comes on suddenly and often recommended in the early stages of a fever
Used when the child has a very flushed hot face. Often generally recommended in the early stages of a fever.
Generally recommended for fevers that accompany teething in infants and toddlers.
4. Eupatorium (Boneset)
Used for fevers especially when accompanied with aches and pains, particularly if the child is complaining of bone pain.
Some children find ginger too strong and spicy, but others love the flavour especially if sweetened with a little honey. Ginger is antiviral and antibacterial and also helps to break up congestion and mucous. Ginger may also be helpful to soothe pain, and may help with the aches and pain associated with a mild fever.
In summary, a visit to your healthcare practitioner is always necessary if your babe is 3 months or under and may be necessary in older children depending on the circumstance. However, there are many things you can try at home if a visit isn't needed that may be helpful and also comforting to the child.
UC Irving School of Medicine https://www.choc.org/articles/the-dangers-of-acetaminophen-for-children/