FEVER – Your Child’s Best Friend – Myths and Facts About Fevers
By Michael Sichel, ND, DO
“Fevers in childhood are common. The fever is not a disease, but a helpful natural biologic mechanism for combating the disease. Fever need not be feared nor treated medicinally but for exceptional circumstances” (Princeton Paediatricians, Mark B. Levin, MD, and Timothy Patrick-Miller, MD).
Fevers are evidence that the immune system is at work. They are a sign of a healthy response to an attack. I have noted that children who are able to respond with higher fevers, strong skin rashes and good discharges of mucus are, as many natural paediatric doctors and naturopaths have found, healthier and more robust than those with minor reactions.
Moreover, such a strong response will help to bring life-long immunity or significant protection to most childhood diseases.(1) This is not so with vaccinations, which require multiple ‘follow-ups’ (currently, making for a total of 27 shots before school-age), often fraught with side-effects(2) that are not always apparent until months later.
As I will explain, a fever not repressed with drugs like Paracetamol or Aspirin will more efficiently and more rapidly defend the body against disease. In fact, if anti-fever drugs are used, the infection often lasts several days longer than if the immune response is not suppressed (see Myth No 3). Moreover, Paracetamol toxicity is the most common cause of adult acute liver failure in Australia.(3) Parecetamol is not always the benign pill and, if at all, should be used with care in children.(4)
Here are some of the reasons why Hippocrates said: “Give me a fever and I can cure the child”.
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOUR CHILD DEVELOPS A FEVER
If your child becomes infected by disease-producing microbes, a fever should develop. The microbes often produce proteins called pyrogens that cause your child’s thermostat (heat controller – a hypothalamus function) to reset upwards. Now the body begins to overheat. For several reasons, this is really bad news – not for your child, but for the pathogens (enemy bacteria/virus), this because:
- A fever doubles white cell activity levels for every degree the temperature rises,(5) and pathogens will then succumb to natural killer cells (white cells that protect your child’s body). NK cells are powerful only if active and lively; they can then destroy microbe-infected cells and powerfully contribute to your child’s innate resistance.(6) In addition, NK cells can even recognize and destroy cancer cells. They have a rapid killing activity on ‘foreign’ cells.
- A fever also has an effect on weakening various heat-sensitive viruses.
- The fever also causes the release of protective hormones.
So, you can see that a fever is really good for your child! In fact fevers in children used to be regarded as ‘normal’ events by our wise forebears. They were not suppressed. In fact, one sign of a weak immune system is when no fever is produced when there is a common infectious disease. But some fevers are abnormal, and we will describe those later.
SOME MODERN MYTHS ABOUT FEVERS
Myth One – Fevers keep going up unchecked.
Truth. Unless a child is in a hot place or overdressed, the brain’s thermostat will stop the fever at 40.5°C (105 °F). Even with viral and bacterial infections, it will normally stop at 40.5°. However, the fever should stop inside four days or so, although there is no arbitrary ‘number’. The distress level is the key indicator for other interventions (the best of which is vitamin C given intravenously or intramuscularly – you may find an ACNEM wholistic doctor who will do this procedure).
An example of this built-in safety mechanism is the case of scarlet fever, once a common disease for children, but now rare.(7) Here is a 100-year-old description in an antique book by Dr Leslie Mackenzie, MA, MD, who was the Medical Member of the Local Government Board for Scotland and Medical Inspector of School Children:
“Here is a school child of ten, just admitted. His face is flushed and there is no rash on it. His hands, arms and lower limbs, however, all show a bright red eruption – the rash of scarlet fever. His pulse runs at a high rate. His temperature has gone up to 103° F (39.4°C) or 104°F (40°C). It will remain there for a day or two. The rash will fade away in 48 hours … in perhaps four days he will be, apparently, back to his normal state.”
The good doctor never mentioned trying to reduce the fever in his chapter on fevers. It was a ‘given’ that fevers completed their natural course. Parents, of course, are concerned (as we were once, when our daughter had a 40°+ fever for four days, plus some mild delirium), but must learn to relax. The body knows best! It certainly helps you to relax when you know that a fever is a ‘good thing’ rather than a ‘bad thing’.
Moreover, I have a collection of paediatric medical text books that commence in 1907 and go to the present day. Significantly, recommendations to use anti-fever drugs only appeared in the last few decades. Fear campaigns to douse fevers have only been a recent phenomenon – when paracetamol producers obviously saw the profit potential. Today we see pharmacies buying drugs like Panadol by the pallet load. However, the potential to damage children this way has now been highlighted by a study that found that common usage of paracetamol risked liver toxicity and liver damage in children. (PMID: 12630972).
However, poisoning or exposure to toxic substances or heatstroke are dangerous elevators of temperature. Heatstroke usually occurs from sunshine on a hot day. It means that the ambient temperature is so high that the body cannot cool down with its usual mechanism of radiating the heat away from itself. If it is also humid, then evaporation won’t work either.
Fevers are also not so good in the very young. If your child is less than three months old and has a fever of 38°C (100°F) or over, call a doctor.
Myth Two – Fevers damage the brain.
Truth. Fevers below 42.2° C (108°F) do not damage the brain; on the contrary they can actually repair the brain (see below – ‘Autism Recoveries’). Even fevers of 40.5° are a ‘normal’ result of a good immune response. So, do not quell these fevers.
If a chill develops, do not ‘wrap her up’ warmer. You are fighting against her immune defence. A chill is a sign of a rising fever and the body taking steps to control it. When the sweating begins, this shows that the fever is about to fall soon after. It is the crisis point, a good sign that your child has mounted a successful defence.
But call a doctor if the 40.5° lasts more than 70 hours (see age group limits near end of article). Fevers accompanied by other symptoms, such as constipation and vomiting, extreme weakness or very rapid pulse or fevers rising fast can be signs of more difficult problems than a common childhood infection.
Myth Three – Always give aspirin or similar for a fever.
Truth. According to a series of studies at the University of Maryland (1978 – 1987), quelling fevers with aspirin, etc, can actually prolong the illness. The University’s Center for Vaccine Development found that flu sufferers who took one of the anti-fever medications were sick for an average of 3.5 days longer than people who did not take either of the drugs. On average, flu symptoms lasted 5.3 days in participants who did not take aspirin or acetaminophen, compared with 8.8 days in people who took the anti-fever drugs.
As we noted above, over-use of paracetamol-type drugs (for example, Panadol) are the most common cause of liver damage in children. The South Australian Health Department advises: “A high temperature is one of the ways that a body’s immune system works to control infections… Using paracetamol or ibuprofen does not protect a child from febrile convulsions even if it reduces the child’s temperature”.
Myth Four. Antibiotics help fevers.
It is rarely necessary and not wise to give antibiotics to a child simply because he has a fever. Bacteria are only responsible for less than 10% of fevers, and one course of antibiotics can disrupt your child’s digestive tract for up to six months.(8)
Myth Five. 37°C is ‘normal’.
Truth. 37°C (98.6°F) is an average only. Temperatures vary through the day. Some children have a ‘normal’ temperature of up to 37.4° (99.4°F). Others maybe ‘normal’ at 35.8° (96.4°F).
Paediatric doctors at Princeton University point out that the significance of a fever depends on the child and the circumstances – not the temperature. “The answer relates not to a number, but to the child’s functional state and associated symptoms. If a child with an identified condition has a fever at any level and responds to social interaction in a manner that is appropriate for the child’s developmental stage, then concern is lessened”.(9)
Myth Six – Always use a rectal temperature or an ear thermometer.
Truth. There is no need to risk a rectal perforation. Underarm (axillary) is fine, but do not put the thermometer in the ear. One famous paediatrician, the late Dr Robert Mendlesohn, put it this way: “Never place anything in the ear that is smaller than your elbow!”. Ear thermometers are also notoriously inaccurate and inclined to read too high.
POINTS TO WATCH
- No matter what the temperature, if your child experiences difficulty breathing, twitching, repeated vomiting or strange movements – or has other similar concerns, then call a doctor. Also watch for confusion, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, inability to move an arm or leg or first-time seizure.
- If he/she is continuously listless or irritable or appears seriously ill, call the doctor.
- Encourage your child to rest during the fever and consume only pure water or vegetable juices. Immediately after the fever, make sure he eats properly – maybe soups or vegetable juices and easy-to-digest solid food (namely, fresh fruit) if he wants it. Give plenty of water to drink. Avoid all refined and concentrated sugars.
- Nurse your child through the event with the room darkened (fevers can bring photo-sensitivity), quietness and maybe gentle music. Certainly give love and a sense of confidence.
Also call a doctor if:
- A baby younger than 90 days old has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
- A baby 3 to 12 months old has a fever of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher.
- A child under age 2 has a fever that lasts longer than 24 to 48 hours.
- A fever lasts longer than 48 to 72 hours in older children and adults.
- Anyone has a fever over 105°F (40.5°C), unless it comes down readily with treatment and the person is comfortable.
- There are other worrisome symptoms. For example, irritability, confusion, difficulty breathing, stiff neck, inability to move an arm or leg or a first-time seizure.
- There are other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache or cough.
RESULTS OF PARENTS FOLLOWING ADVICE ON FEVERS
Apart from our experience with our own neuro-typical daughter, with whom we never used anti-pyretics, the first quite sensational results were told to me by the brave parents of a properly diagnosed, severely damaged regressive autism boy named Brock. They were ‘brave’ because they followed my advice in spite of fever convulsions and eye-movements that would have caused most parents to call a doctor. However, they had seen these same symptoms in their boy when he had regressed into autism within hours of a DPT shot. He had been taken to hospital emergency with an ALTE (Apparent Life Threatening Episode). The whole episode repeated a second time in three weeks after coming home. But this time he also had a left-sided stroke. Paediatricians admit (at least among themselves)(10) that ALTE and SIDS deaths are commonly associated with vaccine adverse events.
During our treatment, Brock began to greatly improve in both autism symptoms and general health, but after one month the fever and convulsions began. This time they allowed him to ‘go through with it’ – plus several immune boosting measures already in place. The day after this event, the mother phoned me and said that Brock was now peaceful and happy and had taken a “Big step forward in cognition and even return of speech!”.
As with the ALTE history, he had a second fever/convulsion episode in three weeks – and once again, good results followed the parent’s careful nursing. These improvements were permanent, and this boy is back to normal after three years of ongoing biomedical treatment.
Since then, we have had a number of parents reporting improvements following fevers after periods of biomedical treatment.
A recent example was given by a couple who told how they had read the chapter on ‘Fevers’ that is in both my books, Good News for the Alphabet Kids and How to Repair Children Damaged by Mercury Medicine and Politics, and had allowed their boy to ‘go through’ with his fever. They were amazed to see him improve in both speech and behaviour.
It must be emphasized that children need to have been on a total biomed program with good nutrition and large doses of vitamin C daily, etc., before attempting to follow this advice.
Michael Sichel, DO, ND, PhD (Ed), has served the Australian community as an osteopath, naturopath and health educator for 48 years. He is the author of the best-selling book, Good News for the Alphabet Kids, 3rd Edition. This book has just been released as a DVD – see below.
Michael is a founding director of the Australian M.I.N.D.D. Foundation, and is a DAN! trained practitioner. In 1995, an independent census study of 59 ASD children at his clinic found 89% had successful outcomes (success = significant to total restoration, as reported by parents).
He is a member of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association, the Australian Natural Therapists Association, the International Medical Council on Vaccination, and the World Olympians Association.