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Are fever-reducing medications necessary?

Posted Nov 12 2009 10:04pm
This cold and flu season, do yourself a favor and allow your body to use it's own defense mechanisms to fight off sickness. Many times we rush to take over-the-counter medications in an effort to treat the symptoms of an illness, but what we are really doing is just prolonging the sickness and not allowing our bodies to work the way they should to recover more quickly.

What is a fever?

A fever is a sign that your body is fighting off a virus or germ. It is a defense mechanism - just as many food items are heated to kill bad bacteria, your body heats itself to kill bad bacteria.

Many viruses thrive and multiply at our body's normal temperature - 98.6 - so a fever is a sign that your body is doing it's job and attempting to kill any invading pathogens.

Is a fever dangerous?

It can be.

In an adult it usually doesn't become dangerous until it reaches 103. In small children, 101 is usually a cause for concern.

What can happen if you let a fever go untreated?

A rapid rise or fall in temperature can cause febrile seizures in children. Gabriel had this happen to him when he had roseola, which is very common, but also very scary.

But other than that, a fever generally does nothing but cause discomfort for you. It may give you the chills or make you sweat, but it isn't going to hurt you. In fact, if the fever is doing it's job, it is actually helping your body heal faster by killing off the virus.

If fevers help us, why do people take medication to lower fevers?

Generally, our society is scared of having a fever, even low-grade ones. Many people believe that if you let a fever go untreated you could cause brain damage and other problems in children. While fevers should always be monitored in children and shouldn't be allowed to get too high, it is doubtful that a fever is the cause of any damage that could happen when you are sick. Usually, the illness that causes the fever is what does the damage - the fever is just a side effect of the illness.

Many health care professionals will advise you to take something to bring down your fever, but what we forget is that doctors aim to treat symptoms, not the cause of your illness. Treating the fever makes you more comfortable and many times there is no treatment for the virus you have. But by being uncomfortable for a short period of time and not treating the fever, you can possibly reduce the length of time you are sick.

I have been told many times to alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen if my children were to spike a fever. This is very common advice for pediatricians to give, especially younger doctors. But this advice has led to an increase in accidental overdose in children and isn't fully supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Why are you so anti-medicine?

It's not the medication that scares me, it's the inactive ingredients in them. Here is a list of the ingredients in Children's Tylenol Suspension Liquid - Cherry Blast flavor:

Anhydrous citric acid, butylparaben, FD&C Red#40, flavors, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose sodium, propylene glycol, purified water, sodium benzoate, sorbitol solution, sucralose, xanthan gum.

I find many of these ingredients unnecessary and extremely unhealthy. The red dye has been known to cause many health problems. Click here for a list.

Sure there are dye-free versions of these medications available, but they still contain the high fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol, butylparaben, citric acid, and other extremely unhealthy ingredients.

When my children are sick and fighting off pathogens, I don't like polluting their immune systems with even more toxins to fight off. It seems counter-productive.

What does your family do if one of you has a fever?

We monitor the fever and only give fever-reducing medication if our temperatures rise to dangerous levels (103 for adults and 101 for children). We take temperatures often so we know exactly what is going on.

For a low-grade fever we generally do nothing at all but give lots of cuddles and hugs as needed.

We recently purchased a Vick's Forehead Thermometer, and although it was an expensive investment, it was well worth the money. We found that other cheaper digital thermometers were inaccurate and non-digital thermometers took too long/were too hard to use when holding down a squirmy baby. The forehead thermometers give an accurate reading (we compared it to the readings at the doctor's office), can be taken while a child is sleeping, and alert you when a fever is dangerous.

If a temperature lasts more than a few days and it is "showing", we know it is a sign of infection and we make sure to call the doctor. By showing, I mean that we are feeling run-down and tired with the fever. Many times you can have a fever and not even be aware of it.

We do not dose our children with medication prior to getting a vaccine like many doctors advise, because we feel it could interfere with it and could be too many toxins for their bodies to handle at once. Since I spread out vaccines and only give one per visit, my children have never needed a dose of medication due to the effects of the shots.

We treat the discomfort of the fever by giving warm baths, wearing appropriate clothing and using wet washcloths on the forehead. We also make sure to increase our fluid intake.

Stay safe this cold and flu season!! We hope that you don't get a fever anytime soon, but if it happens make sure to give your body a chance to fight it off naturally before taking any medication.



"Fever: Treatments and drugs -" Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living - Web. 12 Nov. 2009. .
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