A fever is considered a temperature above 38°C and is an indication that your body is trying to eradicate unwanted bacteria or viruses from the body. It is an extremely clever natural defence mechanism which enhances the action of the immune system - the high body temperature causes more white blood cells to be produced - and although it can be worrying, particularly in babies and children, it is much better not to suppress it with medication. Medicines, by reducing the temperature, are also reducing the immune systems performance and mask the symptoms so a child often feels better and carries on as normal, when actually they should be in bed. Suppressing symptoms in this way may result in an illness taking longer to go.
Normal body temperature ranges between 36°C (97°F) to 37.5°C (99°F) and varies from person to person, and throughout the day. If the body temperature rises just above this it is generally alright and plenty of rest and fluids will help it run its course. However you should be concerned if the body temperature rises above 39°C (102°F), or 39.5°C (103°F) in children. If this happens take measures to reduce the fever naturally (see below) and contact your doctor. Healthy adults and children may even then run a fever of up to 40°C (104°F) without danger, however always seek professional help and be aware that if a fever reaches 40.5°C (105°F) or 41°C (106°F) it can be very serious.
In newborn babies the regulation of body temperature is very underdeveloped and signs of sickness are often listlessness and loss of appetite rather than fluctuations in temperature. Babies should be watched closely if they develop a fever because they can become easily dehydrated. A very high fever and one which develops very quickly in newborns and young children under three can cause seizures. This is very rare but if you suspect this may be happening contact your doctor and go to the A&E department at your hospital immediately.
It is important to know that a fever is one of the symptoms of meningitis - other warning signs are oversensitivity to light, drowsiness, a stiff neck and back, vomiting, shivering, cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, increased crying, stomach pains, a flat pink or purple blotchy rash that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it (Men C), and aching joints. In very young babies look out for bulging or tight fontanels, seizures or convulsions, a high pitched cry, loss of consciousness, pale, blotchy skin, and loss of appetite.
If at any point to you are concerned seek professional help.
STEPS TO REDUCE A FEVER:
• To avoid dehydration drink plenty of fluids, warmed or cold as desired; filtered or bottled water; fresh diluted organic juices; a combination of water, lemon and honey; ice-cubes or frozen fruit juice.
• Offer only light snacks and nourishing fluids (broth-style soups) but don't worry if your child is not interested in food, it is the body's way of using energy to heal itself rather than to digest food.
• Stay in bed and get plenty of rest.
• Keep the body cool, wipe the forehead with a cool flannel as often as needed, and sponge each limb one at a time until it feels cool - dry, cover and then go on to the next one.
• Have a good thermometer in the house - digital thermometers are best, but keep spare batteries with it. Otherwise use a traditional thermometer under the tongue for three full minutes. Strip thermometers are not accurate enough.
• Undress a baby with a fever and sponge gently.
• Keep a hot, feverish baby lightly dressed, and a cold, shivery baby well wrapped up.
• Massage with essential oils can help to cool the body, or sweat out a fever. Mix either of the following in a base oil; peppermint or eucalyptus to reduce the temperature; lavender or tea tree to encourage sweating - see Essential Oils
• If a fever is below 38.5°C (101°F) give a warm Chamomile or Ginger tea to promote sweating. Sage tea with a little honey added can also help to bring down a fever - see Herbal Tea.
Homeopathy - if a fever is the first symptom you have, it is best to wait a while to see if any others become apparent, i.e. sore throat, earache etc before prescribing homeopathic remedies. You will then have a much clearer picture of what is going on. The following remedies are very useful: Belladonna 30c for very typical sudden fevers, with very high temperatures, a red face, shiny pupils, a lack of thirst and irritability, skin that is burning hot and may feel damp, and cold hands; Aconite 30c for very sudden fevers, or after getting chilled, with skin that may be dry, hot and red, fear or anxiousness and much thirst; Chamomilla 30c for fever that causes irritability and upset; Gelsemium 30c for slow fevers, with chills, bone pain and fatigue; and Ferrum Phos 30c for a fever that is not as rapid as indicated for Belladonna or Aconite, perhaps with pink cheeks and a pale face, and no other obvious symptoms - see Homeopathy. See the Homeopathic Kits for sets containing a range of different remedies.
Give one dose every 15 to 30 minutes for sudden fevers and every half and hour to an hour for slower fevers.
NB. It is important to touch the pills as little as possible, ideally tipping them into the lid and then directly into the mouth, and also to avoid eating and drinking at the same time as taking the remedy.
The stronger the symptoms the stronger the potency required, so if you are unsure, if any of these remedies are not working, or you feel you need a higher potency contact a professional homeopath.
NB. This information is in no way intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are unsure as to the suitability of any of the products or recommendations with regard to your condition please consult your doctor. If your doctor does not approve of complementary medicine it may be helpful to find one who does.