Does Fever Help You Heal? Why Are We So Scared?
A fever is a common response of the body, generally to a viral or bacterial infection. Everyone seems to have a different definition of what a “low-grade,” “medium,” and “high” fever is, but it doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s generally accepted that a true fever is a rectal temperature above 100.4oF. Other means of measuring temperature have different accepted definitions of fever, but keeping “100” in your head is a good start. A well-appearing child with a temp of 99.5 probably doesn’t need to be whisked off to the doctor right away. Neither, for that matter, does a well-appearing child with an actual fever, because believe it or not, fevers are generally good for the body as a fever will help you heal.
A Fever will Help You Heal
A fever is an indicator that something (usually an infection) is occurring, but fevers are not necessarily bad themselves. Fevers have several important functions, including slowing down the infection and speeding up the response of your infection-fighting cells. It’s a bit like casting Haste on the immune system and a fever may actually help a child recover more quickly from a virus.
Are Fevers Dangerous?
Do I need to treat my child’s fever?
A fever does not need to be reduced simply because it exists. Fevers are helpful, but sometimes a fever also interferes with your child’s ability to sleep, eat, or drink. All of which are very important in recovering from illness. Or your child might have pain or significant discomfort with the fever, and in those cases, please, give your child something to help the symptoms.
Fevers are safe and they are the body’s way of controlling its immune response. Your child’s body is controlling the temperature and it’s going to fluctuate no matter what you do. Don’t awaken a child from a deep sleep to give medications for the fever. Sleep is more important. Take oral temperatures when possible and rectal ones when not. Ear, sticker, pacifier and temporal artery thermometers are not reliable. Stick to a good, old-fashioned digital thermometer for the best accuracy. As far as how frequently a fever needs to be checked, once a day is sufficient.
Your goal should be your child’s comfort, not reducing the fever. Remember a fever will help you heal, so be generous with fluids, ice chips, and popsicles. Dress children in light clothing and give tepid baths to help cool them down. Don’t use rubbing alcohol as this can be absorbed into the skin. Give fever reducers only if your child feels uncomfortable, not solely to reduce the temperature. And don’t alternate fever-reducing medications, as this could lead to overdosing or excessive medication that your child doesn’t need.
What you Can do now
Running a fever is usually nothing to worry about. It’s important to understand the guidelines for treating fever, especially for young children, older adults, and people with a compromised immune system. A fever means your body’s fighting a cold, the flu, or another infection. But you can help make the battle as easy as possible. To manage your fever, try these tips:
- Get Plenty of Rest. When you’ve got a fever, activity brings your body temperature up even higher. Help your body recover and avoid becoming dehydrated or getting heatstroke by taking it easy until your fever comes down.
- Remember to drink. Sweating is your body’s natural cooling system, so staying well hydrated (with things like water or chicken soup) is extra-important.
- Eat healthy foods. Nutrients and fluids can help boost your immune system and the healthier you are when you have a fever, the quicker you’ll get over it.
- Dress light. Bundling up too much can make it harder to reduce a fever. If you have chills, try wearing a single, light layer and using one lightweight blanket.
- Check your Temperature. If your temperature’s over 103ºF, Consult a medical practitioner. You may have the flu or another infection, so get checked out to be sure.
Make sure to wash your hands often – it can help you avoid colds, flu and the fevers that might come with them. Try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, too.
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