Oh baby it’s red hot – it’s red hot fever, baby!

Febrile.  Fever.  Sickness.  Fever can be defined as a regulated increase in body temperature resulting from an elevation of the thermoregulatory set point blah blah blah science stuff — are you still with me?  It occurs when the internal production of heat is greater than heat loss.  If you missed that, it’s Your own body deciding to raise its set point.

What’s the big deal with fever?

I see a lot of parents and friends that just want to bring that bad boy down immediately!  What’s that buzz-word I keep hearing?  “Seizures…won’t my child suffer a seizure?”

Good lord that is a frightening word. 

Let’s take a look at febrile seizures.  For kids 3months to 5 years in age…
4% of American kids have a febrile seizure before the age of 7 and they are usually self-limited and symptomatic of viral axanthema, bacterial otitis, pharyngitis or some other non-CNS infection.  They will usually occur when temperature spikes.  Didjya get that?  Spikes. And this typically happens before a parent is even aware their child has a fever!
“Is my child going to have brain damage?!”  It’s important to note that even WITH a febrile seizure there’s no increased risk of neurological defects, decreased IQ, or epilepsy UNLESS they have other risk factors (family history, abnormal development, previous neurological deficit, seizure lasts more than 15 minutes).  Febrile seizures only recur in 50% of patients within the year and 80% of recurrences are within the first two years of the 1st episode.
FeverChildBut let’s get real…Who wants to see their baby so sick?!  They’re hot, they’re sweating, they’re crying, they’re whining, theyyyyyy’re sick.  There is nothing that could quite break your heart more than your sweet little babe looking like an immune-system-targeted train just ran over them.  Harsh?  I prefer the term accurate.

Look at that sweet little girl over there to the left.  she’s looks so uncomfortable!  But don’t be so quick to reach for that Tempra!

“But she’s so sick she won’t even eat as much as she normally does!” 

Hmmm…That’s interesting.  Almost as if her body has a secret agenda!  So why the appetite suppression?  When you break down food you break it down into this thing I like to call fuel.  Potentially, this is fuel for the bacteria or virus lingering within.  Ever heard the saying starve a fever?  It’s pretty smart.  Your body is focusing on infection and so your digestion slows down so if you feed a febrile person you could actually increase their toxic load because incomplete digestion is just no bueno!  You want to decrease those nutrients available for microbials (specifically lowering the availability of iron, zinc, and glucose).  Zinc is the oddball and we will leave him for another blog post because zinc can actually decrease the number of upper respiratory tract infections you get and decrease it’s severity buttttt nevertheless let’s stay on track here.  What’s the deal with glucose?

When you have sugar when you’re sick you decrease the activity of white blood cells (WBCs) so they can’t properly see the bacteria/virus.  You’re essentially crippling your immune system.  And iron?  Iron feeds viruses – those bad boys looooove iron.  In your liver during a fever, pyrogens stimulate protein synthesis and this benefits your immune system cells (increasing your army against the invaders!!!).  The problem with taking tylenol, or tempra, or anything that brings down your fever is that you’re stopping your body at a stage in the game before it gets to make all this good stuff to fight off the pathogen that’s making you sick in the first place!

You may feel better, your sweet little child may look much happier and be able to “make it a tylenol day” and go out and play again buttttttt back that up a second.  If there’s still an infection brewing inside, why are we running down their bodies even more.  They may LOOK better and they may even FEEL better but you may not have created a big enough arsenal in there to BAM BAM KAPOW —  knock out that pathogen.

Fever does some wonderful things that sometimes can be scary to witness on the outside of the body.  But it has a direct impact on infectious agents.  It increases our cardiovascular circulation to get our WBCs where they need to be.  It increases liver action, as a filtration system and as a protein synthesizer important in so many ways for infection-fighting!  It also increases metabolism and catabolism (it increases our immune action and increases detoxification and elimination via the lungs, kidneys, liver, and skin).  WOW.  All that?  Fever, you’re so hot  that you’re cool.

But this post wouldn’t be completely fair if I didn’t point out what to be watchful of if your child IS suffering from a fever.  After all, the main cause of seizures is most likely the spike or the electrolyte imbalances people suffer from fevers that are not properly taken care of (and no I do not mean brought down when I say “taken care of”).  Because fevers increase respiration you end up losing more fluid just breathing so it’s important to stay hydrated not just with water but with a good electrolyte beverage.

Gatorade? 

eeeeeee, how about a little something you can make at home?  Water, some citrus fruit, honey (if the child is old enough) and a pinch of some Himalayan rock salt and you are golden.

Fevers can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and seizures.  Avoid by not feeding and maintaining hydration and watch for diarrhea, vomiting, perspiration and respiration.  We have something called intuition and I know it can be scary to trust it but sometimes you need to.  If you think your babe needs another glass of your electrolyte drink – give it to her/him!

Some suggestions to consider: 

If they’ve got a low-grade fever (fevers below 39*C/102*F) then you want to keep them under blankets, and put on the socks.  Warm your kiddos up because THIS temperature is PERFECT for bacterial growth and we want bacterial death.

If they’ve got a high-grade fever, putting them in cold baths or putting cold cloths on them is only going to heat them up more because their cold receptors are beyond sensitive and the body will actually increase the production of heat because it is reacting to this sudden shock!  Cold will cause vasoconstriction and decrease the loss of heat, you’re driving warm blood in and less heat is being eliminated.  You want cooler water or body temperature (current body temp) water to increase elimination and decrease production of heat.  Friction on the surface also causes some peripheral vasodilation so you could increase some loss of heat through the surface that way!

IFFFfffff you’re going to use water tcool them down please note that the body will still be slowly responding to and decreasing its temperature even after you stop so you want to stop the water therapy about 1 degree above your desired temp.  ABOVE where you want to be!  So if you want your babe to be around 103*F, stop at 104*F.

Want to see a neat chart?

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 12.31.22 AM

Yup.  It’s pretty neat huh?  Check that out — fevers that are around 38.5*C will INCREASE, yes INCREASE bacteria!  Yikes.  It’s the fevers around 39-39.5*C that are killing bacteria.  That’s probably not a number that you’ve heard before.  So hold your loved one and give them all the right fluids in the world while they have a fever but follow the fever code:

1.  Fever is good.  Do not fear the fever.
2.  Leave a fever alone unless it is threatening to go to dangerous levels.
3.  Drop the turkey leg!  Don’t you do it.  Fast the febrile patient!  Slowly resume giving them food when they’ve recovered their natural hunger and their temp is back below 37.5*C/99.5*F.
4.  Leave the sweating patient alone so far as fever is concerned!  Don’t help the body when it doesn’t need it!
5.  Remember that 39-39.5*C (102-103*F) is considered optimal for infection fighting!
6.  Allow for your treatment to work if you’re cooling them down and stop 1 degree above where you want to bring them down to IF you’re bringing down a seriously high fever.
7.  Always use friction if you’ve got cool water because this will allow for some surface heat to be lost.
8.  If shivering – STOP, this is only going to increase body temperature.
9.  If you put your babe in a neutral bath (i.e. their fever temperature) then do it for an hour or even more.  Yes.  I mean that –  They will naturally cool down with the gradual change in the water.
10.  Fever is good.  Do not fear the fever.

Yes.  1 and 10 are identical.  I am well aware of that.  And on that note, I’m going to give some TLC to my sicky that I’ve got here in bed.  I hope this answers some questions you had about fever!

Yours in health,

Jessica

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