Most of us have experienced a state of panic when an infant or a child falls sick. When a child isn’t feeling well, the first thing that comes to our mind is to check for a fever. ‘Fever’ is not an illness by itself, but it is a sign that indicates that something is not right inside the body. ‘Alarm bells’ go off within most mothers and they react to this by instantly trying to bring down the fever, either by giving the child some medicine to bring down the fever, like a paracetamol, or by rushing to the doctor for stronger medications.

Average normal temperature is considered to be 98.6° F, however, what is normal for an individual may be slightly higher or lower than the average normal temperature. A significant fever is one where the temperature is 102° F or above. It is important to remember that fevers are not necessarily bad. A fever is produced by our immune system to help the body fight off a number of bacterial and viral infections. The viruses that cause colds and other respiratory infections thrive better at cool temperatures. The fever that the body produces in response to such an infection is actually beneficial, as the rise in temperature makes it tougher for these viruses to survive and multiply. Hence the low-grade fevers commonly seen with such infections help in eliminating the virus. By artificially bringing down the temperature with periodical medication, you are in reality increasing the duration of the illness as the viruses then take longer to get rid off. There have also been some research papers showing that childhood infectious febrile illnesses play a beneficial role in developing immunity towards chronic degenerative diseases in later adult life.

Fevers can occur with a wide range of conditions, hence it is the other accompanying signs and symptoms that help to diagnose the real underlying cause of the fever. If you do not know the cause of the fever, it is best not to try to bring down the fever as this only suppresses the symptoms and makes it more difficult to diagnose. It is not advisable to bring down temperatures that are below 102° F (38.9° C), as it is also believed that aggressively treating even mild fevers interferes with the body’s immune response. It is more important to watch how your child is behaving. If the child is fairly active, and has periods of playfulness, he probably doesn’t need aggressive treatment. Let the child rest in a room with good circulation of air, with fan or AC. Dress the child lightly. Keep giving the child fluids to drink, esp. normal drinking water. Food should be light and easy to digest as heavy foods are difficult to digest during fevers as the functioning of the digestive system slows down. Over exertion should be avoided.

Tepid sponging is an acceptable method to bring down a high fever. Place the child in a tub, but put only 1 to 2 inches of tepid water (85° to 90° F or 29.4° – 32.2° C) in the basin, test the water with the back of your hand or wrist. It should feel just slightly warm. Do not use cold water, since that will be uncomfortable and may cause shivering, which can raise the temperature. Seat your child in the water; it is more comfortable than lying down. Then, using a clean wash-cloth or sponge, spread a film of water over the trunk, arms and legs. The water will evaporate and cool the body. Continue sponging the child until the temperature has reached an acceptable level. Usually, sponging will bring down the fever in thirty to forty-five minutes. However, if your child is resisting actively, stop and let the child just sit and play in the water. If being in the tub makes the child more upset and uncomfortable, it is best to take him/her out even if the fever is unchanged. Remember, fever in the moderate range (less than 102° F / 38.9° C) is in itself not harmful.

Very high fevers, between 103° and 106° F, may cause hallucinations, confusion, irritability and even convulsions. Approximately four percent of children under age 5 experience fever-induced seizures (febrile seizures). The signs of febrile seizures, which occur when a child’s temperature rises or falls rapidly, include a brief loss of consciousness and convulsions. Although these seizures can be extremely alarming, most children don’t experience any lasting effects. Parents should stay calm and carefully observe the child. To prevent accidental injury, the child should be placed on a protected surface such as the floor or ground. The child should not be held or restrained during a convulsion. To prevent choking, the child should be placed on his or her side or stomach. When possible, the parent should gently remove all objects from the child’s mouth. The parent should never place anything in the child’s mouth during a convulsion. Objects placed in the mouth can be broken and obstruct the child’s airway. If the seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes, the child should be taken immediately to the nearest medical facility for further treatment. Once the seizure has ended, the child should be taken to his or her doctor to check for the source of the fever.
Medical help is essential if a child over 3 months of age maintains a temperature over 103 F even after a few hours of home treatment.
Contact the doctor urgently if the child has symptoms of:

  • Stiff neck
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Large amounts of diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Mental confusion
  • Unusual rashes or bite marks
  • Severe headache

Homoeopathy works gently and safely and in most cases, rapidly, to set right the cause of the fever and thereby treats the illness. Homoeopathic medicines do not compromise the immunity; they work by stimulating the body’s own immune system to fight the illness, hence the treatment does not weaken the body any further. Recovery and recuperation is quick and the body can get back to its normal healthy functioning within a very short time.

January 2006.