It may be ‘Rugby World Cup Fever’ that is on most people’s radars at present but childhood fevers are a rather interesting subject, too. As a natural medicine practitioner, I see lots of children with fevers and while natural treatments are often very appropriate, we must understand the risk factors as some conditions can be fatal if untreated. Some conditions need urgent medical treatment. Children can deteriorate very quickly, but thankfully can also recover quickly.
A fever can occur during teething, following exposure to a toxin or as the normal response of a child’s immune system to a virus or bacterial infection. Most healthy children can tolerate a fever well. A digital thermometer is the best type to use to get an accurate temperature reading. The temperature under the arm pit will be about 0.5-1 degree celcius below the core body temperature. Around 37ºC is normal, 38-38.9°C is a mild fever, 39-39.9°C is a high fever, 40°C or higher is a very high fever.
Natural medicine can treat all aspects of fever, but if there are any dangerous factors, immediate medical treatment will be advised. I suggest that with any fever, it is good practice to have the child seen ASAP by a health professional to give them the best outcome.
Otherwise straight to the doctor with:
• A baby under three months with a fever – even a mild one
• A baby between three and six months with a fever over 39 ºC
• For any children with a very high fever (over 40ºC)
For older children, it’s important to look at other symptoms and how unwell the child seems. Some mild diseases produce very high fevers and severe illnesses can produce mild fever. Also, if the following are present with the fever then meningitis could be possible so they need to be seen by a doctor immediately – hallucinations, vomiting, a stiff neck (they’re unable to put their chin on their chest or have pain when moving their neck forward), a skin rash.
Most fevers last only three to four days, and a mild fever may not need any treatment at all.
• Give them plenty of fluids to drink – little and often. This helps cool them down and replaces fluids lost through sweating. Water is best, or breast milk for a breastfed baby.
• Dress them in lightweight clothes and use lighter bedding. Keep the room temperature normal.
• Put cool cloths on your child’s face, arms and neck to help them cool down. Don’t use any rapid cooling methods that make your child shiver. The muscle movement in shivering will actually raise your child’s temperature and can make their fever worse.
• Check your child during the night. If they don’t seem to improve or you’re at all worried, take them to your doctor.
There are a handful of homoeopathic remedies that are brilliant for treating fevers and also help teething coughs and colds.