The energy drop, the chills, and that desperate-to-hit-the-sack feeling – we’re all familiar with a fever and the symptoms that accompany it. But the onset of fever often comes with a dose of anxiety and many of us succumb to “fever phobia” – especially when a child is involved. But here’s why fever isn’t the villain it’s cracked up to be.
Fever Is Your Immune System Putting Up A Fight!
People’s body temperatures vary but the universal “normal” is taken to be 98.6°F (37°C). Body temperature that is higher than this is considered a fever. The important thing to remember is that fever is not an ailment; rather, it’s a signal that your immune system is kicking into high gear in order to fend off an illness or fight infection. Viral or bacterial attacks are usually the most common reasons for fevers. Autoimmune diseases, allergic reactions, trauma, some cancers, excessive sun exposure, intense exercise, certain medications, and hormonal imbalances, among others, can also be triggers.1 2
Ayurveda also sees fever (jwara roga) as both disease and symptom. As the body’s early response to harmful invading microbes, it is viewed positively, since it is thought to promote the loosening – and elimination – of ama (toxins that are the cause of disease) from the body.3
Treat The Underlying Cause But Let A Low-Grade Fever Ride
While it is important to tackle the root cause of your fever – be it an infection, injury, illness, or overexertion – don’t reach for the medicine cabinet just yet to sort it out. Given that in most cases, fever is actually helping your body battle illness, it should be allowed to run its course, especially if it is a mild-moderate fever below 102°F.
Why should you let the fever be? Many viruses and bacteria thrive at normal temperature (98°F) and the rise in body temperature helps to fight them off. The higher temperature also speeds up chemical reactions that repair cells and works as a cue for the immune system to make more antibodies, white blood cells, and other infection-fighting elements.4 So the fever technically helps you fight off the infection. Most fevers are also self-limiting and will break on their own.
Ayurveda also recommends that a fever should be allowed to break on its own, unless:
- It’s a very high and persistent spike in body temperature for a prolonged time.
- There has been a history of seizures with fever, mostly in children.
- The patient is wearing out rapidly, facing a depletion of energy and strength.5
Reduce A High Or Prolonged Fever With These Natural Techniques
There are times when it may be necessary to tackle your fever – for instance, If you’ve had a fever higher than 102°F for over two days or if you are uncomfortable, getting dehydrated, vomiting, or unable to sleep well. Under these circumstances, your goal is to lower the fever rather than eliminate it. While over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, paracetamol and ibuprofen can help, there are several safe natural options to explore when you need to break a fever.6
Turn To Ayurveda
Ayurvedic experts often recommend fasting to break a fever. Go for a complete fast if you have a strong constitution; however, if that’s too extreme for you or you are already weak, water, fresh fruit juices, and herbal teas with holy basil or lemongrass will help tackle the fever and revitalize your body. Avoid milk as it exacerbates fever and can trigger diarrhea.
Vomiting is also supposed to help break a fever that accompanies the flu or a bad cold. It does this by purging the body of excess kapha. Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of common salt in a glass of water and drink. This will induce vomiting and break the fever, besides relieving congestion and headache, leaving you feeling lighter and more at ease. Tip: To stimulate gagging, rub the back of your tongue with a finger.7 8
Have Herbal Remedies
Coriander: Both coriander leaves and seeds are often used in naturopathy to fight illnesses ranging from colds and fevers to stomach disorders. The flavonoids in it have antioxidant properties and can give the immune system a much-needed boost.9
Blend together a handful of cilantro leaves with 1/3 cup of water. Remove the pulp and strain the liquid. Take 2 teaspoonfuls of the liquid three times a day to bring down the fever.10 Alternatively, steep 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds in a cup of boiling water to make a tea and have this 2–3 times a day.
Elderflowers: The flower of the elder tree can be brewed into a tea and had to bring down a fever and induce sweating. It again helps by boosting the immune system and can fight viral infections. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that it has the ability to release surface heat and break a fever.11
Immerse 1 tablespoon of dried elderflowers in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes and drink up after straining. If you have a high or prolonged fever, drink a cup of elder tea every 20 minutes till you break a sweat or the fever drops. A washcloth soaked in elder tea can also be applied to the forehead.12
White willow bark: This herb contains salicin – similar to acetylsalicylic acid used to make aspirin – and is a popular traditional remedy to lower fever and inflammation. Other compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids in white willow bark may also help to reduce fever. Steep 2 teaspoons of white willow bark in a cup of water and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain and drink up 2–3 times a day. It is also available in capsule form – you can also take 2 capsules once every 3–4 hours until the fever breaks. Follow the same safety precautions recommended for aspirin.13
Barberry: Another folk remedy for fever, inflammation, and respiratory tract infections, barberry is available in capsule, fluid extract and tincture form. A cup of barberry tea – 3–7 drops of the extract in a half cup of water – should help you break into a sweat and bring down the fever.14 15
Herbs can interfere with existing prescription medicines or have other side effects. Do consult a qualified naturopath to guide you on dosages and herbs that are appropriate for you.
Manage A Fever Better With These Steps
Beware Of Dehydration
Keep yourself well-hydrated by getting plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. Besides warm water, soup is a great comforter. Coconut water is another mild and tasty option that’ll help replenish you with electrolytes. In fact, it’s been known to work as well as sports drink for hydration.16 In fact, it’s known to be as effective Children especially need extra fluids, but avoid giving them fruit juices and sports drinks.
Don’t Bundle Up
Dress in light fabrics that “breathe”. Also, keep a lightweight blanket to help you sleep. Don’t bundle up in excessively warm clothing or thick blankets. This will insulate your body and not allow heat to escape through your skin.You may be tempted to bury yourself under heavy blankets – don’t, even if you feel chilly. This will warm you up and cause you to sweat, thereby breaking the fever. However, experts say that it’s a risky measure as excessive warmth shoots up your body temperature and can lead to dehydration. A safe alternative: cool a washcloth and place on your forehead.
Maintain room temperature at a comfortable level, neither too warm nor too cool. A fan will help circulate the air if the room feels too stuffy.
Take A Warm Shower
A lukewarm shower or sponge bath can also help cool down the body, but do this after taking your medication (if required in some fever-related conditions), or your temperature will immediately rise up again. Avoid cold baths as well as “remedies” like ice-packs and alcohol rubs. They do cool the skin but could turn counterproductive by setting off the shivers, which in turn will cause your body to raise its core temperature.
Don’t Panic If Your Child Has A Fever
A temperature between 100°F–104°F is not a cause for worry even in children. Manage your child’s fever in the same way as you would your own, with plenty of rest, extra fluids, lukewarm baths, and lightweight clothing. Don’t force them to eat food.
The exception to this thumb rule is infants under 3 months. If their fever is 100.4°F or more, see a doctor immediately as temperatures at this level could signal dangerous infections. In children aged 3–12 months, a fever may signify an underlying infection and you should seek a medical advice in a day’s time. Watch your child closely. If they appear very sick (drowsy, lethargic, in pain, or having difficulty breathing), take them to a doctor, no matter what the thermometer indicates.
Febrile Seizures Occur Very Rarely In Children
Most parents worry about a fever getting out of hand and causing a seizure or brain damage in children. A febrile seizure, brought on by high fever (over 104°F), is a scary experience, but it is very rare, occurring only in about 3 percent of kids between 6 months and 5 years. It typically lasts no more than a few minutes and causes no permanent damage to the brain. Brain damage from fevers are highly unlikely and happens only when the temperature cross 107°F. 20 21 22
When To Call For Medical Help
Most fevers will break as your body’s immune system fights back the underlying illness. We leave you with some cautionary guidelines on how to watch your fever and when to seek medical help:
- If your fever touches 105°F or rises higher.
- If your fever persists for over two days and continues to rise above 103°F.
- The fever goes on for more than 48–72 hours.
- You’ve had fevers on and off for about a week or longer. Call for help even if your temperature isn’t very high.
- You have other serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a lung ailment.23
|↑2, ↑4||Fever. Gale Encyclopedia of Children’s Health.|
|↑3, ↑5||Micozzi , Marc S. & Sebhia Dibra. Common Pain Conditions – E-Book: A Clinical Guide to Natural Treatment. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2016.|
|↑7||Lad, Vasant. The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. Harmony, 1999.|
|↑8||Shunya, Acharya. Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom: A Complete Prescription to Optimize Your Health, Prevent Disease, and Live with Vitality and Joy. Sounds True. 2017.|
|↑9||Rajeshwari, Ullagaddi, and Bondada Andallu. “Medicinal benefits of coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L).” Spatula DD 1, no. 1 (2011): 51-58.|
|↑10||Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies: Based on the Timeless Wisdom of India’s 5,000-Year-Old Medical System. Harmony,1999.|
|↑11||Blue Elder, Black Elder, European Black Elder, Common Elder. California School of Herbal Studies.|
|↑12||Gottlieb, Bill, ed. New choices in natural healing: Over 1,800 of the best self-help remedies from the world of alternative medicine. Rodale, 1995.|
|↑13||White Willow Bark. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑14||Barberry.University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑15||Mindel, Earl. Earl Mindell’s New Herb Bible. Simon and Schuster, 2000.|
|↑16||Kalman, D. S., Feldman, S., Krieger, D. R., & Bloomer, R. J. (2012). Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 1.|
|↑18, ↑21, ↑23||Fever. MedlinePlus.|
|↑19||Debunking Common Health Myths.HealthHub.|
|↑20||Myths and Facts About Fevers in Children and Infants. University of Utah.|
|↑22||Fever. Raising Children Network.|