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About Fevers

I know it is the scariest thing in the world when its 2am, you’ve been sharply woken by a blood curdling scream and your child is burning up. Our instinct is to try and take away the symptoms, stop the poor child feeling so miserable and oh my, what if they start convulsing? All of these are natural and understandable reactions, mostly brought on by ignorance to the condition and general brainwashing. In actual fact, in bringing the fever down you are only aiding and abetting the enemy.

 When the initial responses of the immune system are not yet effective in dealing with all the invading pathogens, or if it has been thwarted in its natural efforts to heal, your body launches another attack – turn up the heat! The most commonly known method of sterilising anything, from your baby’s bottle to high tech medical equipment is with heat. You can boil bottles and teats in a pot of boiling water for ½ hour or put medical equipment in an autoclave, which intensifies the heat, thus killing off all possible bacteria and/or viruses. This is exactly what your body is doing when spiking a fever – turning up the heat to kill the bugs. So, when you know what to do, the best thing for you to do is – nothing! I can almost hear you gasping in disbelief, this woman’s crazy…I don’t really mean nothing, but nothing to bring the fever down. Supportive treatments, like homeopathic remedies, and palliative measures like a cool cloth on the forehead or sips to drink and other natural remedies that are treating the underlying infection must continue, but reducing the fever is entirely counterproductive.

(I suggest reading my other article, Thinking Naturally, to gain more insight into understanding general symptoms and how our body naturally heals.)

 The role of a fever is to literally kill the bacteria and viruses that are causing the illness. Bacteria and viruses die at different temperatures, bacteria at below 40°C (usually 38 – 39.5) and viruses often at over 40°C, up to 41.5C. So, when the temperature gets up to this level, don’t think that your child is sicker or in more danger, their immune system is just dealing with a virus. And if you keep checking it every few minutes, you will see it rising. It is not getting worse, it is rising to the set point. Our own body proteins will only start to be affected at temperatures above 44°C and the temperature will never get that high – we do not self-destruct!

 If you leave the fever, do not give anything to bring it down, the immune system can kill all pathogens in a few hours leaving your child’s body free of the invader which can then be healed. When the fever breaks on its own and the temperature starts coming down, your child will wake up better – believe me, my own children and countless patients have proven this to me time and again. This is also well known in medical literature, but because it seems scary most people, including the medical fraternity, race to reduce the temperature. This, in my opinion, is the single most common cause of infectious diseases complicating into deeper systems and illnesses, the difference between a flu resolving or complicating into pneumonia.

 The presence of bacterial and viral proteins is immediately detected by the immune system as soon as they have gained entry into the body via the nose, mouth, eyes or skin. Antibodies have begun to be manufactured and the white blood cells have already begun killing them (see my article Trust in your Immune System). But if the infection reaches a certain point, determined by our highly intelligent immune system, this causes the brain to literally increase the thermostat in our brainstem to an optimal “set point” already determined (38, 39, 40 or even 41C). These substances that trigger the rise in temperature are known as pyrogens. The body then responds with raising the overall temperature, by conserving heat and stimulating more heat production. It generally takes a few hours after the thermostat has been set before the temperature actually rises, which means that the pathogens and pyrogens have been present and invading for hours already – even more reason to allow the fever to do its work.

Chills are usually felt before the heat because this is the main mechanism to trigger heat production. When the thermostat level is raised and set higher than normal, your relative current temperature is now colder than the setting, hence you feel cold, relatively speaking. Blood vessels in the skin constrict, get smaller and deeper, to prevent heat loss from the skin causing a cold feeling and a very pale face, often alerting another to your pending illness. Shivering follows because the brain instructs the skeletal muscles to move and contract in order to create friction that heats up the body. The hair follicles on the skin also perk up giving you “goose flesh”, trapping a layer of air underneath which insulates the skin and retains the heat within the body thereby raising the temperature. These are all heat production and heat preserving mechanisms to raise the temperature. A 40C temperature is often 3-4C above normal, that’s a lot of heat to generate and preserve. This is why we shiver and shake for a while, no matter how many blankets we pile on.

 As the temperature increases to the new level set by the thermostat in the brain, these chilly symptoms abate, because the temperature now reflects the setting and you feel neither hot nor cold despite an elevated temperate reading and hot to the touch. Remember temperature is relative.

 At this point the temperature may stabilise for a few hours, alerting you to the fact that this is the optimal temperature for the destruction of the enemy. If the child is calm but just hot, leave them be, this is not dangerous and is vital in killing off the baddies, fast. The fever will teeter around this optimal temperature for a few hours or the length of time required to eliminate the pathogens. This can result in phases of feeling hot, sweating (a method of cooling off a little) and feeling chills again as the temperature drops below optimal and then heats you back up. This is normal, albeit unpleasant to experience, but very necessary in maintaining the optimal temperature to overcome the infection efficiently. The rising temperature also stimulates the white blood cells and all immune response mechanisms to be upregulated and sped up, so as to maximise the killing potential of the entire immune response in this time. Maximum fighting capacity!

 When the immune system has won the battle and most of the pathogens have been killed off, an apparent crisis arises. The child will suddenly get very hot, feel very hot to touch and often begins sweating excessively. This is because the pyrogens have been removed to a safer level, the bacteria and viruses killed and the thermostat has been reset back to normal again. The body must now bring down the temperature of the internal environment so a reversal of the above-mentioned symptoms follows. Blood vessels in the skin dilate; get wider and closer to the skin, causing heat to be radiated directly from the bloodstream through the skin and is what causes the hot and red face of a fever. Sweating often follows, which is a well-known way in which the body cools itself down – evaporation.

 This sudden change in events is called a healing crisis. It is at this point that one often panics and the child often wakes up crying and feels awful. This phase usually lasts a short time and is a clear sign that the temperature will soon be falling. The child then usually falls into a deep sleep and wakes a few hours later feeling fantastic and full of beans – just when you are collapsing from exhaustion and worry.

 However, if you keep dropping the temperature with fever medicines (all the pain killer varieties) you are preventing the body from efficiently killing the bacteria or viruses and allowing them a few more hours to replicate and invade the system further creating a more deep seated, complicated illness. When the drug has worn off, does the temperature not elevate again? This is because the body is now free from the restraints of the drug and is able to launch another attack; it is desperately trying to heal you but is being disarmed. The more you keep bringing a fever down, the longer it drags on, night after night.

 Convulsions, although frightening when not understood, are actually not as dangerous as they look and are seldom the cause of any brain damage as is commonly thought. Fever/ febrile convulsions are not epileptic seizures and are caused by a very different trigger. Recent research would seem to indicate that febrile convulsions have no lasting negative effects on a child and only about 2% of people (children & adults included) will ever get a fever convulsion. Convulsions are caused by overactivity of the heating centre of the brain that is responsible for temperature control, which leads to abnormal activity in the brain area that controls muscle contractions, sending out increased nerve signals that result in spasms of the skeletal muscles, arms and legs, resulting in a fever fit or convulsion. This can happen when the temperature needs to heat up fast and from a very cold starting point. A reason not to let your body temperature drop too much during winter, its hard keeping socks on a toddler, I know…

 There does seem to be a family predisposition to them, though, and once your child has had one, he or she is more prone to further attacks. Care needs to be taken however, to ensure that your child does not suffer with epilepsy. If your child convulses at a low-grade temperature, below 38.5°C, then professional help must be sort as this may indicate an underlying problem.

 The fit may start suddenly and can be preceded by quite a scream. Your child will get rigid and his arms and legs will begin jerking. Their eyes may roll backwards or they may stare fixedly into space. Sometimes frothing at the mouth can occur or they can become a little bluish in the face caused by a spasm of the diaphragm which causes them to hold their breath for a short while.

 It’s usually all over in a minute or two after which your child may stay unconscious for a short while, then wake up, appearing dazed and confused and then fall off into a deep sleep for a while longer. Leave them to sleep, try not to wake them as this sleep is very necessary for the recovery of the brain and system in general. Just keep checking that they are resting peacefully, breathing easy and make sure their body is covered enough to maintain their current temperature so as not to trigger any more spikes. Contact your practitioner as soon as possible and take your child for a check-up. It is not always necessary to take them to a hospital, but obviously if you feel they need the help or assessment immediately then please do take them. Safety first, always.

 Some tips on how to handle a fit: as in all first aid practises, always check your ABC’s, AIRWAY, BREATHING, CIRCULATION

  • Check the clock so that you can time the length of the fit

  • Turn your child onto his side to prevent his tongue falling back and possibly blocking his airway (actually swallowing the tongue is impossible)
  • Wipe away any mucus, foam, food particles or anything else that may be blocking the mouth by sweeping one finger across the mouth (never use a 2-fingered pincer grasp as this can push a blockage further in)
  • Loosen all tight clothing and open up the surrounding space to allow free movement
  • DO NOT restrain your child at all, allow his body to shake as it needs to, the muscles are very rigid and if restrained, this may result in injury

  • DO NOT try to give anything in the mouth, especially no food, drink or dummies

Babies and children often seem ‘sicker’ than adults, but in actual fact they are much healthier. The immune system has a cyclical reaction response which means that it launches attacks on the enemy at regular intervals. After reading this I’m sure you now realise that the immune system’s attack is seen as the volatile symptoms of a fever. When the temperature spikes and a ‘crisis’ happens, this is after a successful mission by the immune system, it may then regroup and launch again. This cycle happens only once in 24hrs in adults, but every 3-4 hours in children, thus children seem to have more severe symptoms and hence appear ‘sicker’ whereas they are just fighting much faster than we can.

Homeopathic remedies work wonderfully in these situations in supporting the body’s fever attempts and allow rapid healing and resolution through this manner. Commonly known remedies that have been known to assist in as little as a few minutes to take the edge off are Belladonna and Aconite. However, finding the remedy that is specific for that particular fever may take a little more thought as each has a specific set of symptoms, a picture as it were, that ensure its harmonious interaction with your body, specific to you (this is the essence of the healing art of Homeopathy). These 2 remedies will not necessarily ‘cure’ all fevers; homoeopathic remedies are very specific to the nature of the symptoms. Please consult a registered practitioner for more specified care or get yourself some good over the counter remedies to keep in your medicine cabinet. The sooner homoeopathic remedies are given, the quicker the healing begins.

Homoeopathic remedies enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off the invasion, supporting the body in all its healing attempts. Homoeopathic remedies do not stop the symptoms at all, will not actively bring down the fever as a paracetomol or ibuprofen based chemical medicine would, but rather support and speed up the body’s healing abilities, thus bringing about rapid healing. When the body has won the battle, the fever will come down, usually within 1-3 days of homoeopathic intervention. After which a clean-up phase usually ensues (phlegm and mucus) and then health is restored, and recurrences are infrequent.

 Also, don’t be alarmed if your child is burning up and wants a blanket or is sweating but does not want anything to drink. Understand that they are following the exact commands of their bodies and will ask for and accept anything that they need. Our Creator knew what He was doing when He designed us.

 I know this is a lot to swallow, and even harder to put into practise, but I urge you to give this method of dealing with your child’s fever a try, you will be amazed at the speed of recovery. To help you in the dead of night, you can keep an over the counter Homeopathic “Fevers” remedy on hand to give every hour if necessary.

©all rights reserved, copyright Dr Catherine Knight, author

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