Why Fever is Your Friend….

Happy New Year wellness warriors!

Well it seems that a doozy winter is upon us here in Toronto – the cold temperatures have been stubborn – as have the coughs and colds I have been seeing in practice.  The brunt of cold and FLU season is upon us, and better late than never that I provide my readers with a healthy dose of naturopathic tips – to both prevent you from falling sick and get you feeling better fast if you do!

I was excited to see a story published by CBC earlier this week (see footnote 1.), stating that fever-reducing medications (aka tylenol and ibuprofen) encourage the spread of the flu virus.  Studies have shown that when we are quick to reach for the medications, which can certainly help us feel better temporarily – we carry on with our day-to-day and spread the infection to more people around us.  Furthermore, by suppressing a fever, we are allowing a virus to actually replicate more – and our infectious ability further increases. I know that being sick is uncomfortable – really uncomfortable, especially if you have a fever.  BUT – while a fever signals to us that a battle might be going on in the body, the fever is fighting for the person, not against.   Experiencing the symptoms of fever; chills, sweats, fatigue, muscle aches, headache – are all a good indicator that our immune system is working hard….last thing we want to do is suppress that!

Fever is the temporary increase in the body’s temperature, in response to some disease or illness. Generally speaking, the average person (adult or child) has a fever when their temperature is at or above one of these levels:child with fever

  • 100.4 °F (38 °C) measured in the bottom (rectally)
  • 99.5 °F(37.5 °C) measured in the mouth (orally)
  • 99 °F (37.2 °C) measured under the arm (axillary)

When should I be concerned? Contact your health provider for further instructions if:

  • an infant under the age of one month has a fever
  • a child has a toxic appearance, stiff neck or arched back
  • a fever of 39C/102.2F has lasted continuously for more than 48 hours
  • the fever exceeds 41C/105.8 F

With those numbers and “red flags” in mind – remember that dangerous/complicated fevers are very rare in the general population. 

Now onto the part of the blog where I help you feel better, manage that fever naturally, and strengthen the immune system. Kapow!

Naturopathic Tips and Treatments for Fever & Flu

First & foremost – if you come down with a fever, REST.  Stay home for the day, and try the following self-care/remedies to help you cope.

1) Stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids.  I know you know this – but this is essential.  Dehydration is one of the biggest complications due to fever.  Water or herbal tea.  Skip the juice, soda, milk or electrolyte drinks (unless you made it yourself with honey and lemon) – too much sugar.  Ginger tea with honey and lemon is my personal favourite, and peppermint is very soothing as well.  For a homemade electrolyte drink, combine about 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/8 tsp of sea salt or himalayan salt, 2 tablespoons of organic honey, and 2 cups of water.  1-2 tablespoons of elderberry liquid extract (“Sambucol or Sambuguard”) can also be added for extra anti-viral support.

2) Massage a few drops of essential oil (peppermint, lavender, oregano, or eucalyptus) on the soles of the feet, the temples or the tips of the ears.  This helps release heat from the body, and keep the fever at a healthy level.  The magic socks at bed time (cool, cotton socks under dry wool socks) is another great remedy to help you get a good night’s sleep.

3) Simplify the diet – if you don’t have an appetite, don’t eat.  If you are fighting an infection and running a temperature, that takes up a lot of energy – and digesting food would just compete with that.  If you are eating, try to stick with simple foods like broth based soups, steamed veggies, and healthy grains like brown rice and quinoa. 

4) Natural supplements I use and often recommend to boost the immune system, and reduce the discomfort associated with fever/illness include herbal remedies like echinacea, andrographis, and elderflower, high-dose vitamin C (2-3,000 mg/day), zinc, and specific homeopathics remedies.  **If you are interested in a prescription for such supplements, or what you can keep on hand for you and your family – please discuss individualized options with a naturopathic physician like myself!**

The moral of the story: Fever is your friend – try not to fight it!  Take a sick day (or two), listen to your body, and stock on some goodies (above) so that you have some helpful home remedies in the future.

Footnotes:

1. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/fever-reducing-meds-encourage-spread-of-flu-mcmaster-report-1.2505505

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