The truth about fever

FeverI just read this article called Lifting a veil of fear to see a few benefits of fever and I had to share it. This is a hot topic (excuse the pun!) among parents and healthcare providers that, despite logic, evidence, and experience, is still widely misunderstood.

Key messages:

  • Fever is a signal that the immune system is working. Fever is actually a useful tool of the immune system that helps your body fight infection.
  • There is a widely held misconception that fevers are dangerous. “In fact, fever does not harm the brain or the body, though it does increase the need for fluids. Even untreated, fevers rarely rise higher than 104 or 105 degrees.”
  • Despite ongoing efforts to educate parents, fever remains a major concern and causes a lot of panic.

The article cites the following research:

Fever phobia: misconceptions of parents about fevers
Fever phobia revisited: have parental misconceptions about fever changed in 20 years?

I also found a study called Pediatric emergency department nurses’ perspectives on fever in children which concluded that “fever phobia and inconsistent treatment approaches occur among experienced pediatric emergency registered nurses. These phobias and inconsistencies subsequently could be conveyed to parents.” So it’s not just parents who are confused! Healthcare providers are perpetuating this misconception through ignorance: “‘Doctors are part of the problem,’ Schmitt said. Some of the phobia comes from doctors and nurses, he said, ‘doctors and nurses who weren’t taught about fever and all the wondrous things fever does in the animal kingdom.’”

I think another major reason that parents fear fever so much is that they are far too influenced by the sheer number and force of advertisements for medication to suppress fevers in children. I think I see at least one ad daily for children’s Tylenol or Advil these days – all sending a clear message that fever is not OK and you must medicate!

So what is a worried parent to do?

  • Remember that the body is designed to heal itself. Symptoms (including fever) are part of this process, so be careful to support the body rather than suppress.
  • Equip yourself to understand and manage illness at home where appropriate. This also means knowing when to seek professional help! A naturopathic doctor is a vital part of learning about your health and can equip you to take responsibility.
  • Don’t seek medical advice from advertisements! Go to those who are educated and trained to address your issue, and always think critically about advice you receive.
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