Adapted from The Complete Homoeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro.
A fever can be a helpful and necessary healing stage of an acute disease, during a cold perhaps, or a ‘childhood illness’, something positive, to be encouraged rather than suppressed. By understanding that fever is a
symptom and not a disease in itself, you can come to see it as an ally rather than an enemy.
Fevers that recur, after illnesses like glandular fever, are a different matter and should always be referred to a professional homeopath. When our bodies become stressed by physical or emotional stresses we may become
susceptible to disease. Typical examples of physical stresses are overwork, lack of sleep, an accident, environmental pollution, becoming chilled, teething, getting overheated or wet through, over-indulgence in rich foods or alcohol, etc. Examples of emotional stresses are shock, the death of close relative or friend, boredom, fear, resentment or any strong feeling which isn’t expressed. Where a person is under continued stress, a cold or flu may well surface as the body's way of saying, ‘Help! Please take some rest so that I can recharge my batteries and heal myself.’
Hippocrates said, ‘Give me a fever and I can cure the child’. A weak child may be endlessly ‘sick’, neither very ill nor very well, but with no significant rise in temperature. A more robust child whose temperature soars may look and feel very ill, therefore giving more cause for concern, but is usually ill for a shorter time and recovers more quickly.
A high temperature generally indicates that the body’s defence mechanism is fighting an infection and temperature variations indicate how it is coping. During a fever the healing reactions of the body are speeded up; the heart beats faster, carrying the blood more quickly to the organs; respiration is quicker, increasing oxygen intake; and perspiration increases, helping the body to cool down naturally. Attempts to suppress or control a fever artificially, or even with homoeopathic medicines, are likely to confuse the body’s natural efforts to heal itself.
Each person has their own pattern of falling ill and will experience different fever symptoms. One person may feel hot with a high fever, may feel chilly and shiver. Another may be irritable, intolerant of any disturbance and need to be kept warm, while another may be aching and restless, may moan and complain. One person may sweat profusely, be thirsty and slightly delirious; another may want company or prefer to be alone. Each person with a fever will respond to an individual homeopathic medicine depending on their emotional state and general symptoms.
The average normal temperature in a healthy human is said to be 37°C, but this can vary. Most adults and children, can run a fever of up to 40°C for several days with no danger. It is normal for healthy infants and children to throw high fevers 39.5°C and over with an infection. A temperature of 40.5°C is always a serious cause for concern. Fevers usually peak towards nighttime and drop by the following morning, so that a temperature of 40°C registered in the evening may recur on subsequent evenings. A drop in temperature in the morning does not mean that the fever is past its peak. It can rise and fall several times over several days before finally returning to normal. Small children who develop a fever, especially infants under six months old, must be watched carefully because they are vulnerable to becoming quickly dehydrated. Delirium and tantrums in children sometimes accompany high fevers and, although these are distressing, they are not dangerous.
- Take temperature with a thermometer placed under the tongue or tucked tightly under the armpit for 5 minutes, for an accurate reading. A temperature taken by tucking the thermometer tightly under the armpit will read about a half degree lower than that taken under the tongue. The newer digital thermometers are much easier for younger children and give a quick and accurate reading. (Always keep a spare battery in the house!)
- Provide a calm environment for your feverish baby. This is not a time to go visiting!
- Avoid tea, coffee, chocolate, alcohol and sugar as they stimulate the system when it needs to rest.
- Encourage a feverish patient to drink plenty of fluids or at least sips of water at frequent intervals. Water, lemon and honey or diluted fresh fruit juices, warmed or cold as desired, are best. Breast-milk is fine for a nursing baby and is probably all that will be wanted. Older babies and young children who are reluctant to drink will often suck on a wet sponge or flannel, especially if the water is warm, or try an ice cube or frozen fruit juice, or give fluids on a spoon
- Immerse a feverish but not ‘sick’ child in a lukewarm bath from time to time to bring down the fever. Thirstless children will often drink the bath water as an added bonus!
- Sponge down with tepid water if the fever goes above 39°C and your child feels uncomfortable (hot and sweaty). Expose and sponge one limb at a time until it feels cool to the touch. Dry and replace it under the covers before going on to the next limb. This will help the temperature to drop by up to 1°C and can be repeated as often as necessary. Sponging the face and forehead alone can also give relief.
- Undress a feverish baby especially if either the weather or your house is very hot. Small babies can throw a fever if they become overheated and will quickly revert to normal with undressing and/or sponging down.
- Respond to your child’s needs. Keep a hot, feverish baby lightly dressed and a chilly child (who feels cold to the touch & shivers) well covered.
- Give homeopathic medicines where the fever is one of a number of symptoms, where your child is suffering from, say earache, teething or a sore throat and a fever. If the first symptom to arise is a fever then wait for other symptoms to surface before selecting a medicine for the whole picture. Contain the fever, again if necessary, by sponging down.
- Suppress the fever with Panadol or Nurofen in an emergency, that is, where the fever rises above 40.5°C, or if your child is in severe pain from, say, teething in the middle of the night, and homoeopathic first-aid prescribing isn’t helping. Call your homeopath or doctor in the morning or during the night if you are anxious.
- Watch for signs of dehydration in infants under six months old, especially in children who are refusing to drink or who are drinking less than usual.
- Encourage a sick child to eat. Many children with a high fever will not wish to eat. This is a good sign; fasting encourages the body further to eliminate toxic wastes and helps it focus on recovery. Encourage a hungry patient to eat light, easily digested dishes such as vegetable soup, yogurt, raw or stewed fruit with honey.
- Give any homeopathic medicine, say Aconite, Belladonna or Chamomilla, at the first sign of a rise in temperature as this can confuse the picture. Any attempt to interrupt the body’s own healing processes is unwise. Wait until a fuller picture develops or until other symptoms emerge.
- Suppress a fever in children with any form of aspirin. This has been known to lead to dangerous, although rare, complications, in particular Reye’s syndrome, which affects the brain and liver.
- A baby under six months old has a fever
- An older baby has a fever of over 40°C that doesn't respond to sponging and homoeopathic treatment within 24 hours.
- There is a history of convulsions with fevers: keep a close eye when your baby has a fever. It is the rapid rise in temperature that can cause a fit. (For more information see below)
- A baby or older child is refusing to drink as dehydration can occur.
- There is a lack of reaction (listlessness and limpness), which can imply that a serious illness such as pneumonia or meningitis has developed
Seek help if
If you are worried
contact your doctor or homeopath immediately