It is so common in my office for patients, especially young children, to be brought for their adjustment when they are “sick”. Research has shown that Chiropractic adjustments improve the immune system’s response to any form of infection. As such, most parents are happy to bring their child to the Chiropractor for the natural approach instead of pursuing their medical practitioner and the inevitable antibiotic approach. However, I often come across resistance from the parents regarding how to deal with a fever.
Although a fever could be considered as a rise in body temperature above the normal of 37oC, medically a significant fever is above 38oC. It is important to have a knowledge of:
1. Your child’s personal standard range of body temperature fluctuation on a normal day;
2. Their fluctuations of the fever during an infection; and
3. How accurate your measurement of the fever is.
Here comes the important part - a fever occurs as a result of the body’s immune response to a foreign invader. The fever serves as an important natural defence mechanism and supports the immune system by increasing the white blood cells, killer cells and other immune cells. This makes the immune system gain the advantage over the infection and prevents the infection from taking over the body. The fever also makes the body less favourable as a host; simply meaning the bugs cannot stand the heat! In most cases the fever is self-limiting and once the job is done, the infection is cleared, the body will restore back to normal temperature.
We are all in agreement that excessive body temperature for prolonged periods of time will damage protein structures within the body and may lead to injury to brain, heart, circulatory system and other cells, however, the hypothalamus within the brain has feedback mechanisms to control the fever within the right limits to do its job correctly, so injury and damage because of fever generally only occurs with pre-existing malfunction of the thalamus.
Why do we medicate the fever if it is an important part of fighting an infection?
Over and above the symptoms of the actual infection, fevers generally make people feel terrible; shivering, shaking and body aches, Medicating the fever helps with symptomatic relief. However, it does retard the body’s natural ability to fight - and fight strongly!
A sound way to work with the fever naturally is to monitor the fever regularly. We recommend taking the temperature every 30 to 60 minutes. Provided you know what the underlying infection or cause is and you know how your child responds to their fevers, your job is to monitor the fever and offer support as the body goes through the process of beating the infection. Normally the fever will fluctuate (even by decimal places) each time you measure and this is great; it means that the fever is doing a dance like a boxer in a fight. If the fever is exactly constant 3 hours in a row or spikes suddenly (3oC within an hour), medicate and consult your family physician.
There are a variety of homoeopathic and herbal remedies that support the immune system, mediate the fever to do its best job and help whatever other symptoms one has. Outside of this make sure your child stays fully hydrated and rests or sleeps; dark rooms without any outside stimulation like TV or other screen time is critical to provide the ideal environment for the fever. Based on how the child feels, you will either heat up a “cold” fever by adding blankets and cool down a “hot” fever using a cold compress or tepid bath.
A fever will generally run its course of 6 to 12 hours and usually break with an eliminatory sweat! This is often followed by your child regaining energy and appetite. In many cases, the fever will return the next day and go through another round of fighting. I have personally walked with my son through 14 days of fever and as long as he was supported, hydrated and fed he was able to fight strong! Stressful but so rewarding to get the body successfully through this process knowing the immune system is stronger as a result. Once the fever has broken completely, we suggest 1 week of quiet recuperation and thereafter 2 to 4 weeks of active care to build the immune system to make sure it adapts and gets stronger.
Daily Chiropractic adjustments are a critical part of my family’s infection management. The adjustment will either initiate an effective fever (so be prepared for a bad night!) or will force the body into the elimination phase.
I trust this helps! Good luck with your next fever fight.