Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Babysteps: Fever

I work in a hospital. I am surrounded by conventional medicine. Have a headache? Take some Motrin. Congested? Take some Pseudophed. Have a runny nose and sore throat? Go to the doctor. Get a flu shot? Take some Tylenol. Have an infection? Take 3 antibiotics and 2 nasal sprays.

Well, I am a pretty unconventional pharmacist…and I am becoming even more unconventional sometimes by the day. I no longer treat every fever in my children. I hesitate to take them to the doctor unless I am pretty certain they have more than a virus. I do not let them get Tylenol with their shots anymore. I usually only opt for required vaccines. I only give dye-free pain medications with as few preservatives as possible. I only give whole food vitamins and supplements. (Have you looked at the ingredients in Mylicon? Grape Tylenol? Gummy Vitamins??).

Let’s talk about fevers first. Fever is actually our body’s backup defense mechanism. It is a healthy response to infection, and it serves to help kill invading organisms. Many microbes cannot live in elevated temperatures. It also stimulates our immune system to fight the infection. The best course of action is to let fever run its course.

I am not advocating to never treat a fever, but I am suggesting that you do no treat a fever immediately unless it rises very high, very fast. There are a few other times treatment is warranted:
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o Infants less than 1 month old—always seek care immediately for temperatures greater than 100.4 degrees.
o Infants 1 month to 3 months old—seek care for temperatures greater than 100.4 degrees
o Children 3 months to 36 months—seek care for temperatures greater than 102.2 degrees
o All ages—temperatures over 104.5 degrees

Usually I only treat fever over 101-103 if they appear ill or are obviously uncomfortable. With two children under the age of 3 around other children, in the church nursery, at mother’s morning out, with a mom that works in healthcare, we are bound to get infections. Most of them are viral and run their course in 5 days. There is a recent study that even suggested giving Tylenol before vaccines can interfere with immune response. Next time you have a fever, think about letting it last a little bit longer to do its job.


  1. It's good to know this, but can you recommend specific brands as alternatives to traditional children's medicine or where to buy them?

  2. Atara, I apologize for not seeing your comment sooner! I am not aware of specific brands for alternatives. There are a lot of people that recommend homeopathic or herbal remedies, and I am not familiar enough with their efficacy or safety to recommend them. However, when I do feel like a fever needs to be treated, I look for dye-free brands without HFCS (corn syrup). Almost all of them have sucralose, but it's usually much lower on the list of ingredients than those that have regular sugar or corn syrup.