I use the term, “scared the crap out of me,” way more often than I probably should. So much so that the Little Hippie Daughter, when she was about 3, started saying it too. But her version was, “Oh! That scared my crap out!” Her way was much funnier than mine, so it stuck.Anyway… just thought I’d explain that before I shared with you some of my newly acquired hippie knowledge.
I have written before about the Sweet Hippie Baby’s breathing issues and the link that may (or may not) exist between his damaged lungs and his vaccinations. Since I wrote that, he has had two appointments with a pediatric pulmonologist who has officially tagged him with an asthma diagnosis. I’ve also given brief mention to our horrible experience with Little Hippie Daughter contracting West Nile Fever. These experiences left me rather prone to a terrible fear of wheezing and high fevers. And, apparently, treating one can worsen the other. *sigh* What’s a mama to do?
Our family chiropractor, whom I greatly admire, as well as the folks over at Pathways magazine (hands down the most fascinating periodical I’ve ever read, by the way. The summer issue addressed the treatment of fevers in children), would say I need to learn to trust in nature. I figured that modern medicine would disagree with this, so I clicked over to WebMD and learned that, SHOCKER!!!! There really is no disagreement between the “crunchies” and the “chewies” on this topic.
Here’s the deal: Fevers, and many other symptoms of infection, are not a horrible reaction, but a natural defense. A virus or bacteria that may happily thrive and reproduce at 98.6 degrees farenheit cannot survive at 104. The body heats up to destroy the bad germs. In doing so, it produces antibodies that learn to fight that particular invader so, the next time you’re exposed, you don’t get so terribly sick.
BUT, if you keep taking Tylenol to knock the fever back down to 98.6 then the germs continue to thrive and reproduce in their perfectly climate-controlled environment. This cycle leaves you far more ill than you were to begin with. It can also affect your body’s ability to react properly to new exposure to viruses and bacteria, triggering an allergy (immune system over-reaction) or severe inflammation (one of the 2 main issues of asthma).
Taking this into consideration, the very best thing you can do for your feverish child is to keep them well hydrated and let nature run its course.
“BUT FEVERS ARE DANGEROUS!” My brain screams.
And that’s true. A fever over 107 degrees can cause permanent brain damage. When my girl was sick with West Nile she came far too close to that mark. The highest I can remember specifically was 106.4. I think that even the most holistic of doctors would agree that medical intervention was necessary at that point. But a fever that high is the exception, not the rule. Usually, the body is incapable of raising its temperature above 106 degrees unless exposed to prolonged extreme heat. Most doctors (at least the ones I’ve spoken with or read about online) agree that a fever of 104 or even a smidge higher is no cause for alarm in a child. I’m not talking about a newborn infant or a child with a compromised immunity here… just a healthy child.
So what is cause for alarm?
According to this site (which agrees with many others I looked at):
* A child that you can’t wake up or that is confused or in any way non-responsive.
* A child that is inconsolable. A sick, achy, feverish kid is going to be fussy, but if your baby can’t stop crying something more serious may be happening.
* A young child that complains about severe headache, pain in the neck or eyes.
* A gut feeling that something bad is happening. Sometimes, you as a parent KNOW that there is something wrong, even though you can’t exactly explain why you feel that way. Come to think of it, this is what we experienced with West Nile, a full 24 hours before the 106 degree temperature. Our girl was very sick and it was obvious long before it reached full-blown crisis level. Instincts are far more important than we give them credit for.
That’s all well and good.
It makes sense to my brain. Really, it does.
But high fevers still scare my crap out. I’m not sure this hippie can reconcile what her brain knows and what her heart fears. Maybe, the next time one of the kids is sick I should leave them alone to rest and medicate myself. I’m thinking a nice Cabernet might do the trick. I’m open to advice. What gentle measures do you use to take care of your children when they’re ill? How do you cope with fevers? At what point do you think the risks of medication outweigh the risks of the illness itself?