Many viral illnesses come with a fever, leaving you uncomfortable, tired, achy, alternating between sweaty and chilled, with a decreased appetite. Often, our first instinct is to stop those feelings with medication, but fever has a purpose, and sometimes the best thing to do is let that fever run.
Last fall, holistic pediatrician Dr. Ana-Maria Temple posted an excellent resource explaining what’s going on in the body when you have a virus, and how to cope with fever naturally. These methods are very helpful for us and our kids, so we’re passing them along to you!
Please note that we are not offering medical advice, and always recommend that you consult with your own doctor. Most doctors want you to contact them if your fever is very high (103F or more, especially if that’s prolonged) or accompanied by severe headache or unusual rash. Reach out to a pediatrician for any fever in a baby under 3 months.
Why do we run a fever?
Dr. Temple explains that fevers help cells respond faster to invading germs, while making you a less appealing host. You prefer a certain temperature, and so do bacteria and viruses. They don’t thrive in a body that’s warmer than normal.
What you'll feel during a fever... and what to do about it
LETHARGY: Your body is using energy to fight off an invasion, so you feel tired. If you take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, you’ll feel better, get up and get busy... but this uses up energy your body needs to deal with the virus and only prolongs the illness. Rest is essential.
ACHES: Activation of immune cells causes inflammation, and that can hurt. Taking pain relievers suppresses this important response. Instead, boost your immune system with Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Elderberry. Increase your daily dose of Sweet’s Syrup to every 3 hours while awake. A bath of Epsom salts can relieve pain while drawing out toxins and providing hydration and magnesium. (Mix 2 cups of Epsom salts in a warm bath. Adults and teens should soak for 20-30 minutes, bigger kids for 10-15 minutes. Use just 1 cup of salts for a toddler, and only ¼ cup in a baby bath.)
APPETITE LOSS: It takes energy to digest food, and that’s not your body’s priority right now. Push fluids instead. Dr. Temple recommends chilled coconut water (full of electrolytes), popsicles, water-rich fruits and veggies (like cucumbers, melons, apples, oranges, and blueberries), steamed veggies, bone broth, soup, and breastmilk for babies and toddlers. Sip an herbal tea. Catnip tea is a gentle choice for children, while adults can try echinacea, elderflower, lemon balm, white willow bark, or yarrow.
FEVERISH: Apply a cool washcloth to the forehead and wrists. Try a cool (not cold) bath. Sit outside in cool, fresh air without over-bundling. You can also discuss essential oils with your doctor or aromatherapist. They can help determine what oil, dosage and application method would be right for you or your child. (Some essential oils can be harmful if used improperly.) Peppermint and tea tree essential oils make skin feel cool, while anti-inflammatory oils like lavender, eucalyptus, frankincense, and citrus can ease discomfort.
One last thing...
It’s important not to panic when you feel yucky or run a fever. Even though one illness may be dominating headlines, regular cold and flu viruses are still circulating, and your symptoms may be quite manageable. Check your symptoms against a helpful chart like the one below, then support your body as it does its job, just as it was designed to do. And feel better soon, Sweet friend!