Don’t Fear a Fever

In my practice, I often get calls from clients worried that their baby or they themselves have a fever. I respond quite differently than their doctors do. I say, “Hurray! I am so proud of you; your immune system is doing exactly what it needs to be doing. You are so strong.” Next I teach them what can be done to comfort a person with a fever. I want a person to be as comfortable as they can with a fever, but I do not want to get rid of the fever until the body is ready for the fever to stop.

The fever is not the illness; it is just a reaction the body is having to an intruder (be it viral or bacterial) that has entered the body.

Dr. Stuart M. Copperman, M.D., a pediatrician who was in private practice for 35 years, writes, “Fever is a friend, not an enemy. It is a sign of the body fighting infection—fever is helping your child get well—be alert and aware, but don’t panic.”

Dr. Mary Bove N.D. teaches about fever in this way. She says that the brain detects an intruder entering the body. The brain then sends out a detective to analyze the type of invader that is present. The detective reports back to the brain. The brain then sets a temperature sufficient for killing off the bug. Let’s say the brain chooses the temperature of 101.5, the body begins to get hot, and the person gets cranky and achy. If you give Tylenol or Motrin at this point the fever drops but the fever was not allowed to do its job! The brain must now say, “I felt the intruder would be killed at 101.5 but I still detect the intruder, I must now set the internal thermometer higher, lets say to 102.4.” The body then begins to get hot again. If you once again give Tylenol or Motrin the cycle begins again. After suppressing fevers many times the body responds one of two ways, either producing a spiking fever or the body just stops trying to heal itself. What then can happen is that the child (or adult) gets into a cycle of the body no longer protecting itself with a fever or the person goes from illness to illness.

Robyn Landis, a medical researcher writes, “The persistence of the myth that fevers commonly cause brain damage keeps many parents medicating small children with suppressive drugs in an effort to deal with a symptom that is really a healing response of the body. By suppressing that healing mechanism, you prolong the illness. The growth rate of certain microbes (the bad guys) is impaired at specific (hot) temperatures. The immune system also responds to the increase in body heat by increasing white cell (the good guys) activity and mobility.”

Dr. Mendelsohn explains that “fevers caused by common viral and bacterial infections will not exceed 105 degrees. Most cases of brain damage with fever have resulted from meningitis or encephalitis, both of which can cause brain damage independent of fever. Even in the small number of children who have seizures with high fevers (the number of children is extremely low), the seizures themselves are apparently usually harmless, and contrary to popular belief, they occur due to the speed of the temperature rise, not the temperature itself.”

So now that we have learned that a fever is a blessing, what should we do? First of all, kiss your child and tell the child how proud you are that his/her immune system is working so well. Next, take your child to your doctor to get a diagnosis. You can find out if the source is viral or bacterial. Most children can fight both bacteria and viral infections.

Next, do not push food on a child with a fever. Yes, it is important to make sure the child stays hydrated with liquids, but the child does not need food! Offer the child broth soups, grape juice, herb teas, or water with lemon (yes, you can add honey if the child is over 1 year old).

Herbal treatment can be very helpful. The herbs of choice will either help the body to sweat while keeping the temperature as high as it needs to be, or the herb may calm and relax the child; some herbs will also help make the child feel cooler. Below is a list of the herbs I find most helpful with fevers.

  • Yarrow — will produce a sweat in your child and will prevent the fever from going too high
  • Catnip — is cooling, relaxing and calming
  • Elderflower — will also produce a sweat and is given if nasal congestion and a cold are present
  • Hyssop — can be used in fevers associated with respiratory infections and coughs
  • Chamomile — is always helpful with a fever; it helps in reducing the fever, and helps the child to relax, rest, and sleep
  • Peppermint — (although most herbalists prefer spearmint with young children) is given for the fever associated with stomach aches; it will soothe the stomach and help cool the body

These herbs are easiest given to children in tincture form. My favorite company is Quantum. You can also give these herbs in a tea form. Another idea is to make herbal popsicles with the herb tea (and it is okay to add honey if the child is over 1 year old).

You can also get pure essential oil of rosemary, lavender or peppermint and add 3-4 drops in your palm with some lotion and massage the child’s feet and back 3-4 times per day. These essential oils will help reduce the fever and help comfort the child.

Have a healthy and productive winter. And happy healing.


— The temperature is higher than 104 and the child is not responding to treatments
— The child refuses to drink after the first 24 hours of a fever
— The child acts confused or loses consciousness
— The child has rolling of the eyes or body twitching
— The child is under six weeks old
— There is a persistent fever accompanied by a severe headache and stiff neck