Fevers are a common symptom in childhood. Many parents are frightened when their child has a fever, when in fact it is one of the most powerful defense mechanisms we have against disease and infection. It is widely known that a fever activates the child’s immune system. In many cases a fever actually strengthens the immune system and helps to prevent susceptibility to other illnesses later in life. As Dr. Uwe Stave, medical pediatrician, states, “Fever attacks can affect children in quite a positive way. Even though his physical strength is reduced, the child may disclose a wealth of new interests and skills. After a fever, the child reveals a spurt of development and maturation.”

George Wootan, M.D., author of Pediatrics: A Course For Parents, reports that the height of the fever has nothing to do with the severity of the disease. He states that the child’s body will regulate his/her inner temperature as needed. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught that a fever was a helpful body response to disease and infection.

How does a fever work?

The fever process works like this: the child develops an infection, to which the body responds by making additional leukocytes (white blood cells). These cells fight the infection by destroying the bacteria and viruses then removing the dead tissue. The activity level of the white cells is also increased as they move rapidly to the site of the infection. This is called leucotaxis, and it is activated by the release of pyrogens that raise the body temperature. Metabolic rate and oxygen consumption increases. An increase in body temperature simply means that the process of healing is speeding up. Also, iron, which bacteria need to survive, is removed from the blood and stored in the liver. This reduces the rate at which the bacteria multiply. As this whole process of defense in the body progresses, a substance called interferon becomes more effective and aids in the fight of the infection. Because a fever is regulated by the body, it rarely, if ever, reaches a level that would be hazardous to the child.

Studies show that reducing a fever may not be in the best interest of the developing child. In such diseases as chicken pox or influenza, a deadly form of Reye’s syndrome may result if the child is given aspirin. Because of this, the centers for Disease control and the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics now warn against giving aspirin to children. When a fever is artificially suppressed by any method, the body’s defense system is not fully activated.

Antibiotic therapy

A report in the Pediatrics Infectious Disease Journal evaluated the use of antibiotic therapy in the treatment of strep throat and ear infections. The researchers compared two groups, the first one given the antibiotic immediately after the symptoms occurred, and the other group receiving delayed treatment or none at all. In the immediately-treated group, the symptoms (fever, sore throat, painful swallowing, headache, abdominal pain, swollen glands, lethargy, irritability, and loss of appetite) lessened, and recovery time was reduced. But when the treatment was delayed or not administered at all, there were fewer recurrent episodes of strep throat and ear infections. Over a four month period, the children who were given the antibiotic immediately when the symptoms first occurred experienced two and a half times more bouts of strep throat. Similar results were reported for ear infections when treated immediately; those that received antibiotics immediately had more ear infections than those with delayed treatment or no treatment at all. The researchers concluded that when antibiotics were delayed or not given, children were able to build a natural immunity.

What causes the temperature to rise?

Subluxations cause a neurological disorder that disrupts the communication system between the brain and body activity. This process can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. A rise in temperature may also be due to environmental factors, such as in heat illness brought on by exercising in extremely hot or humid weather. Heat prostration occurs when the normal temperature-regulating mechanisms are overloaded. This is unlike a fever, which is a regulated elevation of the body temperature. Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, medical pediatrician, states, “When the body temperature is elevated due to a cold and influenza it may generate a fever up to 105 degrees, but even at that level it is not a legitimate cause for alarm.” Mendelsohn further states that, “More important in determining whether a fever is the result of a mild infection like a common cold, or a more serious one such as meningitis, is the overall appearance, behavior, and attitude of the child.”

What should you do?

Author and researcher, Dr. Eden, suggests that the parent remain calm when their child has a high fever. In the rare case that a child experiences a seizure brought on by a fever the convulsions rarely last longer than five minutes and will cease without treatment. After the convulsive episode is over, the child usually goes to sleep, and when he/she wakes up, is fine. “The first time a parent experiences a seizure with a child is almost always frightening,” Eden says, “but no permanent damage results and the baby will be fine.” Most children, however, never have a febrile seizure.

Parents should help their children understand that a fever is a natural, necessary part of healing and not a disease or sickness in and of itself. A fever should be monitored and not suppressed unnecessarily. The fever should be allowed to activate the child’s immune system. This will give him/her the best opportunity to fight off future infections.

Chiropractic helps

Normal body temperature varies throughout the day and night. If your child has a fever and acts abnormally, call your family chiropractor. Your child may be suffering from a spinal subluxation. This condition interferes with normal body function and can cause many childhood symptoms, including a fever.

A child’s room should be comfortable with plenty of fresh air. Dress the child in cotton so that his/her skin may breathe and perspiration will be drawn away from the body. Fevers commonly cause the child to lose a significant amount of fluid. This may lead to dehydration; to avert this process have the child drink plenty of water, about eight ounces an hour. Do not allow the child to become cold, as shivering will increase muscular activity and in turn increase the body temperature. This is a good time to sit with your feverish child and read or talk quietly.