Fever management

Written by Charmaine Dennis, Naturopath

Often a fever is mistaken as foe, and quickly controlled with Paracetamol. It is important to realise that a fever is actually one of the body’s mechanisms to fight an invasion (ie the real enemy -a virus or bacterium that has invaded primary defences). It is a good sign that the body’s vital force is working acutely to ward off an infection so it does not progress. It is far more beneficial to manage a fever than suppress it.

A fever is generally preceded by chilliness, sometimes shivering (to increase the body’s temperature), headache and a weak feeling in the limbs. In the hot stage, the skin feels dry and hot to touch, heart rate is increased and there is often excessive thirst and no appetite. Normal temperature is considered to be between 36-38 degrees celcius, moderate fever 38-39.5 degrees celcius , high fever over 39.5 degrees celcius.

Elevated body temperature has important functions:

  1. It mobilises the immune system into action – white blood cells multiply far more rapidly when the temperature is higher than the normal range. Killer T-cells are increased, as are neutrophils and macrophages, which are the white blood cells responsible for destroying invaders. At the same time, tissue-repairers like fibroblasts and collagen are formed at an increased rate.
  2. It inhibits pathogens – viruses and bacteria multiply at normal temperature, and their growth is inhibited by higher temperatures.
  3. It clears waste from the tissues, lymph and blood, on which bacteria feed and multiply.

While paracetamol may bring the fever down for a while, it does not assist in the germ-fighting process, and sometimes leads to complications. Suppressing the fever actually prevents the body from destroying the pathogen.

Many parents are nervous about letting their baby or child ‘run’ a fever in case of febrile convulsions. These are very rare, related to a rapid rise in temperature rather than a high temperature. While frightening to witness, they are rarely harmful.

Steps to take to ensure the best response to fever
  • Work out what temperature you feel comfortable to manage at home (often in the middle of the night! Research before the next fever!)
  • Monitor your child’s temperature regularly, and keep a record to see where the temperature is going – every ½-1 hour is appropriate in moderate to high fevers

Under the tongue is most accurate

Adjust temps taken under the arm by adding 0.5 degrees celcius for accuracy

Rectal temperatures are unnecessary

  • Keep your child warm, dressed fully but lightly and away from any drafts or wind.
  • Stay indoors and cuddles, quiet play, books, rest, sleep, light meals are the activities for the day.
  • Most importantly, keep the fluids up with water, herbal teas, chicken broths and breast milk if appropriate. No cold drinks – lowering the temperature this way only makes the body work harder to raise it again. Diluted, sugar-free electrolyte drinks, alternating with water may be of use to prevent dehydration.
  • Use herbal teas such as lime blossom (tillia) or cat nip; they encourage a fever to break (see below).
  • If your child’s appetite is diminished, there is no need to worry; his/her body is putting energy into healing, not digestion. Fluids are the most appropriate thing to consume at this stage.
  • Do not give cold drinks, undress, apply cold sponges or put your child into a cold bath or shower.
  • No sugar in any form including fruit juice or honey as it can reduce the immune response for up to 5 hours. If it assists compliance, small amounts of Manuka honey in the herbal tea would be OK, as Manuka has been shown to improve the immune response.
  • Stay calm with your child. Any undue stress will rise the temperature further

Sweating is the sign that the fever has broken, and your child will usually rest peacefully at this stage.

When a fever does go too high

If your child’s fever is reaching up to or above your comfort zone for management, there are further steps you can take before reaching for medication to suppress it. As a guide, intervene only if the temperature is over 38.3 degrees celcius in an infant, 39.4 degrees celcius in a child (and 40 degrees celcius in an adult)

  • Apply a cool (not cold) compress to the head.
  • Sponging with tepid (normal body temperature) water of the face, arms, chest and neck or run a tepid bath – full immersion is best. A child must be held at all times and never left alone in the bath (you may need to hop in depending on the age of the child), so a third person is helpful for monitoring the bath temperature. Take the temperature regularly while in the bath and stop when the temperature is at a safe level. If shivering occurs, stop the treatment immediately and wrap the child up warmly. Shivering will increase the temperature again and is best avoided.
  • Homoeopathics are very useful at this stage, and it is helpful to have a few first aid remedies for fever management picked out in advance. Ask your practitioner for help with this.
Herbal Teas

Herbal teas should be given regularly at all stages of fever and can be the main fluid consumed. Lime Blossom is the herb of choice for treating childhood fever. It induces sweating and is relaxing to the nervous system, encouraging rest and sleep. It can also help to alleviate headache. Catnip is another with similar effect to lime blossom, but also has an action of calming an upset digestive system. Combine with herbs such as lemon balm for viral infections, elder for mucus congestion, peppermint for nausea and taste

Paracetamol
Only reach for paracetamol if the temperature stays too high for more than two hours in an infant, or six hours in a child, in spite of natural interventionist methods. Assess whether you need to use the dose that gets the temp down to normal level or if just enough to take the edge off a high fever is appropriate. This would allow the benefits of an elevated temperature to continue.

If you have any concern about your child’s condition sometimes it is appropriate to call your doctor or local hospital, or utilise services such as Nurse On Call for advice before attending hospital. Often lengthy waits in cold waiting rooms will make things worse. If you do deicide to make the trip to hospital, make sure you take warm blankets, a pillow, plenty of herbal tea, room temperature water and patience!

You can manage most fevers at home, but your doctor should be called if:

  • The temperature reaches higher than you are comfortable managing
  • Your child seems dehydrated, does not respond to you, is not able to stop crying or becomes pale or mottled-looking.
  • He or she has symptoms such as ear pain, painful urination or any unusual severe pain.
  • Your child seems sicker to you than you would expect with a cold or flu.
  • Fever lasts more than two days.

Any fever over 40 degrees celcius or showing symptoms of breathing difficulties, convulsions, turning blue around the lips or vomiting, is to be regarded seriously and medical advice should be sought.

There is no doubt that parenting through a fever with out medication is not the easy way. You do have to be more alert, monitoring regularly and prepared to spend the night cuddling your child for a closer watch. Allowing your child to experience a fever that naturally resolves will, in most circumstances, strengthen his/her immune system, reducing the length of infection and preventing reoccurrence.

 

At Fertile Ground Health Group all of our naturopaths can give advice and treat a wide range of health conditions. Our resident specialist for children and family naturopathic appointments is Sarah Harris who is a qualified and experienced naturopath with a special interest in children and family health. Being a mother of three beautiful children, she has a wealth of personal experience managing health and illness in kids. Sarah works with families to find solutions for all manner of health conditions, providing practical knowledge, testing where applicable, dietary advice, and herbal and nutritional medicines.

How healthy is your baby’s head and neck?

Nicole Cukierman - baby's head

Have you noticed any asymmetry in your baby’s head shape or neck movements. If so, new mama’s, read this:

A misshaped head, clinically known as plagiocephaly is a common condition affecting up to 1 in 5 babies in their first 2 months of life. This is most prevalent at 4 months of age as prior to this babies do not have the strength to hold up their head when sitting without support.

Strains in-utero position, during or after birth may predispose neck restriction leading to a head turning preference which may then result in unilateral flattening of the head. A 2008 study indicated that 73% of newborns have one or more asymmetry, 16% of these had torticollis aka neck tightness, limiting their range of motion.

If a baby is born with a restricted neck they are susceptible to spending time with their head resting on the one side which may lead to unevenness over time. 1 in 3 mums also reported feeling that their baby remained in the same position or was stuck during their final few weeks of pregnancy. Studies have linked babies being in a confined position for six weeks or more with an increase the incidence of torticollis when compared to restricted in-utero position for shorter periods of time.

Worried this may be present in your bub? Here’s our advice:
  • See an Osteopath trained in paediatrics: A 2011 study on the impact of osteopathic intervention for infants under 6.5 months old with positional plagiocephaly found significant improvements in asymmetry following 4 osteopathic treatments over a 2-month period.
  • Tummy time: When bubs are positioned on their stomachs it strengthens their neck, trunk, shoulder and hands. It also prevents pressure on the head and therefore flattening.
  • Repositioning: Encourage babies to turn their head to the non-preferred side. You can try this by sitting on their non-preferred side while playing or positioning their cot to be facing the window, pictures or toys in their room to capture their attention.
  • Early intervention: Early diagnosis and treatment is always preferred. Early intervention for plagiocephaly is positively correlated with an increased potential for correction.

Without intervention plagiocephaly can worsen with time. Are you concerned about your child? Come see our paediatric trained osteopath, Nicole Cukierman.

Dr Nicole Cukierman is available for one on one consultations in person, as well as digital consults. Book in with Nicole and find out what’s possible for your situation.

References

  • Looman, W. S., & Flannery, A. B. (2012). Evidence-based care of the child with deformational plagiocephaly, Part I: assessment and diagnosis. Journal of pediatric health care : official publication of National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates & Practitioners26(4), 242–253. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedhc.2011.10.003
  • Flannery, A. B., Looman, W. S., & Kemper, K. (2012). Evidence-based care of the child with deformational plagiocephaly, part II: management. Journal of pediatric health care : official publication of National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates
  • Stellwagen, L., Hubbard, E., Chambers, C., & Jones, K. L. (2008). Torticollis, facial asymmetry and plagiocephaly in normal newborns. Archives of disease in childhood93(10), 827–831. https://doi.org/10.1136/adc.2007.124123
  • Lessard, S., Gagnon, I., & Trottier, N. (2011). Exploring the impact of osteopathic treatment on cranial asymmetries associated with nonsynostotic plagiocephaly in infants. Complementary therapies in clinical practice17(4), 193–198. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2011.02.001

When it comes to children’s health, make sure you’re not wasting your money or your time

By Sarah Harris, FGHG Paediatric & Family Naturopath

Did you know Australians spend more on vitamins and supplements than on prescription drugs? With over 11,000 complementary medicine products for sale in Australia it’s no surprise to find bewildered parents doing their best to choose a supplement that might help their child feel better, healthier or happier. As a naturopath I often feel compelled to stand beside these parents in supermarkets and chemists to offer assistance; but ultimately it is better to direct my focus toward lovingly consulting with children and parents to determine their real treatment needs.

Children’s health requirements are special given their immature physiology and varied nutritional requirements. Self- prescribing, whilst appropriate in simple cases, could end up costing more than you expect in time, money and results if you make the wrong selection. In many cases it is very important to seek advice on individual treatment. When you are clear about the real needs for your child’s health, you can be confident if and when you choose to buy natural medicines off the shelf.

Different stages of development require a tailored approach for every age and size, degree of fussiness, absorption ability, and consideration given to any possible underlying health condition. Professional prescribing for your child ensures appropriate dosing, directions and advice on various ways to get the right medicines into kids, with more fun and palatable options.

Spending time with a naturopath to understand your child’s health can be both educational and reassuring. Along with prescribing appropriate treatments, we often share fantastic traditional remedies that can have the same or better effect as some of the off the shelf remedies found in the chemist or supermarket. Many traditional remedies have been confirmed by scientific studies to have healing effects and they are readily available, if you know what you’re looking for. For example:

German Chamomile tea enhances sleep and is well known for its calming effect. Beneficial for children who are distressed and unable to sleep and many children enjoy the taste. Research shows that it improves the ability to fall asleep without affecting daytime functioning and cognitive performance. It is also useful for teething, and for irritable children with “nervous tummies”, having a soothing effect on digestive upsets, a common symptom of stress in children.

Using food as medicine is also a fabulous way to improve the long term health of your child. But with so many different opinions in the media and online, it can be difficult to know whose opinion you can trust. Many issues can be resolved through proper assessment and appropriate recommendations for your child’s diet. When a child has a nutritionally balanced diet and you use foods as medicine; naturopathic advice, supplementation and herbal medicines can be the additional layer of treatment when you need the big guns to prevent illness and treat acute or chronic conditions.

When there is so much to know and understand about your child’s health, it makes sense to seek tailored naturopathic advice and invest in child-friendly medicines, suitable for even the fussiest of kids. Taking the guess work out of choosing remedies for your family can give you peace of mind, better results and reassurance that the medicines going in will be safe and effective.

SarahHarris_edited_colourSarah Harris, FGHG paediatric naturopath and nutritionist

Sarah is a qualified and experienced naturopath, herbalist and nutritionist with more than a decade of knowledge and practice in complementary medicine. As a mother of three children and highly skilled in providing  naturopathic care, Sarah has a special interest in treating children of all ages. Her empathetic and kind nature instills comfort and confidence when providing advice to parents about their child’s health and she works well with families and individuals to find solutions for health concerns.

 

 

Back-to-school: prevent common childhood infections

by Sarah Harris, FGHG Paediatric and Family Naturopath

The hot weather traditions of building sandcastles at the beach, jumping in the pool and having family BBQ’s in the park can bring a few common summer illnesses for children. Going back to school and daycare can also have an impact on children’s wellness. As our children return to their learning establishments, I begin to hear parents comment on how healthy their child was over the holidays, only to be sick again now they’re back at school.

Prevention is always best and there is much that can be done to strengthen your child’s immunity to avoid some of the common childhood infections and ailments in Summer. Some of the most frequent infections you may encounter this season are discussed below along with an understanding of how to treat the symptoms, avoid reoccurrence and when to seek help.

Swimmer’s ear

An infection of the ear canal can occur with increased exposure to ocean or pool water. The ear canal may become inflamed due to moisture which brews bacteria, resulting in a very painful condition commonly treated with painkillers and antibiotics. To avoid the side effects of these medications, prevention of swimmers ear can be as simple as keeping the ear canal dry after exposure by shaking water out and drying ears with a towel, or using ear plugs to prevent contact with water. Other prevention strategies include boosting the immune system with vitamin C and zinc rich foods or supplements and including probiotics in your child’s diet.  Reducing mucous forming foods such as sugar and processed foods, banana and dairy, whilst increasing warming foods such as ginger, onion and garlic will also help to support a healthy balance of mucous in the body and aid quick recovery.

In the case of an infection it is important to seek professional advice and obtain a prescription for a more powerful remedy. A quickscript consultation is a 10 minute chat with a naturopath for acute conditions. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear can be treated naturally using potent herbal formulas that support antimicrobial defences and provide symptomatic relief, clear nasal congestion and infection, then promote immune balance to prevent reoccurrence. Herbal ear drops of calendula, St John’s wort, mullein flower and garlic have been shown to be as useful as medicated ear drops for pain of ear infections.

Warts, fungal and viral skin infections

Changes to our natural defences that include fungus and bacteria occur when we are exposed in a swimming pool or common areas during bare foot fun. A few common ailments include molluscum contagiosum, athlete’s foot and swimmer’s foot. So do we need to apply antibacterial gels and anti-fungal creams that contain cortisone? Such conditions can be prevented if we restore immune control and boost under active immune responses using key nutrients for immunity such as zinc and vitamin C. Rest during an infection and build your child’s immunity with nutrient dense foods; protein – like salmon with high omega 3 levels and eggs, nuts and seeds, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables (like berries and broccoli) with antioxidants. Also, foods beneficial for good gut health, like yoghurt and fermented foods containing probiotics that are shown to stimulate immunity, thereby promoting resistance to infection. Topical treatments using herbal medicine that soothe inflammation and have anti-microbial properties that resolve infection can be tailored to each type of infection by prescription from your naturopath.

Food poisoning – well a good barbie can create great leftovers but generally speaking, leftovers create a prime opportunity to share in bacteria and viruses, such as salmonella when food is left out, reheated or inadequately cooled in your child’s lunchbox. Best to be clear about the common symptoms – tummy pain, diarrhoea and general unwellness, possibly fever and vomitting. Antibiotics can be avoided with supportive dietary and lifestyle interventions such as keeping up fluids and rest. A low reactive diet is key for recovery, so keeping foods simple and nutritious, using fresh produce can improve energy, immunity and wellbeing.

When symptoms of food poisoning or slow recovery from food poisoning seem to much to manage, it is recommended to seek professional advice. It is critical to eliminate infection and recover without side effects. Natural medicine can be of assistance to support rehydration and gut healing using anti-infective medicines and nutrient dense food choices that assist healing. Elimination of infection, improving digestive functions and building better microbiota (good gut bacteria & immunity) through using probiotic foods and supplements is the approach your naturopath would take to aid recovery and strengthen the gut of your child.

When deciding what is best for your child’s health remember that safe and effective natural medicines provide ease of symptoms for any immune affliction, can improve recovery that has been long term and importantly, can offer prevention of recurring immune concerns. Herbal medicine, homeopathy and nutritional supplements for children can be tailor made and taken in child friendly creams, liquids, powders and even jelly icypoles!

sarahharris_edited_colourSarah Harris is a qualified and experienced naturopath, herbalist and nutritionist with more than a decade of knowledge and practice in complementary medicine. As a mother of three children and highly skilled in providing  naturopathic care, Sarah has a special interest in treating children of all ages. Her empathetic and kind nature instills comfort and confidence when providing advice to parents about their child’s health and she works well with families and individuals to find solutions for health concerns.