Turns out, there are many natural fever reducers that kids can use safely and effectively. When kids have fevers, it’s helpful to remember that it’s a mainstay defense for the immune system. You could say we’ve become a bit afraid of fever. For years, we were told to make a fever go away as soon as our kids had one. It’s clear though that we can support a fever in doing its job, while working with natural fever reducers as well as some immune-friendly nutrition supports that keep kids comfortable. Nutrition supports can help the immune system fight more effectively too.
Fever is one of the body’s many brilliant means to disable a pathogen. A 104 F degree fever (~40 degree C) will cause a 200-fold reduction in the replication rate of some viruses. Powerful stuff! Mounting a vigorous fever helps our adaptive immunity to develop, a necessary task during our early years. The immune system must “learn” how to respond and protect; some evidence suggests that early tasking in this way helps protect from cancers later on.
Drugs like acetaminophen (aka Tylenol or paracemetol) are often suggested at the pediatrician’s office, to control fever. This is a popular measure especially following routine shots. But evidence has emerged across many investigations that acetominophen actually reduces immune response to vaccines – making the combination of shots with acetominophen potentially dangerous. While the body is endeavoring to raise its temperature as a means of attack against a pathogen, Tylenol will un-do the process by lowering temperature and can thus prolong infection and inflammation.
There has been controversy over the use of Tylenol in children, with some 500 plaintiffs suing Tylenol maker Johnson & Johnson. Tylenol use – especially in toddlerhood when multiple vaccine visits are compulsory, or during pregnancy – has shown an association with the development of autism later on. Besides potentially triggering poor vaccine tolerance or even encouraging an adverse event from shot, Tylenol quickly depletes glutathione. Glutathione is a natural protein made by the body as key detoxifier and free radical scavenger – tasks that are critical for successfully fighting infection and inflammation. This means that Tylenol lowers glutathione right when we may need it most, thus enabling the toxicity of whatever pathogen is at hand.
Giving Tylenol, plus eating RoundUp (aka glyphosate – the abundant and ubiquitous agricultural herbicide in GMO foods, wheat products, and infant formulas), plus using antibiotics, can create a perfect storm with the power to alter gene expression such that the end result is predictive for autism. No single “gene for autism” has ever been identified, despite years of hopeful searching and untold sums of money spent in the hunt. We know that autism isn’t solely genetic in origin. Rather, there are groups of genes that will be expressed differently, if environmentally challenged with toxins, antigens, or infections at vulnerable moments, like in utero, in infancy or toddlerhood, or during illness and infection. If the gene expression is altered under the “right” conditions (that is, frequent toxic and immune challenges), autism or other neurodevelopmental can result.
No doubt, there’s enough concern about using products like acetominophen to steer us toward natural fever reducers instead. What can you do about fever? When is best to intervene with a natural or nutrition measure?
- Stay in touch with your doctor for close monitoring when your child has a fever.
- A normal fever is between 100-104 degrees. If it climbs higher, ask your doctor for next steps.
- If your baby is less than 3 or 4 months old and has a fever over 100 degrees, let your doctor know right away.
- Natural comfort measures during fever include these below. Check with your pharmacist or doctor first, if your child is using medication.
- Curcumin, available in liquids and chewable gummies, can reduce inflammation and soften pain. Nordic Naturals Curcumin Gummies, Empirical Labs Liposomal Curcumin with Resveratrol, or Apex Turmero Liquid are easy for toddlers and school aged children to use. You can find these in my FullScript platform here.
- Magnesium is another useful pain reliever especially for muscle aches and pains. It’s available in topical lotions like Cooks Organics Creme, as Epsom Salts in a tepid bath soak, or can be used orally in liquid suspensions like Blue Bonnet Liquid Cal-Mag.
- Calcium lactate is a fast absorbed form calcium that can acts as a natural fever reducer, while helping white blood cells fight. During fever, as muscle tissue warms, calcium is leached from bones in a free unbound form called ionized calcium. This activates white blood cells which in turn mount their attack on invading bacteria or viruses. By giving calcium lactate, you provide a quick support for white blood cells. I have many anecdotes from clients for the success of this practice, which may also reduce the likelihood of febrile seizures. 100-200 mg calcium lactate every hour or two til fever drops is usually effective. Standard Process sells this form of calcium as a powder or in small tablets: Progressive Labs sells calcium lactate capsules. (Milk and dairy products do not supply calcium in the right form for this task, and other forms of calcium will not work as well if at all.) Note – I don’t recommend calcium carbonate for this task.
- Homeopathic remedies can be effective natural fever reducers. Belladonna in 30c pellets is a classic solution for a hot, rapid onset fever with bright red dry hot cheeks and flushing. This and other common natural fever reducer remedies are available on my FullScript platform, in some supermarkets, and in natural food stores. Homeopathy can be a powerful tool that is worth learning to use correctly. For more detail on using homeopathic remedies in your home, see Everybody’s Guide To Homeopathic Medicine. This book was a mainstay in our home when my son was little and saved us many trips to the doctor.
What about before fever? The most important thing you can do for your child is maintain a healthy, solid growth pattern.
Decades of global data on child nutrition have consistently shown that growth pattern is the single most powerful predictor of how often a child gets sick and how sick they may get. The severity and frequency of illness both increase, when children are lapsing off their expected patterns for growth. If you’re not sure whether your child’s growth pattern is where it should be, check this blog on underweight in children. Even small shifts away from your child’s expected progress for growth are costly when it comes to infection and illness. Fever is an expensive endeavor in terms of nutrients and energy, especially for children, who already have high needs because they are growing.
Kids often don’t feel hungry during fever, which is a good thing – the body needs resources for the task of infection fighting, and doesn’t want to steer blood flow and energy toward digesting a meal. But fevers are exceptionally costly in terms of the fuel they consume – literally, heating fuel! It can’t be replenished easily during illness, which is why it is so important to keep children well fed and growing strong between infections and illness. Once illness comes calling, the nutrient and fuel reserves need to be at hand.
Top nutrients for the immune system to do its work during illness, that should be well replenished before illness, are vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, iron, and total protein. Total protein doesn’t mean your kids need a hundred grams of protein a day in food (that’s too much). It means they have good tissue stores, healthy muscle tissue, and some body fat as reserves.
Iron doesn’t work well to supplement during infection, as it may increase inflammation or help microbes and viruses, which also love iron as much as we do. So, make sure your child’s iron status is strong day to day (click here to learn more about when kids need iron). At your next pediatric visit, ask your doctor about assessing iron status. Keep it in good standing.
Zinc can be used during illness, and doses of 30-100 mg are what I may suggest depending on a child’s weight. Liquids, chewables, and capsules are widely available. Give these with a little food.
Vitamins A and D are stored in fatty tissue and certain types of lipid (fat) molecules in the blood. Give ample sources of these vitamins in your kids’ diets, before illness. Cod liver oil, wild caught (not farmed) salmon, organic grass fed butter, or organic calves liver are all good sources. Regular fish oil (minus the “liver” part) does not provide vitamins D or A, which are key for lung tissue and many facets of strong immune response to viral infections especially.
Your local naturopathic doctor is trained to use natural fever reducers to help manage infections and illnesses. Check here to explore finding a naturopathic doctor (ND) near you. Elderberry, olive leaf extract, black cumin seed oil, and goldenseal are common helpers for managing colds, flu, or viral infections. All are available in formats children can use, from syrups to tinctures and chewables or powders.
Long short, your kids can use natural fever reducers safely and effectively. There are several options to support kids naturally, through the usual colds and bugs. Instead of reaching for NSAIDs like acetominophen or ibuprofen, give natural fever reducers and nutrition supports a try, to help the body fight infection and recover handily.