Anyone who has ever had a fever knows how miserable and worrisome they can be, particularly when dealing with young children. Fevers are a common sign of illness and a necessary response to stimulate the immune system and fend off unwanted invaders, which thrive at normal body temperature. In fact, a fever is actually a good indicator that your immune system is working properly. Fevers play a vital role in fighting illnesses and should be worked with, rather than against. But they are uncomfortable and leave the patient feeling miserable.
When it comes to fevers, we can often be hasty in reaching for the medicine bottle. Regarding the common cold, flu, or regular viral infection, it may be counterproductive to suppress a fever using conventional treatments, such as acetaminophen. It may provide some temporary relief, but it may make it harder for the immune system to do its job. Significant research suggests that a mild to moderate fever should be allowed to run its course, and by doing so, it can shorten the duration of the illness and reduce the chance of spreading the disease to others.
So, what do you do if a fever strikes? With most fevers, your goal should be merely comfort. Try these ten tips on how to naturally treat a fever to have you feeling better and back on your feet faster.
- Stay Hydrated: One of the most important things to do during a fever is to make sure that you stay properly hydrated. Dehydration can happen easily, particularly with babies and young children. Often you will not have an appetite for food with a fever, as your body is busy using its energy to fight the illness and doesn’t want to expend any of that precious energy to digest food. There is no need to force your body to eat if you have no appetite, but keep up with the liquids. When a fever strikes try eating steamed vegetables, soups and, broths if possible to stay nourished. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas. Coconut water is a good choice to add electrolytes to your system. If you are too ill to eat or drink, try sucking on ice chips or ice pops.
- Rest: Sleep is the body’s most powerful natural method for recovery from illness. In fact, lack of sleep can even make you sick. Be sure to get plenty of sleep to allow your body to use the energy it has to fight the illness. This is the perfect time to use those sick days and to keep your kids home from school. Extra sleep will ensure a quicker recovery, while also preventing spreading something if you happen to be contagious.
- Herbal Teas: Herbal teas are a great choice in aiding a fever. Not only do they help keep you hydrated, but they can produce perspiration while also strengthening your immune system to help you get better faster. Elderflowers, catnip (gentle choice for children), yarrow, white willow bark, Echinacea, and lemon balm are all known to assist in the treatment of fevers. Lemon juice and raw honey can be added to the tea for an extra boost of vitamin C (but never give honey to a child under one year of age).
- Immune Support: Assist your body in fighting the illness: echinacea, elderberry syrup, Vitamin C (rose hips are a good source) and colloidal silver are all good options to have on hand to give your immune system a helping hand.
- Epsom Salt Bath: Epsom salt provides the body with hydration and magnesium while also drawing toxins from your body. Add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm (not cold) bath and soak (10-15 minutes for children and 20-30 minutes for adults).
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is another age-old remedy used to help “draw out” the fever. Soak a couple washcloths in diluted apple cider vinegar (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water) and place them on your forehead and tummy or wrap them around the soles of your feet. Alternatively, you can add a cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath.
- Essential Oils: “Sweat it out” with peppermint oil, ginger oil, and cinnamon bark oil which can help warm the circulatory system and cause sweating. Lavender, thyme, rosemary, eucalyptus and sage oils also help to provide soothing comfort when treating a fever. Try applying a few drops of lavender oil in cool water and soak a washcloth in the mixture. Rest it on your forehead for a cooling, relaxing effect. Alternatively, mix a few drops of peppermint oil with a coconut oil and rub it on the bottoms of your feet and the back of your neck.
- Bone Broth: Grandma was right — chicken soup is good for more than just the soul, and bone broth kicks healing into higher gear. Bone broth contains gelatin and cartilage which support healthy immune function. Drink a cup the next time a fever strikes to give your immune system a boost with the added benefit of keeping you hydrated. Homemade bone broth, using healthy, organic bones and vegetables, is always preferred, however there are many store-bought varieties available as well. Learn how to make a homemade batch here.
- Homeopathy: Homeopathy is the belief that the body has the ability to heal itself, and homeopathic remedies are natural ways to support your body during a fever. Belladonna, Aconite, Nux Vomica, and Pulsatilla are among the most common homeopathic remedies used to treat fevers effectively. They are said to stimulate the body’s natural ability to self heal, shortening the duration of illness and recovery time. These remedies can be found at most health food stores, drug stores, or can be ordered online. See our note on homeopathic medicines, below.
- Wet Sock Treatment: The wet sock treatment may sound strange, but many people swear by this natural remedy to help stimulate the immune system and increase blood circulation. It is best to use this technique on the first day of the illness and to do it for a few nights in a row for maximum effectiveness. First you will need to warm your feet in a warm bath or shower. Dry them completely. Then, right before going to bed, soak a thin pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out and slip them on. Cover with a pair of dry wool socks. The wet socks should be warm and dry in the morning. If you wake in the middle of the night and the socks are already dry, repeat before going back to sleep.
While it is generally advisable to let a fever run its course, there are certain red flags to watch for that may indicate a need for a trip or call to the doctor: dehydration, a persistent fever lasting more than 2-3 days, any fever over 100.4º F in a baby under 3 months, a fever over 104º F, or when the person has a compromised immune system, or is undergoing chemotherapy treatment, no clear source of the fever (no runny nose, no cough, no pain, etc.), excessive lethargy, or trouble breathing. While most fevers are harmless and are actually helpful, always use your best judgement and consult your doctor if there is a cause for concern.
* A Note on Homeopathic Remedies: Homeopathic medicines usually come in the form of a pill (pellet) or liquid which are absorbed by mouth. They contain highly-diluted active ingredients (usually a plant or mineral) for treatment of various diseases. While homeopathic remedies are regulated as drugs under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), the FDA does not evaluate the remedies for safety or effectiveness. They can be purchased over the counter with no prescription, but it is often advisable to consult with a homeopath to find the best mixtures for your specific symptoms.