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Fever Fallacies

31 May 2009 61 views No Comment
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When you feel as if you’re coming down with a fever, the best thing you can do is take an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Motrin or Tylenol to make it go away… right? Not necessarily, says Thomas A. Kruzel, ND, a naturopathic physician in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, and past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. In fact, in most cases, the answer is no.

According to Dr. Kruzel, fever is one of the body’s most effective weapons for fighting disease, and usually the best thing you can do is to let it run its course and do its job. Forcing a fever down can cause an illness to last longer or even to possibly be worse than it might have been if the fever were allowed to burn it out. To clear away any further misconceptions or misunderstanding, Dr. Kruzel shared more thoughts on what a fever does and how to best cope with one…

FEVER CAN BE YOUR ALLY

We are constantly bombarded with pharmaceutical ads for OTC fever and pain relievers. The result: Our culture has developed a fear of fever, when in reality fever can be our ally. In children, for example, fever’s destruction of bacteria is an important way to build up young immune systems.

Just what is a fever and what does it do? Fever is an elevation in body temperature in response to infection or other illness. When an infection or illness is detected, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus triggers the body to mount a fever to ward off invaders. This mobilizes white blood cells to surround and engulf bacteria, viruses and other toxins. Essentially, your body burns up the invaders, explains Dr. Kruzel. In most adults, a fever does its optimal work at 102 degrees, and then breaks.

Dr. Kruzel recommends a number of measures to support your body during a fever…

DRINK LOTS OF FLUIDS

Whatever other steps you take to intervene with a fever, don’t forget this age-old one — drink plenty of fluids. Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated, cautions Dr. Kruzel. To replace fluids lost through sweating, keep water, juice, seltzer, tea and soup close at hand. It can also be very refreshing to suck on popsicles. (To keep the sugar content under control, I make my family popsicles using diluted fruit juice.)

REST IS ESSENTIAL

Another oldie but goodie — get plenty of rest. Left to its own resources, this would be the body’s natural response to fever, notes Dr. Kruzel. It’s called “adaptive withdrawal,” and children and animals still respond this way. When they develop a fever, they naturally grow more subdued. Most adults respond instead by fighting a fever, says Dr. Kruzel. They take a Tylenol and tough it out, insisting on going to work and meeting social obligations. .. when listening to their bodies and taking it easy would in reality help them get better faster.

EMBRACE HYDROTHERAPY

Of course, sometimes you need to get your fever down — either because you truly don’t have time to be sick, or because the fever is dangerously high. One of the best ways to do this is something called hydrotherapy. Dr. Kruzel notes that while hydrotherapy sounds counterintuitive, it is an excellent way to help break a fever that is “stuck” for two or three days.

What to do…

* Wet a T-shirt and socks (cotton is best) with cold water. Wring as much water out of them as possible. After taking a warm shower, put on the cold, wet T-shirt and socks. Next, cover them with a dry, warm sweatshirt, a dry pair of cotton sweat socks, and dry sweat pants and climb into bed. According to Dr. Kruzel, this technique calms the nervous system, and causes the fever to spike and then break.

* Cool down. In addition to hydrotherapy, you can help cool down with the help of a wet towel or a cool bath. Wet a towel with cold water, and wring it out. Wrap the towel around the base of the skull and neck. This cools blood going to the brain. You can also simply take cool (65� F to 70� F) baths.

CONSIDER NATURAL REMEDIES

If you feel that you need to take something for a fever, it’s still not necessary to reach for an OTC pill. As we’ve read in study after study in recent months, these drugs are far from benign and have a number of potentially serious side effects. Aspirin and other NSAIDs (e.g., Advil, Motrin, Aleve) are associated with gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney damage, while excess Tylenol can harm the liver. (Caution: Never give aspirin to children, since it is associated with a rare but life-threatening condition known as Reye’s syndrome.)

Two of Dr. Kruzel’s favorite natural alternatives are…

* Yarrow tea. This fever-breaking herb stimulates the body’s immune response to infection. Yarrow kicks the fever up half a degree, which is what we want to do to get to the 102-degree healing point, explains Dr. Kruzel. Add a teaspoon of dried yarrow to 8 ounces of hot water, and drink up to three cups daily. Sweeten with honey if desired. Yarrow can be combined with elderberry or spearmint.

* Ferrum phosphoricum (ferrum phos). This homeopathic combination of the minerals iron and phosphate encourages the body’s natural response to fever. For best results, take at the first sign of a fever, and again if you start to feel worse. If symptoms improve, there is no need to take more. An average dose consists of two pellets of a 30C potency dissolved under the tongue up to four times daily. Other beneficial homeopathic remedies for fever include Belladonna, Bryonia, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Nux vomica and Sulphur. Homeopathic remedies have subtle variations depending on your symptoms. It’s best to check with a trained professional before taking any homeopathic remedy for fever.

Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, shared with me his favorite fever-breaking tea. Combine 1 teaspoon of dried yarrow, 1 teaspoon of ginger and 1 teaspoon of stinging nettles. Take 1 tsp of this mixture and let steep in boiling water for five to six minutes. Drink one cup every hour until the fever breaks. Bundle yourself up to help break the fever.

WHEN TO INTERVENE

Of course, the causes of fever vary widely. Depending on individual symptoms and circumstances, there will be times when it is appropriate to suppress a fever or seek medical attention, notes Dr. Kruzel. These include when fevers continue to spike above 102 degrees, if you are malnourished or dehydrated, if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if fever is accompanied by other symptoms such as a severe headache or a rash. In most cases, however, letting a fever run its course is the best thing you can do to support your body. Should you or a loved one get a fever, it is best to talk to your naturopath before starting treatment so that you are sure you’re treating the right symptom in the right way.

Sources:

* Thomas A. Kruzel, ND, naturopathic physician in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the former dean of clinical education and chief medical officer at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Phoenix. Dr. Kruzel is author of Homeopathic Emergency Guide: A Quick Reference Handbook to Effective Homeopathic Care (North Atlantic).

* Andrew L. Rubman, ND, adjunct professor of clinical medicine, Florida College of Integrative Medicine, Orlando, and director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, CT.

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