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7 Ways To Treat A Fever Naturally

Affiliate Disclosure | in Natural Remedies | by | with 261 Comments


I Like Math Just About As Much As The Next Mom

Counting baby toes, pennies and the number of times Micah says “sooopooon” (spoon) in a day – all good stuff! But when it comes to my kids health, math rarely factors in. Why? Because I watch them, not the numbers. This is especially true with fevers.

I’m not alone, either. According to Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson – pediatrician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine – numbers may not be as significant as we tend to think.

“My most frequent calls are from worried parents who want to know how high is too high of a fever. What many parents don’t realize is that often, fevers are their child’s friend.

. . . . Fevers can actually help your child recover more quickly, especially if he or she is battling a viral illness . . . I often wish thermometers had a gauge that read either ‘fever’ or ‘no fever.’ That would definitely help parents who worry if their child has a fever that’s too high.”

Loyola Medicine: That Fever Might Be Your Child’s Friend

Here’s a video from another pediatrician, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, which explains more:*

“Seattle Mama Doc” On Fever Phobia

Can I just say that I LOVE these women?? Personally I’d avoid the use of fever reducers if possible – here is one of the many reasons why – but I am still **this** close to sending them a dozen orchids. Regarding when fevers may need the attention of a pediatrician, here’s what Dr. Swanson has to say:

“The main take home is not to treat fever per se, but your child. There is no reason to make a fever disappear if your child is otherwise acting well, playful, and staying hydrated. But do know there are some fevers that do require a visit with the pediatricians. It’s important to seek care when fever persists after 3 days in infants and children, any fever in a baby 3 month old or less, and if fever is over 104 degrees.”

And here’s what Dr. Chow-Johnson has to say:

  • “Fevers are safe. A fever is the body’s way of controlling its immune response. Your child’s body is controlling the temperature and it’s going to fluctuate no matter what you do. Don’t awaken a child from a deep sleep to give medications for the fever. Sleep is more important.
  • Take oral temperatures when possible and rectal ones when not. Ear, sticker, pacifier and temporal artery thermometers are not reliable. Stick to a good, old-fashioned digital thermometer for the best accuracy. As far as how frequently a fever needs to be checked, once a day is sufficient.
  • There is not a maximum number on the thermometer that means go to the emergency room, unless your child stops drinking, urinating or responding well. But if children are doing all three, parents can monitor them from home.
  • Your goal should be your child’s comfort, not reducing the fever. Be generous with fluids, ice chips and popsicles. Dress children in light clothing and give tepid baths to help cool them down. Don’t use rubbing alcohol as this can be absorbed into the skin. Give fever reducers only if your child feels uncomfortable, not solely to reduce the temperature. And don’t alternate fever-reducing medications, as this could lead to overdosing or excessive medication that your child doesn’t need.

However, experts also say that there are times you should seek medical attention for a fever

Here is the criteria outlined by Dr. Chow-Johsnon:

  • “A child who is less than 8 weeks old and has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher should be seen by a physician immediately
  • A child who is undergoing chemotherapy or has a compromised immune system
  • If there is no clear source for the child’s fever (no cough, runny nose or known pain) and the fever has lasted for 2-3 days
  • If a fever lasts for more than 5 days, see a physician, even if your child looks well.”

Loyola Medicine: Let Fever Might Be Your Child’s Friend (emphasis mine)

Ahhh, I’m swooning! And the best part is she’s not alone: Another pediatrician, Dr. Natasha Burgert, says pretty much the exact same thing.

“There is no ‘number’ on a thermometer that requires a trip to the Emergency Department. Nope, not even 104F degrees. With very specific exceptions, kids do not have to maintain a “normal” temperature during times of illness.” (Fever: 5 Facts You Should Know)

American Academy Of Pediatrics Issues New Advice On Fevers

From the TODAY Show:

“Parents have been told for generations that a high fever can be dangerous to kids. If you don’t get your child’s fever down, you’ll run the risk of frying brain cells, doctors have warned.

But now the American Academy of Pediatricians has turned that conventional wisdom on its head. A new report published this month in Pediatrics states that not only is there no need to bring down a fever in an otherwise healthy child, but there is a downside to treating a fever – it can prolong the illness that originally sparked the high temperatures.

The only reason to treat a fever is to make a child more comfortable, a co-author of the report said. ‘In a normal child there’s no set temperature at which you’d need to treat a fever,’ said Dr. Janice Sullivan, a professor of pediatrics and pediatric critical care at the University of Louisville. ‘Our recommendation is primarily to treat discomfort associated with an illness rather than the fever itself. So, when children are uncomfortable or crying, then you should treat them with medication.’

Sullivan and her colleagues scrutinized studies on fevers and found that there was no evidence that a fever by itself could harm a child – unless the child was under the age of 3 months or had heart problems. In fact, the researchers determined that bringing fevers down could actually prolong illness. That’s because fevers are one of the body’s lines of defense against viruses, Sullivan explained.

 ‘Studies done in children with chicken pox, for example, found that children whose fevers weren’t treated had about a day less that they were considered contagious compared to those who were treated,’ she said.”

New Advice On Fevers: Ride It Out

This reminds me of the American Academy of Pediatrics updated stance on ear infections. New data suggests that they’re often misdiagnosed, and the old method of treating earaches with antibiotics may have actually caused an increase in actual ear infections. (source) The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends a “wait and see” approach instead, acknowledging that most of the time it’s best to let small illnesses run their course. Here are some natural remedies many parents have found helpful for earaches.  But I’m getting off topic here – back to fevers!

According to two distinguished pediatricians NUMBERS DON'T MATTER when it comes to a fever: "There is no 'number' on a thermometer that requires a trip to the Emergency Department. Nope, not even 104F degrees. With very specific exceptions, kids do not have to maintain a “normal” temperature during times of illness." ~ Natasha Bergert, MD This post talks about what to watch for instead of the numbers and how to bring a fever down naturally when needed.

What About Febrile Seizures?

One of the most common objections to letting a child ride out a fever seems to be concern over febrile seizures. Here are two things worth considering when weighing that concern:

1. Febrile seizures are not considered harmful.

According to the Royal Children’s Hospital In Melbourne, “Most children with fever suffer only minor discomfort, however 1 in 30 will have a febrile convulsion at one time or another. This usually happens between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. Febrile convulsions are not harmful to your child and do not cause brain damage. They are, however, quite upsetting to parents to witness.

Most children with febrile convulsions only ever have one fit. Some children will have one or more seizures, usually during illnesses which cause a fever. There is no increased risk of epilepsy in children who have febrile convulsions.”

While that’s true for simple febrile seizures (which last than 15 minutes), the Epilepsy Foundation does list three risk factors which may increase the risk of developing epilepsy later on:

  • “Risk factors for later epilepsy include:
  • Abnormal development before the febrile seizure.
  • Complex febrile seizures: These are defined as seizures that last longer than 15 minutes, more than one seizure in 24 hours, or seizures in which only one side of the body is affected.
  • Seizures without fever in a parent or a brother or sister.

If the child has none of these risk factors, the chances of later epilepsy are just about the same as for any other child.” (emphasis mine)

In other words, the likelihood of developing epilepsy only increases if the child was developing abnormally prior to the febrile seizure, the febrile seizure was complex, or the child has a close family member who suffers from seizures that are not related to a fever.

2. Giving fever reducers may actually induce a febrile seizure.

Febrile seizures are associated with a rapid change in body temperature in either direction. (source) Many parents have reported that their child experienced a febrile seizure after receiving a fever reducing medication. This suggests that in some cases, fever reducers may bring the fever down too quickly and cause a febrile seizure. Also, there’s another way fever reducers may trigger febrile seizures. According to Amy Love, NTP, CGP, CILC, “fever reducers can CAUSE the febrile seizures because they suppress the body’s attempt to create a fever, and so it has to try harder, thus causing a higher fever (that rises faster), called a rebound fever.”

So what are febrile seizures?

Though the mechanism is considered unknown, new research may offer clues. According to this study, febrile seizures may be related to the function of calcium channels within the body. We know that calcium channels are temperature sensitive, and some experts theorize that part of the function of a fever is to activate calcium channels, which in turn activates white blood cells that mount an immune response. One retrospective study speculates that some “simple febrile seizures” may in some cases actually be a “hypocalcaemic convulsions due to vitamin D deficiency” masquerading as a simple febrile seizure. In other words, if an individual is calcium deficient when a fever stimulates the calcium channels, it might cause some episodes categorized as simple febrile seizures. Another study found that iron deficiency/anemia is a risk factor for febrile seizures. Again, this is just speculation, but we’re going to revisit this idea in the home remedy section so I wanted to mention it.

How To Treat A Fever Naturally

So fevers aren’t scary and we should watch the child instead of the thermometer, but does that mean we can do nothing to help our children (or ourselves) be more comfortable? Of course not! Here are some home remedies that are thought to support immune function and increase comfort levels during a fever.

#1 ~ Calcium

According to Dr. Bernard Jensen, one of the main functions of a fever “is to pull ionizable calcium out of the bones and draw it into the blood where it is useful for fighting infections.” (source) The process may be part of what makes us feel achy, and some care providers suggest giving the body what it needs without requiring it to withdraw from “the bank.” Some expert believe that calcium  works with the fever to make it more effective, which may reduce illness duration. One small study of patients with dengue fever did find that supplementation with calcium and vitamin D (which assists with calcium absorption) reduced the duration and overall symptoms of the illness. Calcium is best obtained from food, but it can also be obtained through supplements. Calcium citrate malate and calcium orotate are though to be two of the most bioavailable forms. (Vitamin D may also be helpful for increasing absorption)


#2 – Bone Broth

It seems that Grandma was right after all – chicken soup is good for more than just the soul. Though some have thought that the comfort associated with chicken soup was a placebo effect, research published in CHEST: The Joural of the American College of Chest Physicians, suggests that “chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity.”

Several components of broth are thought to be beneficial, but the one that has been most studies is cartilage. In Nourishing Broth, Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Kaayla Daniel detail research which suggests that cartilage supports healthy immune function by “stimulating just about every time of white blood cell the body needs to mount a strong defense against unwanted microbes.” (page 95)

Of course, it’s also rich in bioavailable calcium, which as I just mentioned is likely to be beneficial as well.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s an easy tutorial on making bone broth in a slow cooker.

#3 – Gelatin

Another component of bone broth is gelatin, which may make skin look more youthful, support digestionimprove sleep, and support immune function. In Nourishing Broth, Morell and Dr. Daniel mention that research on the benefits of gelatin for immune function is limited and sometimes contradictory, but they suggest that this may be due to differences in the raw materials used to make the gelatin. Gelatin can be derived from several animals with different methods – some use just the hide, some use the hide and cartilage, and some “gelatin” studies actually used isolated compounds found within gelatin – glycine for example.

One study did find that gelatin “stimulates phagocytosis, the process by which a cell surrounds, engulfs, and eats microorganisms and cellular debris.” (page 96) However, that’s not the reason I included it here. Whether or not it benefits immune function directly, it’s a very soothing, easily digestible source of nourishment. If I didn’t have access to homemade bone broth, I’d dissolve this grass-fed gelatin in hot chamomile tea or this one in cold water.

#4 – Herbal Infusion

Certain herbs, such as elder flower and yarrow, are thought to benefit immune function. In this post Megan Visser, RN, show you how to make an herbal infusion that you can either drink or make into a smoothie pop. (The smoothie pop is #8 on this list.)

#5 – Apple Cider Vinegar

What happens if/when we feel it’s time to try to bring the fever down? Apple cider vinegar is an old remedy used by grandmothers and great-grandmothers that is thought to “draw out” the fever – people still swear by it! Soak a couple washcloths in diluted apple cider vinegar (1 part vinegar and 2 parts water), then place them on the forehead and tummy, or add a cup to a warm bath. Some people also soak a cloth in and wrap it around the soles of the patient’s feet.

#6 ~ Warm Bath

A cold bath can shock the body into trying to raise the internal thermostat even more, but a warm to extra warm bath (depending on comfort level) may be helpful, especially when a cup of apple cider vinegar is mixed in.

#7 ~ Herbal Freezer Pops

These herbal freezer pops support immune function and help keep a child hydrated during a fever. Get the recipe.

When kids get stomach bugs, preventing dehydration is priority #1 - Here's how to keep your kids hydrated and happier with freezer pops that are infused with herbs that help fight viruses.

TFN_tablet-300Want more info? Treating Fevers Naturally is a very guide written by Meagan Visser, an R.N. with a holistic perspective on fevers. It includes a lot of great info and recipes for keeping kids comfortable during a fever. 

So, There You Go!

I’m not against scales, statistics, thermometers and all those other things mama’s are supposed to be fond of. I totally use scales to make soap, statistics to analyze the likelihood that Daddypotamus will make up for the fact that he will be traveling on our anniversary (sources say YES!). And thermometers . . . oh how I love them to make marshmallows! And sometimes I use them on my kids, too. :)

If by chance that thermometer starts setting off alarm bells for me, you can bet my house will be stinking like a garlic omelette with vinegar on the side!

Have you ever used a natural remedy to reduce a fever? How did it work for you?

"There is no 'number' on a thermometer that requires a trip to the Emergency Department. Nope, not even 104F degrees. With very specific exceptions, kids do not have to maintain a ‘normal' temperature during times of illness." ~ Natasha Bergert, MD - This post talks about what to watch for instead of the numbers and how to bring a fever down naturally when needed.


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261 Responses to 7 Ways To Treat A Fever Naturally

  1. Mark Read via FB says:

    frying brain cells? never heard of such stupid stuff..

  2. 5 Ways To Treat A Fever Natura | Quotes ~ Word that Speaks says:

    […] Health Uncategorized […]

  3. Jackie Brown says:

    Raw Apple Cider Vinegar worked! For Christmas, my niece gave everyone a bad cold. Everyone else’s low grade fever went away after a couple days while my daughters (she’s 2.5 yrs old) was going in to day 4. She wasn’t having the vinegar on her forehead and tummy so I just rubbed a soaked cloth on there feet for about 20 minutes. It’s been 24 hours and no fever since. Amazing!

    Something else that has never failed us is this cough remedy. If you have a cough that is keeping you awake, rub Tea Tree Therapy Eucalyptus Chest Rub (or whatever chest rub brand you like) on your feet and put socks on. Within 20 to 30 minutes, you will be out and won’t cough all night. Seriously…has worked on my entire family every time.

  4. My Hippie Happy List - Small Bird Studios says:

    […] Treating a fever naturally I used the garlic foot paste and also the apple cider vinegar method on the littles in the past few weeks/ months and they each worked wonders. I wanted to jump up and down that I didn’t have to pull out any meds!! […]

  5. MomK says:

    So I found your artical and I am a believer in natural healing, but totally believe that meds have their place. I get so overwhelmed with info. There’s so much out there on natual healing, herbs, oil etc. what is a good beginner resource. Something to draw from when you have basic health wellness questions for a family. I went to my herb store and they recommended an encyclopedia!! I’m not trying to become a dr. But I would like to know the basic strengths of garlic and it’s uses or how peppermint oil can help reduce a fever. I don’t want a library— one good book???

    • Lainee says:

      Please look into any form of peppermint before using it for a small child, especially a baby. It causes seizures, brain damage, or worse.

  6. Pitocin Vs. Oxytocin: Critical Differences That Affect Labor | The Mommypotamus | says:

    […] benefits of a fever, and word is out that some sunscreens accelerate aging and cancer? (source 1, 2, […]

  7. FEVER | Pearltrees says:

    […] 5 Ways To Treat A Fever Naturally […]

  8. 150 Uses For Coconut Oil | Live Love Fruit says:

    […] 66. Fever […]

  9. Eve says:

    Terrific post! I will be trying a few of this tips on my sick toddler, I gotta say I was freaking out a bit because I dont want to take her to the hospital unless she has to go, dont wanna give her any unneded medicines either

  10. ao so mi nu 2013 dep says:

    This design is incredible! You most certainly know how to keep a reader amused.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!)
    Wonderful job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented
    it. Too cool!

  11. Amanda says:

    I know this is a “late” reply, but after our son had a temp of 105 tonight, DH got panicky and went out and bought Tylenol “just to have it on hand.” We aren’t going to wake him up just to give it to him, and now, after reading this, I really wish we didn’t spend the money. I usually listen to my “inner mommy” and I really wish that I had read this BEFORE going to the store! I think if he wakes up again, I’ll try the vinegar remedy first. Thank you for this post, as it soothed that voice inside my head that panicked.

  12. Thoughts on Health and Healthy Living | Words of a Wife says:

    […] We opt for essential oils and homeopathic remedies when we are sick and have learned that a 100 degree fever does not call for a dose of Tylenol or Ibuprofen, but that is another topic. […]

  13. Baby with 102 temperature! New parent syndrome… says:

    […] […]

  14. 5 Blog Posts That Helped Me Keep My Cool | Chamomile Creek says:

    […] This post written by Mommypotamus gives 5 natural remedies to treat a fever. I didn’t use any of these, but was considering using the egg white or garlic paste method if his fever didn’t drop by a certain time. Thankfully, his fever dropped a degree in an hour and I just let it run it’s course with the aid of essential oils. […]

  15. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this article.

    Do you know the dosage to use for calcium lactate for children? I cannot find any guidelines anywhere, even though it is recommended on many websites.

    Thank you,

  16. carolyn says:

    i am struggling with this as my son has had a fever for basically 3 days now…we are offically on the 3rd day. I have not been able to get off work yet so my MIL has been giving infant advil and/or tylenol and it is just killing me. it got up to 104+ yesterday and i mean once its that high, i don’t know what else to do besides go to the ER or load him up on the meds. we ended up calling a nurse line and they were more worried about his cough than the fevers any way and the nurse was saying the fever is his body’s way to fight off his virus (thank goodness she said that cause thats how i feel too!) but it just scares me so bad. I hate feeling him at night and him being super hot. i broke down and gave him another dose of the infant advil a few hours ago and his fever did go down. it was up in the 103’s when I did that. We have a dr appt tomorrow for his well baby but we might have to go in today since its been going on for a few days. i am just discouraged. i hate giving him all that medicine but since I am not there to take care of him all day I don’t know what else to do. I told her to just wait off on it if he is in a good mood and if its not too high, like around 102 or lower. it just keeps fluctuating so much. we have that stupid enterovirus 68 going around here :( i hope its not that. wish me luck!

  17. Liz says:

    My 11 mo daughter had a fever 101-102 with a runny nose for a few days. She was definately uncomfortable, I kept her hydrated with water, coconut water and gave her a dose of tylenol at night so she could get some rest. One morning she woke up with what looked to be a black eye, long story short she had a sinus infection. Not fun. The antibiotics worked immediately, with the black eye symptom going away in 24 hours. Her pediatrician recommends daily probiotics from age 2 months so she’s been on them for a while. She got diarrhea from the the antibiotics, which then caused a bad diaper rash. Diaper rash is still here a month later. Her per recommended the usual to start with–zinc and aquaphor, when this did not work she said to try lamisil this was to harsh and caused the top layer of her skin to peel of like a sunburn, so per said to try over the counter hydrocortisone for the itching, helped a bit but not enough. After this the ped said she exhausted her usual recs so to see a pediatric dermatologist. She put her on a stronger steroid cream, didn’t really work, called her back and she prescribed something similar to monist at–finally looks better! You never win, I wish I could always treat with natural stuff so these side effects did not come up.

    • Tiffany says:

      If you get a bad diaper rash again that you just cant kill, ask the doc to prescribe nyastatin (spelling?) I know another name for it is nystop. Its is a powder and worked wonders for us. My daughter got a bad one after antibiotics and I normally used desitin plus cornstarch on top and it always worked. Not this time. But after I used the nystop it was almost completely better the next morning!

  18. Sally says:

    Our pediatrician always tells us that if a child is going to seize with a fever they will seize whether it is 101 or 104. No magic number. We have always used Unda drops to make our kids more comfortable but never supress the fever.

  19. Arthana says:

    Definitely do not use garlic that way overnight. I knew an herbology student who tried it the way its written above (overnight and directly on the skin) and the garlic took so much skin off that the hospital had to treat it as an open burn.

    If you want to use garlic paste, apply a layer of thick oil (olive or coconut is fine) then a layer of gauze/cloth, then a layer of garlic paste and a final layer of gauze over that. And I would only leave it on for a couple hours even then.

  20. Debbie says:

    I have to disagree with you about febrile seizures. THEY ARE VERY DANGEROUS. My father had them. I had them when I was little on numerous occasions and all my children have had them. These were brought on by a high fever that came on all of a sudden. My middle daughter quit breathing several times before getting to the ER, while she was in the ER and on her way by ambulance to another hospital. We were told these were brought on my a low fever tolerance. Thankfully, we all outgrew them but we are very careful with any of our small children.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Debbie, as a point of clarification it is not me that said febrile seizures are not harmful, but the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Based on what I’ve read from other experts, it is my understanding that while febrile seizures are not harmful, the illness causing the fever can in some cases cause harm. If all works properly, our bodies fight off the illness. However, sometimes our bodies need help. When I asked my pediatrician if using a fever reducer would help my child fight and illness better, he said that it would not. He encouraged me to watch my child and to bring him in if he showed any of the signs mentioned by Dr. Chow-Johnson.

    • Margo says:

      At Debbie: we don’t have anyone in family with febrile seizures, but my dtr has them now when her fever either SUDDENLY goes high or low. Seizures are not dangerous, however, it does matter how long child is having a seizure. The less the better. When I looked at her while she was seizing, it does look as if she is breathing unevenly and maybe pauses her breathing, in any case, it is better to have a plan and be prepared. BTW, my dtr was having seizures about an hour after I gave her Tylenol… so those meds don’t really make any difference..

  21. Jen says:

    I hate coming in late to the conversation, but I really wanted to write this, just in case someone sees it, especially the author.

    Most of this article is fantastic, and needed to be said.

    However, you need to know that no one should supplement with calcium. No one. Not women over a certain age, not elderly people, and especially not children. Calcium is not well absorbed in supplement form, no matter what you add to it. It should only be received in food form – but not dairy or “calcium added” foods. Calcium supplementation is one of the biggest reasons for the large amount of health risks today. It does not factor in how our bodies work.

    Quality D3 and quality magnesium in the correct forms are much better suggestions. Always look into how the different forms work, and are absorbed, or not absorbed. D3 can only be absorbed sublingually, same as the B vitamins. Magnesium is best when chelated and in addition to an ionic magnesium. Look for these in baby/child formulas. My son has been taking Superior Source brand D3, Country Life chelated magnesium, and Vitacost brand Natural Tranquility ionic magnesium. He gets his calcium naturally from vegetables.

    Take good care.


    • Mariella Wynacht says:

      when talking about fever, can you please use the equivalent (38, 39, etc)
      some of us have that kind of thermometer.
      thank you

      • Sue says:

        My thermometer is set to F….be a big girl and use the converter on you cell or smartphone…I did it when living overseas all the time…

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