Fever Phobia: Should You Treat Fevers?

sick child with fever

Should You Treat Fevers?

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

As a parent, a fever seems to induce a certain amount of distress, so much so that our knee jerk reaction is to suppress the fever. This provides a sense that we are helping our child and making them better when in fact we might be making them worse. A fever can be a sign of a serious infection, and shouldn’t be ignored, but it can also be viewed as a positive sign that the immune system is strong and wise enough to launch a full scale attack against a foreign invader. Most bacteria and viruses prefer a temperature around 37 degrees Celsius, normal body temperature. By upping the body temperature by 1-2 degrees, the immune system not only cooks the virus/bacteria but also speeds up its production of white blood cells and antibodies.

Is a Fever Harmful to You or Your Child?

There is no risk of permanent harm from a fever unless the fever is above 42 degrees Celsius. Untreated fevers will rarely go over 40.6 degrees C as the brain’s thermostat won’t allow it.  Your body doesn’t want to cook your brain.

A fever does not necessarily need to be treated. If your child is comfortable, drinking plenty of fluids, and able to sleep, fever treatment is not likely to be helpful and may in fact be harmful since the fever is the immune system’s attempt to enhance virus killing: If you treat fevers you are helping the infectious organism (virus, bacteria).

When Should I See a Doctor about a Fever?

Fever is a signal that something is trying to infect your child. Usually this is a minor illness, but it can be a serious infection, such as meningitis. Any child less than 3 months old with a fever should be examined by a physician right away, to rule out a serious infection. Children of any age who have a fever of 40 degrees C or more should also be seen. Any child who has a fever and is very irritable, ill appearing, confused, has difficulty breathing, has a stiff neck, won’t move an arm or leg, or who has a seizure should also be seen right away.

Any child under 6 months of age with a fever should be examined by a physician within 24 hours. Older children with a fever who are acting well and have no other symptoms should be seen if the fever lasts >48 hours (or >72 hours if they do have minor cold or flu symptoms).

If at all possible to avoid suppressing a fever do so and see a physician within the above guidelines.

What about Pregnant Women and Fevers?

A fever greater than 39.4 can be a concern for pregnant women in their first trimester, if you do develop a fever, see your doctor.

How Can I Prevent My Child from Getting Sick?

If you or your child has a fever or get sick often, our naturopathic doctors can help boost your immune system, fight infections and make you more comfortable naturally.


American Academy of Pediatrics: Managing Fevers in Children

Janice E. Sullivan, Henry C. Farrar. Fever and Antipyretic Use in Children. Pediatrics
March 2011, VOLUME 127, ISSUE 3.