A fever is when one’s body temperature is at 37.5°C and above, and can be caused by viral or bacterial infection, overexertio, dehydration, mosquito bites or bee stings, or allergic or toxic reactions. It is always a cause for concern when one’s child has a fever and while the urge to medicate your child to get that temperature down may be tempting, it is also worth noting that a fever does not necessarily mean a serious illness.
A child with a fever but is otherwise behaving as normal ie good appetite, alert, active, happy, smiling and having normal skin colour (not flushed), usually indicates that the illness is not serious. However, infants 3 months and younger should be taken for medical attention immediately if their rectal temperature reaches 38°C.
If your child has a fever, there are several ways you can control the fever and bring the body temperature down without resorting to medication. These methods are easy to apply and use only natural substances.
1. Keep your child well hydrated. Fever causes an increase in the metabolic rate which causes the body to lose fluids fast. Offer plenty of fluids in the form of water, herbal teas, soups, broths, ice blocks, even diluted fruit juices to avoid dehydration. Avoid caffeinated drinks and soft drinks as these are dehydrating.
2. Make sure your child is not wearing clothes that are keeping him too warm. Reduce clothing and wear cool clothing to allow heat to escape from the body.
3. Sponge your child with lukewarm water or soak him in a tepid bath to bring down the fever. Do not sponge with cold water or give him a cold bath as this will cause the blood vessels in the skin to constrict and make it more difficult for heat to escape from the body.
4. Encourage rest and sleep. When the child is active, his body generates more heat making it difficult to reduce the fever. Rest also enables the body to fight the infection.
5. Give your child fever-reducing tea such as a combination of the herbs yarrow, elderflower and peppermint. Elderflower promotes sweating, peppermint cools a fever and yarrow does both. Children over 2.5 years old can be given ½ cup four times a day. Breastfeeding mothers can drink the tea themselves as the healing properties of the tea will be passed to the baby through breastmilk.
6. Tamarind (asam jawa) is cooling and antipyretic (it reduces or prevents fever) so it is great for treating fevers. Give your child a drink of tamarind pulp diluted in water to help bring down the fever. You can also make a tea with tamarind leaves and use it in your child’s bath. Soaking him in this tamarind bath will help to reduce the fever.
7. Give your child ginger tea. This tea is especially helpful if your child feels chilly and has cold hands and feet. Ginger promotes sweating during a fever which is why it is helpful in controlling a fever.
8. Give vitamin C to your child as it is anti-inflammatory and can help resolve a fever from minor infections.
9. Feed your child raw garlic or, if he finds this difficult to eat, you can give him garlic capsules dissolved in hot water or soup. Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties and can help resolve an infection which is causing the fever.
10. Give your child echinacea and goldenseal to fight the infection as these herbs have immune-boosting properties.
Note: If you have cause for concern, do seek professional help immediately.