Fevers play a very useful role in helping your body to naturally fight infections. Although many people get concerned when they or their children have a fever, it is good to remember that fevers generally work for us, not against us, so not all cases require breaking a fever. So if you are interested in how to break a fever you must also realize that it’s not always the best thing to do.
In this article I will look at the role of fever in our body, natural ways to break a fever, as well as when to seek a medical advice.
What Temperature Is a Fever?
Your body temperature can be measured in many locations on your body. The most commonly used places are the mouth, ear, armpit, and rectum. Temperature can also be measured on your forehead.
A rectal or ear temperature reading is slightly higher than an oral temperature reading.
According to Dr. Susan C. Kim from WebMD, in most adults, an oral temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) or a rectal or ear temperature above 101°F (38.3°C) is considered a fever. A child has a fever when his or her rectal temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.1
According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis, fever values may vary somewhat according to the condition and age of the patient, but they can be divided into three groups: “low,” “high,” and “dangerous” fever.
Low-grade fevers range from about 100°F-101°F.
102°F is intermediate grade for adults but a temperature at which adults should seek medical care for an infant (0-6 months).
High-grade fevers range from about 103°F-104°F.
Dangerous temperatures are high-grade fevers that range from over 104°F-107°F or higher (extremely high fevers are also termed hyperpyrexia).
The body’s normal temperature is actually the perfect temperature for most viruses and bacteria to flourish. So when you have an infection, your body temperature rises to try and kill off the infection and when the infection has gone, the temperature should resort to normal.
Although we tend to think that we always need to break a fever, there are circumstances when you don’t need to reduce a fever.
When You Don’t Need to Break a Fever
Doctors and scientists now realize that fever is the immune system’s natural response to infections and that most low grade fevers aren’t something to worry about.
Professor John Wherry, Ph.D., published his findings in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology into the connection of fever and the immune system. He said that the immune system is actually boosted when our body temperature rises. He added that it is, of course, very important to manage very high body temperatures because they can be dangerous. However, he encouraged people to rethink how they manage most mild fevers.2
Actually, taking medications to reduce mild fevers can actually make you ill longer. The University of Maryland carried out research on patients who had the flu and took anti-fever medications. They discovered that although the anti-fever drugs helped a person feel better quicker, the patients were ill longer.3 Other studies have calculated that fever suppression actually increases the annual cases of flu by about 5%.4
That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that when trying to break a fever you should focus on improving the child’s overall comfort rather than normalizing the body temperature.5
So, if you or your child has a mild fever, it is a good idea to listen to what the body is saying. Fever forces you to take it easy, to rest and allow the body the time to recuperate. You should also drink plenty of fluids. The mild fever will help to kill off the viruses and bacteria that are making you sick.
How to Break a Fever Naturally
Here are a number of ways that can help you to reduce a fever:
It’s important to rest properly if you or your child has a fever. During this time, you should monitor the body temperature every 2 hours to make sure that the temperature doesn’t get dangerously high. Make sure to keep yourself well hydrated as you will lose fluids through sweating.
While resting, a cool damp facecloth can be put on your or your child’s forehead to reduce the fever.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Neil K. Kaneshiro recommends removing excess clothing and blankets and keeping the room at a reasonable temperature. If the weather is hot and stuffy, then a fan can help to cool the air down.6
Take a Bath or a Shower
Taking a bath is an excellent way to break a fever. Fill a bath with lukewarm water and soak in it. The lukewarm water will help you relax and as the water cools, so will your body temperature.
Having a cold bath or shower can have the opposite effect of breaking a fever because it can make you shiver, which will raise the body temperature, so don’t use cold baths, ice, or alcohol rubs.
For children, pediatrician, Dr. Jennifer Shu recommends giving your child a lukewarm bath or a sponge bath in lukewarm water. This will help to bring the body’s temperature down and reduce a fever when the water evaporates off the skin.7
This method is a traditional naturopathic approach for reducing a fever and it involves sleeping in a pair of wet socks. For this, you will need a pair of cotton socks that will cover your ankles.
First of all, soak the socks in cold water and then wring out the excess. Put the socks on your feet and then put a pair of wool socks over them for insulation. Dr. James Wallace, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, says that the body reacts to the cold socks by increasing blood circulation, which also stimulates the immune system.8
While this method will not help you to reduce the fever directly, it helps to treat inflammation, infection, soreness of the throat, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, coughs, bronchitis and sinus infections.
Eat the Right Type of Food
It’s a well-known fact that certain foods can have an impact on the body’s immune system. In fact, scientific studies seem to support the old advice to “feed a cold and starve a fever.”
When the body is hungry it releases more cells which help boost the immune system.9 Also when your body digests food, it wastes energy in the digestion process whereas you want your energy to be used to control the infection that is causing the fever.
Of course, to keep your immune system healthy you should continue to eat small amounts of nutritious food. So, eat fruits that are rich in vitamin C, which is one of the natural substances to boost your immune system, and will help to keep you hydrated and help you to break a fever.
Foods rich in vitamin C are citrus fruits, broccoli, guava, kiwi fruit, strawberries, peppers, papaya and berries (which are especially high in vitamin C).
Another great all-around remedy if you are suffering from an infection is to eat chicken soup.
In the medical journal Chest, Dr. Stephen Rennard published his findings on the effect chicken soup has on flu symptoms. He noted that it could be a combination of the vegetables and chicken that help boost the body’s immune response. Also, commercial chicken soup seemed to have the same effect.10 Another reason for taking soup when you have a fever is that the liquid in soup helps to keep you hydrated.
When it comes to eating, it is important to listen to your body and not eat too much, which will put a strain on your immune system.
Drink Herbal Teas to Reduce a Fever
Herbal teas will keep you hydrated and can help lower fever by promoting sweating, which will help to cool off the body and keep the fever from getting too high. Some of the best herbal teas to break a fever are:
You can also try my ginger lemon tea and also this healing spicy tea that is also great for cleansing the body.
Fever – When to See a Doctor
It is important to remember that while a mild fever will usually go away on its own and help the body get rid of the infection, a very high temperature can cause serious complications. Therefore, it is always important to monitor the body’s temperature.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you call a doctor immediately if your child
-Is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
-Fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age
You should also see your doctor if your child is drowsy, has a headache, has unexplained rash, vomiting or has diarrhea. Also, seek advice if the fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years, or when the fever persists for more than 3 days in a child 2 years of age or older. 11
You should also be prepared to tell the doctor the exact temperature and where you took the temperature, i.e. the mouth, rectum, armpit, forehead etc.
For adults, if you have a fever over 103°F (39.4 C) and it keeps rising, then you should call a doctor, or if the fever lasts more than seven days or the fever symptoms get worse. 12
Also if you have any doubt, it’s best to contact your doctor.