Family Fever Protocol for Kids

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Back when I worked after-hours phone triage as a Registered Nurse, I rarely had to page a doctor if fever was a child’s only symptom. That’s because I was usually able to give the Mama home care advice for how to handle it.

But…on the rare occasions that our formal medical protocols DID require me to page the doctor, I always braced myself for the phone call I knew was coming next:

“WHY did you page me for a fever? Don’t you know that a fever is just a number?”

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Well I knew that fever was just a number, and the doctor knew that fever was just a number…but most Mamas who called me were extremely concerned about exactly how high that number went.

In fact, while I was training for this phone triage position, H1N1 was the current scary thing (kind of like Ebola Virus and Corona Virus are now…)

#Perspective

In any case, one Mama called me in a panic because her child had a 102 degree fever, and she asked me “Could she have H1N1? Will she die?!?”

I asked how her little girl was acting and what other symptoms she had. The Mama went on to tell me that her daughter had just come inside from playing on a hot summer day, and was acting like her normal self. No other symptoms, except maybe a minor cough.

This little girl literally had nothing wrong with her except a fever, but her Mama was terrified that she was going to die from an illness that only 20-25% of people would get. And of those infected, less than 0.02% would die from it.

On this occasion, I was able to reassure a Mama without paging the doctor.

DISCLAIMER: I am a Registered Nurse, but I am not your Registered Nurse. The information in this article is basic info that applies to most situations where an otherwise healthy child (or adult) comes down with a relatively common, run-of-the-mill sort of illness. You should always follow your Mama instincts and seek additional help when you need it!

What to do when your child has a fever…and you’re worried

Since having kids, I’ve come to realize that even though I’m an RN, my Mama-brain can go completely haywire when my little ones are sick. And I promptly forget every piece of practical advice I ever learned in nursing school OR from my natural health research.

Which is why I always like to have a “Family Protocol” in place for illnesses that frequently occur in our household…(like GI Bugs, ewww).

That way I have a set of pre-written instructions that were created while my brain was functioning without fear (or feeling sick, because you know if the kids caught it, then I’ll be getting it next…). And I can confidently refer back to those instructions to make good, safe decisions for my family that line up with my views of natural health.

In addition, having a Family Fever Protocol reminds me what worked (and what didn’t) for the last bout of fevers. Since I’m always researching and learning new things, I’m able to improve and update my protocols as I learn and experiment (on my family…) and add new tools to my all-natural fever toolkit!

So once you’ve determined that your child has a fever, it’s time to pull out your Family Fever Protocol and handle it!

Family Fever Protocol

First off, remember that fever is good because an elevated body temperature makes your immune system more efficient. Viruses and bacteria, on the other hand, work less efficiently at those higher temperatures. So when you try to decrease your child’s fever, you’re actually suppressing their immune system!

Plus, once their fever is “artificially” reduced, your child starts to feel better and will want to be more active…rather than resting, which is what they’re body still needs to fully recover.

But that doesn’t mean that you should never try to reduce your child’s fever. When their fever is so high that they’re completely uncomfortable, then artificially reducing their fever can be totally reasonable.

(Just don’t expect that you’ll be able to bring their temperature completely down to normal…even if you use a “conventional” remedy like ibuprofen, you should only expect a 1-2 degree decrease in fever. But don’t worry, it can still make them feel better!)

That’s why when one of my kids has a fever, I am constantly assessing and trying to balance their comfort level with supporting their immune system. My goal is to let their body fight off infection as naturally as possible, while minimizing the “miserableness”.

Here’s my general protocol for how I decide what to do when my kids have a fever…

If their temperature is less than 102 degrees:

  • I watch their behavior closely. It’s normal and expected for them to have less energy and to lay around more than usual. But sometimes, they will still be fairly active and wanting to play as normal! As long as I haven’t given them any medications, I usually let how they feel be my guide to what activities I allow. But of course, I keep them at home so they don’t share their germs with friends.
  • I use whatever natural remedies I have handy to support their immune system. This can include Elderberry Gummies or other Elderberry products, Immune Supporting essential oil roller bottles (recipe coming soon!), and nutrient dense foods like Real Chicken Noodle Soup. I avoid added sugars…including sugary “electrolyte” drinks and sodas! Sugar can make their immune system work even harder. Also, I don’t make them eat if they’re not hungry, they’ll eat when they’re ready.
  • But mostly, I let the fever run it’s course. I encourage lots of rest, and even try to get my “non-nappers” to take a nap. We’ll often turn it into a movie-day, or I’ll give them extra cuddles while we read stories together.

If their temperature is above 102 degrees, but their activity level is still moderate:

  • I continue to watch their behavior. Remember, how your child behaves gives a clue to how they feel. And how they feel trumps the number on the thermometer every time.
  • I continue to use whatever natural remedies I have handy to support their immune system. This can include Elderberry Gummies or other Elderberry products, Immune Supporting essential oil roller bottles (recipe coming soon!), and nutrient dense foods like Real Chicken Noodle Soup. I avoid added sugars…including sugary “electrolyte” drinks and sodas! Sugar can make their immune system work even harder. Also, I don’t make them eat if they’re not hungry, they’ll eat when they’re ready.
  • I keep letting the fever run it’s course! Encourage lots of rest, and even try to get your “non-nappers” to take a nap. We’ll often turn it into a movie-day, or I’ll give them extra cuddles while we read stories together.

If their temperature is above 102 degrees, they are uncomfortable, and obviously not feeling well:

  • At this point, I will consider giving a dose of ibuprofen. Make sure that you calculate the appropriate dosage based on your child’s weight. Feel free to call your doctor’s office (or after hours hotline) to get help calculating it. Medications like this will only reduce a fever by 1-2 degrees, so don’t be worried if their temperature doesn’t go down to “normal”…it will still help them to feel more comfortable.
  • I continue to encourage my kids to rest. If you decide to give a dose of ibuprofen, they will probably recover some energy and want to be more active. Try to encourage them not to play too hard…they are still sick and still need rest to to help their immune system work.
  • I continue using whatever natural remedies I have handy to support their immune system. This can include Elderberry Gummies or other Elderberry products, Immune Supporting essential oil roller bottles (recipe coming soon!), and nutrient dense foods like Real Chicken Noodle Soup. I avoid added sugars…including sugary “electrolyte” drinks and sodas! Sugar can make their immune system work even harder. Also, I don’t make them eat if they’re not hungry, they’ll eat when they’re ready.

If their temperature reaches 104-105 degrees:

  • I almost always give a dose of ibuprofen. When the body temperature reaches this high, your child is going to feel rotten and uncomfortable. Just make sure that you calculate the appropriate dosage based on their weight. Feel free to call your doctor’s office (or after hours hotline) to get help calculating it. Medications like this will only reduce a fever by 1-2 degrees, so don’t be worried if their temperature doesn’t go down to “normal”…it will still help them to feel more comfortable.
  • I continue to encourage my kids to rest. If you decide to give a dose of ibuprofen, they will probably recover some energy and want to be more active. Try to encourage them not to play too hard…they are still sick and still need rest to to help their immune system work.
  • I continue using whatever natural remedies I have handy to support their immune system. This can include Elderberry Gummies or other Elderberry products, Immune Supporting essential oil roller bottles (recipe coming soon!), and nutrient dense foods like Real Chicken Noodle Soup. I avoid added sugars…including sugary “electrolyte” drinks and sodas! Sugar can make their immune system work even harder. Also, I don’t make them eat if they’re not hungry, they’ll eat when they’re ready.
  • FYI: When I did pediatric phone triage, the recommendation we always gave was that if the child’s fever reached 105 (rectally) or 104 (orally), and did not reduce by at least 1-2 degrees after a dose of ibuprofen, then you should consider taking your child in to be seen by their doctor. Always use your best judgement, and go with your Mama instinct!

Can a high fever cause brain damage?

The short answer is no…the typical, “high” fever that your kids get will definitely not cause brain damage.

In order for brain damage to occur, the body temperature would have to get as high as 108 degrees or more. This never happens in normal situations because God designed your body to increase temperature to a certain point to help battle infection…and then stop.

But in certain situations where there is already brain damage…like after a serious head injury…then your brain may not be working properly enough to notice when the body temperature has gotten too high and needs to stop increasing.

(SIDE NOTE:
I’m talking about a “seriously, there’s no way you’re going to accidentally not notice it” type of head injury…so don’t start thinking that your kid might have gotten a head injury that you didn’t notice. Because then you’ll start worrying for no reason when the fever starts creeping up, when there’s really no need to worry about it. YOU know who I’m talking to…because you totally do this all the time!!! You know you do…so don’t.
END SIDE NOTE)

Another reason that body temperature can get into the dangerous 108 degrees range is due to external factors. That’s why being locked in a car with no AC during the summertime is such a dangerous thing for kids (or…anyone, for that matter). The increasing heat of the car will increase your body temperature to 108 degrees or higher. And that WILL cause brain damage.

But a normal, regular, everyday fever caused by a virus or bacteria? Nope, not gonna cause brain damage.

Can a fever cause Seizures?

A febrile seizure happens when your child develops a fever, and then at some point (usually within the first 24-hours) loses consciousness while their arms and/or legs jerk uncontrollably.

Luckily, febrile seizures look scarier than they actually are. Here’s what you need to know:

  • They will not cause brain damage, and
  • It does not mean that they have epilepsy.

In fact, as long as the seizure lasts less than five minutes, it’s usually not even an emergency worth calling 911. But if it happens to be their first febrile seizure, then it’s definitely urgent enough that you want to have them seen by a doctor as soon as possible to verify that it really was a febrile seizure.

Febrile seizures can be triggered by any level of fever, high or low. And suppressing a fever by always using conventional medications like ibuprofen is not an effective way to prevent febrile seizures.

Febrile seizures tend to run in families. That means if your child is prone to getting them, then there’s not much you can do about it for now.

But the good news?

The vast majority of kids outgrow them by around 5 years of age.

The Benefits of Using a “Family Fever Protocol

Although it’s been many years and (6 kids) since I’ve worked phone triage as a nurse, I still remember many of the lessons that I learned back then.

At least, I remember those lessons when my rational brain is in full operation…

So it should be no surprise that when one of my kids gets a fever, I appreciate the confidence that having a pre-written “Family Fever Protocol” that combines home remedies and conventional medicine to keep my kids comfortable and safe, while still allowing their immune system the freedom to do what it was designed to do.

The biggest challenge, I think, is that treating fevers at home often requires a “wait and watch” approach rather than actually doing anything…and that requires us Mamas to slow down, turn off our worrying brain (impossible?), and mostly let our kids’ fight this internal battle themselves.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What are your “go to” strategies for when your child has a fever?

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