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When kids fall sick, parents will often rely on medication for fever relief. It’s easy for us to access them, and we believe we’re doing the right thing for our kids because they feel better afterwards.
However, medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen don’t need to be our first port of call. In many cases, they may be doing more harm than good for your kids.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn why you want to think twice before using medication for fever in your kids.
Why you want to think twice before using medication for fever
We don’t need to feel guilty about using paracetamol or ibuprofen from time to time. But it’s not the first thing that we want to reach for.
The marketing for these products is designed to make us believe it is the safest option. The beautiful ads portray caring mums that do the best for their little ones. They make us feel that we will be that nurturing parent that relieves discomfort for our kids.
There are some times that using medicine for fever is helpful. It will help our child to feel more comfortable and get a better night of sleep. But using fever-reducing medicines when kids are sick is not always a good idea.
Fever is a natural response to a challenge the immune system faces. It is a healthy way for the body to support immune function and fight off bugs. But when we give our kids medication, we artificially drop that fever.
Why a fever is healthy
There are a few reasons why allowing a fever to run is a good thing for our kids.
- It stimulates immune function – when the body temperature rises, it makes the immune system more efficient. If we bring it down too soon, we are actually suppressing this natural response and reducing the immune response.
- It helps to slow down the infectious microbes – Germs grow and spread quickly. But a fever can help to slow down this growth, which gives the immune system a chance to get on top of the spread.
- It helps to slow down our kids – when your child’s body is fighting an infection, they need plenty of rest so that their resources are funnelled into that fight. But when we give them medicine to relieve fever, they perk back up. In no time, they are running around, using up crucial energy and nutrients. This affects how well their system is able to fight off the germs.
So whenever possible, we don’t want to suppress a fever. In many cases, allowing the fever to do its job is the best way to get our kids feeling happy and healthy again.
But what about febrile convulsions?
The reason why parents have a fear of fever is the looming threat of febrile seizures and convulsions. There are some cases where we want to bring the temperature down if they are at a higher risk. But there are also ways that we can reduce the risk of seizures and spot the warning signs before they occur.
Febrile convulsions are a particular risk for young kids. But the number on the thermometer is not the best way to figure out if they are heading towards the danger zone. One child with a temperature of 39 might be running around and functioning normally But another might be unresponsive and hard to wake.
A better indicator to look at is how quickly the fever increases. The quicker the temperature spikes up, the more likely it will end in a convulsion or seizure.
You can also look at how they are responding. If they are tired but responsive, it’s a sign that you can let the fever go for the time being. But if they are listless, unresponsive, difficult to wake, confused or disorientated, you may want to take steps to bring the fever down a bit.
One risk factor to look out for is dehydration. We want to make sure our kids are well-hydrated whenever they have a fever. As soon as they start to run a temperature, give them regular drinks of water or let them suck on ice blocks. A good way to ensure they aren’t dangerously dehydrated is to ensure they are urinating at least every 6-8 hours.
The potential risks of using medication for fever
All medications have side effects. Compared to other medications, fever-reducing agents such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are relatively safe. But unfortunately, some of their side effects can be worse than the fever they are treating.
There are a few concerns with using paracetamol to treat fevers.
Paracetamol depletes glutathione.
Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. It helps our immune system to function, and plays an important role in our detox pathways. Paracetamol reduces the level of glutathione in the body, which lowers our capacity to fight off infection.
Paracetamol use is linked to asthma and allergic conditions.
Using paracetamol in the early years could lead to the development of asthma and atopic conditions. One study looked at over 200,000 children across the globe and how much paracetamol they were given in the first year of life.
Paracetamol can reduce the effectiveness of immunisations.
Many parents give their kids paracetamol before immunisations. But the goal of immunisations is to stimulate an immune response. So if we suppress this beforehand, it can interfere with how effective the immunisation is.
Studies have found that using paracetamol can reduce the production of antibodies in response to immunisations. For most kids, it might be a small reduction, but that can add up in the future when they come across a nasty disease!
A good rule of thumb is to not use it beforehand. If they get a fever and feel uncomfortable after the injection, use it then.
There are several well-known links between ibuprofen and gut issues. Ibuprofen use can lead to digestive upsets, bleeding in the digestive tract and stomach ulcers. This is why it’s important to only give ibuprofen after food, not on an empty stomach.
However, ibuprofen has other side effects in children. Using ibuprofen has been linked to kidney damage, particularly when a child is dehydrated. If your child is severely dehydrated due to something like a gastro infection, it’s best to leave ibuprofen until you can get some fluids into your child.
There are also studies that have found that ibuprofen increases the risk of complications in respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
Reducing a fever naturally without medications
Even if you want to drop their temperature a bit, there are some ways you can reduce it before reaching for the medicines. If your child has a fever, you can:
- Cool them down using a tepid or lukewarm bath
- Wipe them down with a cold wet flannel or towel
- Let them rest as much as possible so that their immune system can do what it needs to
- Keep them hydrated using water or ice blocks
Find yourself always needing to dose your kids with medication for fever and illness?
The best long-term approach is to support their immune system, so they can fight off germs quickly and effectively.
Make sure you download our FREE Foods To Boost Immunity Cheat Sheet here.