Fighting Fevers

It’s tricky to know what to do when our little ones get fevers. If you’re not fond of Tylenol, try these homeopathic remedies (and share your own!)



Last weekend was a rough one: Both Coraline and I were sick with fever. And while I was back on my feet by Monday, Coraline’s fever persisted well into the week. Thankfully she didn’t have any other symptoms — but her unrelenting high temperatures left her restless, clingy, and without appetite. Worse yet, the doctor couldn’t offer any explanation as to why she was sick.

We returned home with amoxicillin for the hidden infection, and pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy, for her panicky clinginess. But 24 hours later, Coraline's temperatures were still sky-high. The doctor next recommended piggy-backing Motrin and Tylenol to keep her temperatures down. My first instinct was, “Okay, let’s do it, whatever it takes.” But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt: That’s a lot for a tiny liver! Luckily, Coraline’s fevers went away on their own... but the whole experience brought up some really interesting issues.

It’s tricky to know what to do when our little ones get fevers — they’re scary, and seeing your child totally wilted is downright intolerable. Most parents’ first instinct is to use a fever reducer, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen), which is considered to be a safe and effective way to treat a fever. But many doctors and alternative health care practitioners would argue that fevers shouldn’t be treated at all, but the infection or illness that causes them. Since fevers are simply the body’s natural immunological response to fighting infection (bacterial or viral), they should be left to run their course; by using acetaminophen or ibuprofen, we risk prolonging the illness by interrupting the body’s natural healing process.

A recent Wall Street Journal article addresses what many doctors call “fever phobia,” stating that “there is no evidence that lowering a fever will help a child get well faster, or that leaving a fever untreated could cause seizures, brain damage or death, as some caregivers fear.” In light of the 2010 recalls of many liquid medications — and evidence that suggests even appropriate doses of pain relievers can tax small livers — that little bottle of Tylenol begins to look like the threat instead of the fever.

So what can you do if you’re not comfortable using Tylenol — but you can’t bear to see your baby miserable? I came across a few noteworthy methods for making your little one more comfortable, without the use of over-the-counter medications:

  • My mom used to put us in a tepid bath when we were feverish as kids. And Coraline’s other grandma recommended a good ol’ fashioned cool, wet washcloth to the forehead.
  • Belladonna is a homeopathic remedy that calms fever, and can be taken orally, like Hyland’s teething tablets.
  • Dr. Philip Incao — a homeopath from Colorado whose “home remedy kit” is sworn to be a lifesaver by many of my mother’s generation — recommends lemon calf compresses, a take on a Rudolph Steiner remedy. (Feet must be warm to do this. If they are cool, rub them first or use covered hot water bottle to warm them.)
  1. Cut ½ lemon in bowl of lukewarm water, scoring the skin to release etheric oils into the water and squeezing out the juice.
  2. Soak two washcloths in the lemon water, wring them out well, and wrap one around each calf.
  3. Cover with wool muffler or other wool, and then put pajama bottoms on over that. Cover patient warmly.
  4. May repeat every four hours if fever and irritability persist.

This treatment does not cause a large drop in temperature, but rather pulls the inflammation down away from the head, and makes the patient more comfortable.

  1. Place ½-inch slices of cold tofu on the forehead, nape of neck, and bottom of both feet. Have another set of four slices on stand-by; when warm, switch out for cold set and re-chill. Do four rounds (use both sets twice).
  2. And to prevent fever: At bedtime, warm two collard leaves (by placing a warm kettle on top) and gently smash the stems. Place the leaves on the child’s bare tummy, underneath their pajamas (tuck the ends into their diaper, if they still wear one). Cover them with lots of blankets, so that they will sweat during the night and detox.

What are some of your remedies for halting fevers? Share them in the comments box below.

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About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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