Conventional medical wisdom over the years taught us that there is no downside to administering Tylenol or Advil as soon as the thermometer’s reading goes about 98.6 degrees. But nowadays it is well known that you shouldn’t lower fever because it serves an important function in the body’s immune response.
4 Reasons Not To Lower Fever
Janice Sullivan, a professor of pediatric clinical care and clinical pharmacology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine says “Fever is the body’s normal response to infection — it’s a natural defense mechanism”. She also says “If you lower the fever, you may be affecting the body’s ability to respond to that infection.” (1)
1. No medication is without side effects.
Frequent doses of children’s fever and pain medication have long-term consequences and that is something that everyone should be worried about. Studies suggest a possible link between acetaminophen and asthma, autism, and ADHD. Furthermore, these medications are full of sweeteners, artificial colors, preservatives, flavors – ingredients that we should generally try to avoid.
2. Medicine masks symptoms.
When kids have a fever they usually take frequent naps, eat very little, and lie still. That is what our bodies tell us while we are fighting a virus – by suppressing our appetite in an effort to conserve resources because digestion requires lots of energy.
The child feels better when we treat a fever, and will often eat, run around, and play. While of course it always heartens us to see our kids feeling better, if we artificially lower fever how can we know when a child is ready to go at the playground or return to school?
3. Fever reducers contribute to the spread of flu.
Many parents lower fever with medications and then take their less symptomatic, but still highly contagious, kids out to public places, where they can infect others. In addition, recent studies suggest that lowering a fever with medications in flu patients increases viral shedding. Researchers posit that fever-reducing medications, in an average flu season, could lead to tens of thousands of extra flu cases.
4. The fever helps the body heal.
As we’ve already said, fevers force otherwise active kids to rest when they need it most. Actually, fever plays a vital role in fighting illness. It is beneficial to the healing process, triggers the immune response and prevents bacteria and viruses from replicating. (2)
One study even showed that people who suffer from flu and who suppressed their fevers with medications were sick for more than three days longer compared to those who took no medication. (3)
How to know whether to treat or not to treat?
It’s more about the activity level and appearance of the patient and less about the number on the thermometer. A child can have no fever at all or low-grade fever and look very ill, or be really sick, have high a fever, and still look pretty good.
Tylenol seems so harmless but giving a child too much of it can lead to liver damage. (4)
On the other hand, fever, no matter your age, can be therapeutic. And the biggest source of concern with a constant fever should be staying well hydrated.
When should you start to be really alarmed about a child’s fever?
A bacterial infection is a serious pediatric problem and its signs include a headache with neck pain, difficulty breathing, acute dehydration, pain with urination, lack of responsiveness or decreased activity, and a fever with abdominal pain.
Follow up with a health provider if there’s ever any doubt or question.