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Fevers are common among children. And so is the dilemma that parents face when a child has fever—to rush to the doctor or treat the child at home.
To take an informed decision, it’s important to understand why children have a fever. Fever is a self-defence mechanism used by the human body to fight infections. At high temperatures, the body produces white blood cells which provide defence against an infection and restrain the growth of virus or bacteria. Interestingly, lowering the fever may actually hamper the body’s natural mechanism to fight the infection.
Facts About Fever in Children
Most parents worry about a fever and do everything to bring it down. However, the measure of temperature is not the best indicator of whether or not a fever is cause for concern. As a parent, you need to observe how comfortable your child is. If your child has a low fever and is active, you may not need to intervene at all! However, it is important to monitor food and fluid intake, and the pattern of urination of a child with a fever. If these are normal, there is no need to panic or rush to a paediatrician. Simply observe the child for signs of improvement or change. However, if your child is uncomfortable, and the fever crosses 104 degrees or persists for two consecutive days, it is time to see a doctor.
While taking that syrup might be easy, it is not necessarily the best option. Opting for natural remedies for fever at home helps your child build immunity by boosting the body’s ability to fight an infection. Medicines are foreign substances which need to be metabolised. Moreover, medicines like Tylenol, Ibuprofen and Advil that are usually administered to reduce fever can cause liver failure and other harmful side effects like asthma or gastrointestinal bleeding if consumed regularly. It is best to administer such medicines only if natural ways to reduce fever fail, or in the following cases when you must contact your paediatrician immediately:
- If the child is an infant with a fever of 100.4 degrees or more
- If the child has a weak immune system because of another issue such as chemotherapy
- If the child’s fever lasts for two to three consecutive days without accompanying cough, cold or pain
- If the child experiences breathing trouble along with fever
14 Home Remedies to Treat Fever in Children
If you wake up at night and find out that your child’s forehead feels warm, do not panic. Take a deep breath and analyse the following:
- If your baby is suffering from cold, then he/she is likely to get a fever
- Your child can have a fever post vaccination
- Many babies have a fever during teething
Here are some effective remedies for fever in children, borrowed straight from a mother’s book! These are remedies that our mothers and grandmothers swear by and are very potent in providing relief from fever:
1. Rubbing an Onion
If you are an Indian, you must have heard your mother and grandmother preach about the medicinal benefits of onion. Onion not only helps in reduction of body temperature but also relieves the body of pains during fever. Simply cut one whole onion into thin slices and rub 2 to 3 pieces on your child’s feet for a few minutes. This process may be repeated twice a day to reduce fever.
2. Ginger Bath
Ginger is capable of killing bacteria which are responsible for fever in children. It helps in sweating which, in turn, helps remove body heat and toxins. Add about 2 tablespoons of ginger powder to a bathtub filled with warm water. The powder needs to be stirred well. You can give your ailing child a warm ginger bath. Sweating post bath will reduce his body heat and flush out the toxins. Ginger can be an effective home treatment for fever in children. When giving a bath, avoid contact with your toddler’s eyes.
3. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile Tea is a good remedy for fever. Boil water and soak chamomile tea leaves for a minute. Add honey to it and give your child as many drops as he/she can take about two times a day. Some children do not enjoy the change of taste, so keep your fingers crossed.
4. Lemon Juice Added to Honey
Vitamin C in lemon strengthens our body’s immunity. Honey provides our body with nourishment. A combination of the two is effective in reducing fever. You can add 1 tablespoon of honey to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix it well and feed your toddler. His fever is sure to reduce.
5. Massage your Baby with Mustard Oil and Garlic
You must have heard that mustard oil and garlic effectively reduce fever. This is indeed true. In addition, it releases body pain and helps in sweating to remove body toxins. Just heat 2 tablespoons of mustard oil and add 1 tablespoon of garlic paste to it. Leave the mixture undisturbed for 2 minutes. Apply the mixture on your child’s chest, feet, palms, back and neck prior to bedtime.
6. Egg White Soak
Take 3 tablespoons of egg white and beat it in a small bowl. Dip a clean piece of cloth in it. Leave the cloth to soak for a minute and then cover the feet of your child with the cloth. Leave it on your child’s feet for an hour. It will lower your baby’s body temperature. You can repeat the process to reduce his/her fever effectively.
Owing to the presence of antioxidant and antibacterial properties, raisins effectively reduce fever by fighting infections. You can soak around 25 raisins in ½ a cup of water for 1 hour. When the raisins become soft, crush them and strain the liquid. Juice from half a lime may be added to this liquid. Feed your child with this liquid twice daily and watch the fever go down.
Home Remedies for Viral Fever
Viral fevers are seasonal infections and can be taken care of at home. There are quite a few viral fever home remedies for toddlers:
1. Coriander Seeds
Phytonutrients and vitamins present in coriander (dhaniya) seeds help in building the body’s immunity. This can effectively protect your child against viral fever. Add coriander seeds to boiling water. When the solution cools down, strain it, and add milk and sugar. Serve the soothing drink to your child to reduce the fever.
2. Dill Seeds
Dill seeds contain monoterpenes and flavonoids which act as an antimicrobial agent to fight against viral fever by effectively reducing body temperature. You may prepare a decoction and feed this to your child to reduce his fever.
3. Basil Leaves
Basil or Tulsi leaves have antibiotic, germicidal properties. They are additionally anti-bacterial and fungicidal in nature. Tulsi has been used for fighting viral fever since long. You need to boil 20 tulsi leaves in a litre of water and add half spoon of powdered clove to it. Boil the solution till it reduces to half and feed it to your child every two hours. It can reduce fever.
4. Rice Starch
Rice starch acts as a diuretic agent. It helps in strengthening the body’s immune system. It promotes urination which helps in flushing out body toxins. You can use rice starch as a home remedy for effectively reducing viral fever.
5. Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek (methi) seeds contain alkaloids, saponins and diosgenin which bear immense medicinal values. They can effectively reduce viral infections. You need to soak fenugreek seeds in water over the night. Make your child sip the strained water throughout the day. It can effectively reduce fever.
6. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil also has antibacterial and antiviral properties. You can make your child consume it in small quantities by mixing it with his food.
7. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil consumption is in general effective in boosting the body’s immune system. Give it to your child regularly to ward off seasonal infections.
Tips to Reduce Fever Naturally
Also keep these natural remedies in mind to soothe your child without medical intervention.
1. A Sponge Bath or Warm Bath
For infants, a warm sponge bath and for bigger children, a warm bath in a tub can be really soothing during fever. A warm bath helps regulate temperature. The body temperature comes down as the water evaporates from the body. A cold water bath should be avoided during fever. Cold water can trigger shivering and may raise the body temperature further.
Note: In the olden days, massaging with a specific rubbing alcohol to treat fever was common practice. However, research indicates that alcohol can spike temperature and even lead to alcohol poisoning. This remedy is best avoided
2. Use the Fan Judiciously
You might want to revisit the old notions such as switching off the fan if your child has a fever. Make sure that your child must be placed in a room, which is well-ventilated and airy. You can always keep the fan on to facilitate air circulation around the child. Just lower the speed of the fan to make sure that the temperature of the room is normal so that the child does not shiver
3. Feed your Child at Regular Intervals
During fever, the body needs more of Vitamin A, B, C, Calcium, Sodium and Iron. The diet recommended is a high-calorie, high-protein, low-fat and high-fluid diet. Bone broth or chicken soup with vegetables can be fed to the child. Bone broth has a high content of cartilage which helps in the generation of white blood cells that defend the body against infections.
Make sure your child consumes food that is easily digestible. Feed the child every two hours initially and when the child is better, you may reduce the frequency to once in four hours. Do not force your child to eat. Spicy, fatty and high fibrous foods need to be avoided as they are difficult to digest. Custard, light dal, eggs, baked fish, cereals, boiled vegetables and dry fruits are good meal choices. If you have an infant, strained bananas and mashed potatoes are perfect. Khichdi made of rice and lentils is another good option
4. Keep your Child Hydrated
Apart from soups and solid food, fluid intake in the form of water and juices is essential. Fruit juices, glucose water, milk, barley water, coconut water and buttermilk boost the body’s energy level and give it the strength it needs to recover. Newborn babies, who are being breastfed, should be fed every 10 minutes. If the baby is bottle-fed, make sure you increase the number of feedings to compensate for fluid loss from the body. A newborn needs to receive about 30ml extra with each feed. A one-year-old may need up to 90ml extra at each feeding. When in doubt, discuss this with your doctor as the amount of extra feed needed will vary based on the baby’s age and weight. ORS (oral rehydration solution) also helps compensate for inadequate fluid intake which is an important part of fever treatment at home
5. Choose Light Clothing
During fever, children should be dressed in light clothes to ease the loss of body heat. Layers of clothing aggravate fever by trapping body heat. Use a blanket if the child is shivering
6. Stay Indoors
Do not expose your child to direct sunlight during fever. Keep the child in a cool and shaded place, preferably indoors. It is better to avoid excessive exposure to public places as a weak body is vulnerable to infections
7. Rest and Sleep are Healers
Adequate rest and sleep can refresh the child. During rest, the body can dedicate energy to healing rather than distributing it to deal with other activities. If the child is reluctant to sleep, pick activities which can restrict movement like colouring, solving puzzles, or playing with a favourite toy. If you have time, tell them stories, watch videos together or teach them rhymes. This way, with less movement, the body will be able to direct more energy towards healing the actual ailment
8. Saline Drops can Reduce Fever
Saline drops can be prepared by adding a ¼ tablespoon of salt in 230ml water. The water needs to be stirred till the salt dissolves completely. Carefully put 2 drops in each nostril of your child with a dropper. Administering saline drops helps clear a congested nose and reduces fever
9. Avoid Exposure to Smoke
Smoking suppresses the body’s immune system. On being exposed to smoke, the body has to fight harder to fight against the viruses and bacteria. This increases the body temperature. Hence, ensure that your little one is not exposed to passive smoking from cigarette, nicotine or any other tobacco products
10. Use a Cold Compress
Natural home remedies for fever in babies include using a cold compress. A cold compress on the forehead and nape can efficiently reduce fever in toddlers. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 4 tablespoons of cold water. Apple cider vinegar is effective for heat removal from the body. The ingredients need to be mixed well. Use a piece of clean cloth to soak the mixture for a minute. Remove excess water and place it on your child’s forehead and/or nape for a few minutes.
11. Steam Inhalation Helps
If fever is accompanied by cold, then steam can aid removal of mucus responsible for fever. A steam bath can be an effective fever treatment at home. Fill in hot water into a vaporiser and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to it. Help your child take inhale the steam. Breathing the warm and moist air will help in removal of mucus and thus, reduce fever
Dealing with Febrile Seizures
Febrile seizures are a common phenomenon amongst toddlers. Wondering what a febrile seizure is? In children aged 6 months to 5 years, high fever can be accompanied by convulsions. You may see your child drooling, rolling his eyes or vomiting. It is also possible that his/her body may jerk, twitch or become stiff. The seizure may last from a few seconds up to 15 minutes which is usually considered very long. Contact your paediatrician immediately if the seizure continues beyond 3 minutes. To comfort your child during a seizure, place him on his side. To avoid choking on vomit, turn his head carefully to one side. Do not feed him anything during the seizure, not even medicine.
So, try these Indian home remedies for fever that do not bear any harmful side effects. Try these as a first line of medication. However, if you do not see improvement or observe that the symptoms are getting worse, consult a doctor.