A sudden and significant increase in body temperature, as measured by touch or with a thermometer. Fever is often accompanied by other symptoms, including pale, dry skin, sweating, cold chills, weakness, malaise, headache, and changes in breathing. There can be alternating conditions of dry, cold shivering and feelings of heat and sweating or combinations of both, such as cold and sweating.
What Is Fever?
From Modern Western Medicine
A fever is defined as a body temperature above 98.6°F when measured orally, and 99.8°F when measured from the rectum.
Most fevers are caused by bacterial or viral infections. Fevers are triggered by the body’s immune systems, specifically by macrophage and CD4 cells. These cells produce cytokins, which are chemical messengers that signal the brain to raise the body temperature in an effort to destroy the invading microorganism.
Fever may also accompany other conditions, such as dehydration, heart attack, and tumors of the lymphatic system. Its function is not understood in these cases.
From Traditional Medicine
Fever is not of itself a disease, but a response initiated by the body to cure an underlying disease. In short, a fever is part of the solution to illness and therefore should not be repressed unless it gets over 103°F. Brain damage can occur if a fever is allowed to reach 106°F. Most fevers never go above 102°F, and most last only a few days. In the meantime, they do much to assisting the body in its attempts to destroy and eliminate from the system the causes of the underlying disease. Hippocrates once said, “Give me fever and I will cure all disease.”
The exception is in the case of an infant. Children are far more sensitive to changes in temperature and therefore all fever warrant consultation and supervision by a medical doctor.
Foods to Eat
Liquids are most beneficial for a fever. Take liquids for three to five days.
- Diluted fruit juices (if fever dominates over chills)
- Hot water and lemon juice
- Hot teas (to induce sweating)
- Vegetable or grain soup (if chills dominate over fever)
After the fever has subsided, eat easily digested food:
- Cooked fruit
Foods to Avoid
Avoid all food until the acute stage has passed. After the acute phase, avoid:
- Animal foods
- Dairy products
- Flour products
Herbs to Treat Fever
- When there is sweating, make a tea using:
2 parts cinnamon
2 parts peony root
2 parts gingerroot
1 part licorice
Simmer 1 oz. of the herbs in a quart of water along with 4 dates for 20 minutes. Take 3 or 4 cups a day, and one ½ hour after taking the tea, eat a small bowl of watery brown rice.
- Boneset: infusion, steep 3 oz., 5 – 15 minutes, three times daily; tincture, 10 – 40 drops, three times daily; fluid extract, ½ – 1 tsp., three times daily
- Lemon balm (good for children): infusion, steep 5 – 15 minutes, take 6 oz. as needed frequently, and add honey
- Pleurisy root tea (to induce sweating): infusion, steep 30 minutes, take 1 – 2 cups daily; for children, 1 – 5 drops in hot water every one or two hours
- Peppermint: infusion, steep 5 – 15 minutes, take 6 oz., three times daily. Do not allow leaves to boil because they contain volatile medicinal properties. Good when combined with lemon balm
- Tepid 30-minute bath
- Baths followed by intense towel rubs when patient’s vitality is high
- Hot compresses, used with sweating teas
- Aconite: for sudden onset of symptoms, when patient is nervous, restless, or anxious, and for hot and dry skin
- Arsenicum: for patient who is fearful and restless and has burning pains relieved by warmth, is very thirsty for frequent sips of water, and if the fever is worse after midnight
- Belladonna: for sudden onset of symptoms, flushed face and high temperature, strong and fast pulse, or for a patient who does not experience much thirst
- Bryonia: for a patient who prefers to lie still, is worse from movement, is very thirst, and who is usually pale and quiet
- Ferrum phosphoricum: for gradual onset of symptoms; red cheeks and throbbing head; if there are symptoms for which belladonna would be prescribed, but milder; if pulse is fast but not strong; and if the patient feels better from cold applications on the head
- Gelsemium: for a patient who feels chilly, aches all over, and doesn’t want to move, who has a dull headache, droopy eyes, heavy limbs, chills up and down back, and who has no thirst
In Chinese medicine, fever is a sign of an exterior condition, which means that the body surfaces that are exposed directly to the environment are affected first. The most common conditions considered external are fevers, chill, colds, and flu. To balance such conditions, we must choose herbs that are more expansive and reach toward the periphery of the body and those that open the sweat glands to sweat out the exterior disease factor lodged near the surface. This is not the time to take in strengthening, salty, or building foods as these will trap pathogens inside the body. Allow the person to sweat, but not to the point of exhaustion. If there is weakness with the fever and not much improvement, use herbal preparations that build the protective qi such as fresh gingerroot or cinnamon twig tea.
- Beta-carotene: 15 – 30 mg per day
- Vitamin B complex
Thiamine: 1.5 mg per day
Riboflavin: 1.8 mg per day
Vitamin B6: 2 – 10 mg per day
Vitamin B12: 2 – 10 mg per day
Niacin: 20 mg per day
- Vitamin C: 100 mg per day