We’ve all been there — sick in bed, simultaneously feeling hot and cold with a high fever. All we want to do is feel better if only this darn fever would break. If only there was a guide on how to get rid of a fever. Turns out, you’re in luck, because there are several natural ways you can treat a fever, just as there are natural ways to beat a cold or flu.
Believe it or not, getting a fever isn’t the worst thing in the world, despite the fact it feels like the opposite. A fever is most often a defense that the body provides against infection so it’s actually a good thing. Fevers are generally harmless and can actually be considered a good sign that your immune system is working properly and that the body is trying to heal itself.
That, of course, doesn’t make having a fever any less pleasant, and it sure doesn’t make you want to have one for any longer than you have to. So with that in mind, learn how to get rid of a fever with some natural methods.
How to Get Rid of a Fever
When you or your child has a fever, often the first course of action is to call the doctor, but keep in mind that unless you’re working with a doctor who considers functional medicine as an alternative, you’ll likely walk out with a prescription for a synthetic drug. The goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever because the fever helps fight the infection, and you want that. Typically, if a fever is mild, drinking plenty of fluids and rest will take care of it.
If you want to bring down a fever, there are some other natural ways to reduce a fever. Try these home remedies, but always keep a watchful eye. Here are some of the best tips on how to get rid of a fever:
1. Rest Is Key
When we rest, our bodies work on healing by repairing and restoring themselves. Sleeping allows the brain to trigger the release of hormones that encourage new tissue growth, and this rest helps your body defend itself. When you rest, in particular when you sleep, your body makes more white blood cells that can attack viruses and bacteria, which is exactly what you want to happen. (1)
That’s why if you can’t sleep, chances are your fever will last longer. Make sure to get plenty of rest, aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
2. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Hydration is important, as the fluids can help remove toxins, which in turn speeds up the healing process. Don’t give a child too much fruit or apple juice, but rather dilute these drinks by making them one half water, one half juice. The reason for this is that bacteria live on a type of sugar called glucose. It’s best to keep glucose levels in check.
Also, avoid sports drinks as they’re typically filled with tons of sugar and chemicals that can increase inflammation in the body, making it more difficult to heal itself. However, coconut water is very hydrating and provides electrolytes too. Also, herbal teas, such as peppermint or chamomile, are great and can provide much comfort. Just make sure to stay hydrated.
3. Eat Mild, Bland Foods
It’s normal to lose an appetite when having a fever. Providing mild, bland foods can be helpful, especially if vomiting occurs. This could include things like gluten-free oatmeal and bone broth. Fruit juice popsicles are often great for children. Generally, try to use unrefined, less sugary foods when possible. (2)
4. Consume Probiotics
Probiotics are especially helpful in healing the gut, even during illness, as they help support the immune system. Did you know that 80 percent of your entire immune system is located in your digestive tract? When you have a fever, it’s your immune system that’s compromised. Probiotics can help reduce the risk of certain acute common infectious diseases and enhance immune function. Sipping on some kombucha or having some miso soup can help when you are sick with fever. (3)
5. Take a Lukewarm Bath
A lukewarm bath or sponge bath may help cool a fever. However, don’t use cold baths, ice or alcohol rubs. These often make the situation worse by causing shivering. Adding Epsom salt and a few drops of peppermint essential oil and/or lavender essential oil can help soothe muscles and relax the body.
6. Don’t Overdress
Don’t bundle up with blankets or extra clothes, even if you or your child has the chills, because this may keep the fever from coming down or even make it go higher. Instead, try one layer of lightweight clothing and one lightweight blanket for sleep. The room should be at a comfortable temperature — however, if the room is hot or stuffy, a fan may help circulate the air.
If you feel the need to resort to synthetic medications, always call your doctor for any children under 3 months of age. A study published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics shows that parents and caregivers all too often resort to self-prescribed synthetic medications, such as acetaminophen, and over-dosage occurs by the use of drug formulations, such as drops or syrup. In fact, the study recommends that preventive action should be taken regarding the use of acetaminophen as an antipyretic drug in children in order to reduce the fever-phobia and self-prescription.
Remember that a fever does not need to come all the way down to normal. The fever is trying to protect your body. Most people feel better when their temperatures drop by even one degree, so the first step in how to get rid of a fever is to not attempt to bring it all the way down at once.
What Is a Fever
A fever, high fever or a high temperature is the byproduct or a symptom of an underlying condition, typically an infection. A fever is usually very uncomfortable, but depending on your age, physical condition and the underlying cause of your fever, you may or may not require medical treatment for the fever alone.
While many fevers are caused by infections, there are also many non-infectious causes of fever. A fever is generally not considered dangerous, but symptoms such as hyperthermia can cause dangerous rises in body temperature because with hyperthermia, the body is no longer able to control body temperature.
Usually a fever is of most concern with infants and children. Children may show accompanying symptoms, such as lethargy, fussiness, poor appetite, sore throat, cough, ear pain, vomiting and diarrhea — which are important to relay to your doctor. (4)
Normal body temperature can vary with age, general health, activity level and even the time of day. Infants tend to have higher temperatures than older children. It’s normal for our temperatures to be highest between late afternoon and early evening, and lowest between midnight and early morning. Even how much or the type of clothing a person wears, as well as the environment, can affect body temperature.
In general, a fever is a body temperature that’s higher than normal. While the average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), a normal temperature range is between 97.5°F (36.4°C) and 99.5°F (37.5°C). Most doctors consider a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) as a sign of a fever.
A child has a fever when the temperature is at or above one of these levels: 100.4°F (38°C) measured in the bottom (rectally); 99.5°F (37.5°C) measured in the mouth (orally); 99°F (37.2°C) measured under the arm (axillary). An adult probably has a fever when the temperature is above 99–99.5°F (37.2–37.5°C), depending on the time of day.
If someone in your family has a fever, he or she may feel warm, appear flushed or sweat more than usual. As well, being thirsty more than usual is common. Other symptoms include earache, a sore throat, a rash or a stomach ache. (5)
The Causes and Effects of a Fever
There are numerous causes of fever. Most of the time, fevers aren’t very serious and stem from a virus that’s short-lived. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it. However, things such as a woman’s menstrual cycle can cause her temperature to rise by one degree or more. As well, physical activity, strong emotion, eating, heavy clothing, medications, high room temperature and high humidity can all increase body temperature.
Almost any infection can cause a fever, including bone infections; respiratory infections, ear infections, sinus infections, mononucleosis, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, viral gastroenteritis and bacterial gastroenteritis.
A child may have a low-grade fever for one or two days after some immunizations, and teething may cause a slight increase in a child’s temperature but usually not higher than 100°F.
Autoimmune diseases or inflammatory disorders may also cause fevers, such as arthritis or connective tissue illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Additionally, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, vasculitis or periarteritis nodosa can affect temperature.
The first symptom of a cancer may be a fever. This is especially true of Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia. Blood clots or thrombophlebitis may also cause fever.
In addition, medications, such as some antibiotics, antihistamines and seizure medicines, can cause a rise in temperature.
Usually, however, there is no need for alarm because a fever is an important part of the body’s defense against infection, and that’s a great benefit that our bodies provide. Most bacteria and viruses that cause infections in people thrive best at 98.6°F. Many infants and children develop high fevers with mild viral illnesses.
Having a fever may be uncomfortable, but it’s your body’s way of telling you that something might be going on in the body and that the fever is fighting to eliminate it. Think of it this way: When we sweat, that’s our bodies’ way of cooling us down. Similarly, when we have a fever, that’s our bodies’ way of fighting an infection, and sometimes, allowing that fever to run its course is the best plan of action.
Of course, we should never take a fever lightly. I want to stress that you should always keep a close eye on anyone with a fever and contact your physician if you have any concerns.
While there are more serious issues that can occur from a fever, such as brain damage and seizures, it can also be a sign of some other serious issues. Brain damage from a fever generally will not occur unless the fever is over 107.6°F (42°C). Untreated fevers caused by infection will seldom go over 105°F unless the the individual is overdressed or trapped in an extremely hot environment. You may also experience what’s known as unexplained fevers. These types of fevers continue for days or weeks and are called fevers of undetermined origin.
Fever in Infants and Children
Infections are by far the most common cause of fevers in children. Most of these are caused by viruses, which are responsible for colds, upper respiratory infections and the common infectious diseases of childhood, such as chickenpox. As a side note, chickenpox can result in shingles in adulthood.
Some infections, caused by bacteria, may need special treatment. These include certain ear and throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, blood infections, and meningitis. For example, a very sore throat with a fever can be caused by streptococcus. This infection can lead to rheumatic fever or heart damage and should be carefully observed. Most people are familiar with strep throat, which along with minor skin infections is the most common form of the disease. (6)
Health experts estimate that more than 10 million mild infections (throat and skin) occur every year. There are other, relatively uncommon causes of fever. These include allergic reactions to drugs or vaccines, chronic joint inflammation, some tumors, and gastrointestinal diseases.
Of course, infants are usually a big concern. It’s normal for any parent to worry when his or her baby has a fever, especially the first fever. As I’ve noted, most fevers are harmless and caused by mild infections. Simply overdressing a baby can cause a rise in temperature. It is, however, important to pay close attention to your sick infant. Even though many older infants develop high fevers with minor illnesses, if a newborn has a fever higher than 100.4 °F, when taken rectally, you should consider talking to your child’s doctor. (7, 8, 9)
Another important thing to note is that febrile seizure can occur in some babies and young children. This can be especially scary. However, most febrile seizures are over quickly, and they don’t mean your child has epilepsy. In fact, they typically don’t cause any lasting harm, but it’s still something you may want to get checked out with your doctor.
Risks: When to Call the Doctor About a Fever
It’s important to know when you should call a doctor or get professional help for an adult or child who has a fever. Here are some things to look for:
- Listless or uncomfortable, even after the fever goes down
- Fever symptoms come back after they had gone away
- The child does not make tears when crying
- No urination in the past eight hours
- If a child is younger than age 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher, is 3–12 months old and has a fever of 102.2 °F (39 °C) or higher, or is under age 2 and has a fever that lasts longer than 48 hours
- Anyone that has a fever over 105 °F (40.5 °C), unless the fever comes down readily with treatment
- Has had fevers come and go for up to a week or more, even if they’re not very high
- Has other symptoms that suggest an illness may need to be treated, such as a sore throat, earache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or a cough
- Has a serious medical illness, such as a heart problem, sickle cell anemia, diabetes or cystic fibrosis
- Recently had an immunization
Call 9-1-1 if an adult or child has a fever and:
- Is crying and cannot be calmed down
- Cannot be awakened easily or at all
- Seems confused
- Cannot walk
- Has difficulty breathing, even after the nose is cleared
- Has blue lips, tongue or nails
- Has a very bad headache
- Has a stiff neck
- Refuses to move an arm or leg
- Has a seizure
- Has a new rash or bruises appear
Takeaways on How to Get Rid of a Fever
- A fever is most often a defense that the body provides against infection so it’s actually a good thing. Fevers are generally harmless and can actually be considered a good sign that your immune system is working properly and that the body is trying to heal itself.
- A fever, high fever or a high temperature is the byproduct or a symptom of an underlying condition, typically an infection, though not all fevers are caused by an infection.
- Most doctors consider a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees as a sign of a fever.
- If someone in your family has a fever, he or she may feel warm, appear flushed or sweat more than usual. As well, being thirsty more than usual is common. Other symptoms include earache, a sore throat, a rash or a stomach ache.
- Here are some tips on how to get rid of a fever: Rest is key, drink plenty of fluids, eat mild and bland foods, consume probiotics, take a lukewarm bath, and don’t overdress.