Why I Don’t Reduce a Fever – And What I Do Instead

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Why I don't reduce a fever
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Why I Don’t Reduce a Fever – And What I Do Instead

It’s hard to watch when our loved ones suffer from a high temperature. Many have sent emails and asked in my Facebook group, “Should you let a fever run its course in young children?” While we can all agree on plenty of fluids, I’m not quick to use over-the-counter medications to reduce it. Some pediatrics now suggest letting the fever run its course during flu season.

I try to avoid fear-mongering and want to avoid fever phobia and misconceptions. Over the years, my home remedies have helped my family fight illness more quickly and usually prevent recurring infections. So, let’s look at what causes a fever and when to seek medical attention before looking at natural remedies for fever.

[Note: I am not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional and do not play one online. Always check with a doctor or medical professional if a medical need arises.]

What Causes a Fever?

Fever is a natural response to infection or illness that increases body temperature. A fever is a good sign as it means the body is responding and fighting infections. When the normal body temperature rises, it is part of the natural immune system response we should allow to continue in most cases.

Fever can be caused by a bacterial or viral illness, or in rare cases, by poisoning, heatstroke, environmental toxins, or a malfunctioning hypothalamus. For most of us, a simple viral infection causes fever and will fade on its own as the body heals. There are a few exceptions, but more on that later.

When Is a Fever Too High for a Child?

Despite what seems like popular belief, in most cases, a low-grade fever less than 103°F will not cause brain damage, and a fever stemming from an infection will usually not go above this unless other factors (hot environment, etc.) are present.

In many cases, those who suffer brain damage or other problems from an illness suffer from the illness itself, not the high fever. The Natural Institutes of Health and the U.S. Library of Natural Medicine states a fever less than 107°F is unlikely to cause brain damage or other problems unless accompanied by more severe symptoms. (Although I don’t like letting them go this high and have never had a child’s fever anywhere near this high).

Even fevers high enough to cause febrile seizures do not indicate a severe problem in themselves. Most febrile seizures pass quickly and don’t cause permanent damage. They aren’t a symptom of epilepsy.

I highly recommend the book How to Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor for a more detailed explanation about the benefits of a fever and why reducing it can be harmful.

If one of my family members has a fever less than 103-104°F that I know is not the result of poisoning, severe bacterial infection, heatstroke, or toxins, I find it best to wait it out. Nevertheless, I will monitor symptoms and use home remedies to make the person more comfortable.

This is my personal preference in this situation. While I’ve never found temperatures at this point or lower to be harmful, it is always important to do your research and talk to a medical professional if you feel the situation warrants it. In my experience, most fevers from illness hover in the 101-103°F range and are an effective part of the immune system’s response to infection, like making antibodies.

Should You Let a Fever Run Its Course?

There are several reasons it is better not to reduce a fever. Since fever is part of the body’s natural way of fighting illness or infection, reducing the fever can make the illness last longer, as it lets the virus live for a longer time.

Additionally, most OTC conventional fever treatments, called antipyretics, may do more harm than good. Acetaminophen, Motrin, Tylenol, and Advil (the medications most often given to children to reduce body temperature and fever) have side effects or even cause organ damage. Specifically, Tylenol can hurt the liver, and Advil can damage the kidneys or cause bleeding in the digestive tract, especially when given regularly.

Also, medications, like antipyretics, are foreign substances in the body, which the body must metabolize and filter. Doing so takes energy the body could be using to fight the illness.

While a fever can be uncomfortable, it is possible to comfort the ill person without reducing the fever with home remedies. The medications that reduce fever often also get rid of body aches or uncomfortable symptoms, so the two are thought to go hand in hand. While certainly, medical intervention and pyretic medicine are absolutely warranted at times, they aren’t my first line of defense for a mild fever or common cold.

When Should I Take My Child to the ER for a Fever?

In most cases, a fever is a healthy and natural immune response we should allow to run its course. There are exceptions, and in these cases, it is essential to seek medical care and make sure there is no severe problem. While I let most illnesses run their course in our home, I don’t hesitate to seek medical help immediately if the situation warrants it.

The need to talk to get medical advice quickly in cases like this is one of the many reasons why I’ve used telemedicine services where I can speak with a doctor online quickly. Of course, it doesn’t always replace going to a local doctor or even the emergency room, but it is a helpful first step in evaluating a situation.

When to Go to the Doctor

In general, these are the times I seek medical attention for a fever. Still, a parent’s intuition/research and conversation with your healthcare provider are essential for determining when a fever is severe. I seek help when:

  • A child under three months has a fever over 100.4? or exhibits any serious symptoms
  • A fever over 104? (this can signal a more severe infection or poisoning)
  • Fever for more than two consecutive days
  • Other symptoms like stiff neck, listlessness, or sensitivity to light
  • The person is unable to hold down food for more than a few hours or shows any signs of dehydration
  • Refusal to drink water
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or any sign of respiratory distress (Seek immediate help)
  • The person has been exposed to toxins or poisons that may have caused the fever
  • My mother’s intuition says there is something more serious going on, even if the child appears fine

Of course, I am a mom, not a doctor, and the above are my personal guidelines. You will want to come up with your own together with your doctor’s advice.

Natural Remedies for Fever

While I try to avoid unnecessary over-the-counter medications to treat fever, I’m also not in favor of letting an ill person suffer any more than is necessary. Fortunately, there are some easy home remedies to comfort the afflicted without drugs or medicine. For most illnesses, this is my protocol:

  • Lots of fluids – for hydration and help the body flush the illness. We stick to water, my electrolyte recipe with lemon juice, and herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, or catnip.
  • Double doses of fermented cod liver oil – which seems to greatly reduce the duration of the illness and also gives the ill person important immune-boosting nutrients. We use capsules for adults and gel for kids who can’t swallow pills. I also give this daily to all family members to help boost immune function so the body can handle illness more quickly.
  • Probiotics – to support immune and gut health. You’ve probably heard the saying, “All disease begins in the gut.” Probiotics, but especially during illness.
  • Apple cider vinegar with the mother – for an extra boost of good bacteria.
  • Elderberry syrup – to boost immune function and make the ill person more comfortable. Here’s a recipe to make your own that’s cheaper than store-bought options.
  • Homemade elderberry popsicles – that I make and keep in the freezer for when anyone has a sore throat.
  • Vitamin C – that’s also packed with antioxidants.
  • Bone broth and homemade soups – to nourish and provide nutrients that aid in healing.
  • Coconut oil – small doses mixed into food or smoothies for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • Hot water baths – with Epsom salts or magnesium and a sprinkle of powdered ginger to help alleviate muscle aches.
  • Peppermint tea and ginger tea – also work for head and muscle aches associated with an illness.
  • Natural sleep tincture or chamomile tincture to help soothe achy muscles and promote relaxing sleep if anyone is achy or having trouble resting comfortably.
  • Feverfew – I don’t generally recommend it for kids without a doctor’s advice, so check with yours, but this herb has natural anti-inflammatory health benefits.
  • Homeopathic remedies – like Genexa’s cold crush.

TIP: I highly recommend printing out a version of this and keeping it on hand in a cabinet with the remedies if you become ill. Even though I am the one to help a family member when they don’t feel well, I’m often not the best at remembering to do these things when I’m sick. This way, my husband can help me remember to do these things when I’m under the weather.

More From Wellness Mama

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Walker, an internal medicine physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

What do you do when a family member is sick? Have any natural remedies for fever? Share them below!

Fever is a natural response by the body and is part of the healing process. Find out why reducing a fever can be bad and what to do instead.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Fever: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus.
  2. Leung, A. K., Hon, K. L., & Leung, T. N. (2018). Febrile seizures: an overview. Drugs in context, 7, 212536.
  3. Geddes L. (2020). The fever paradox. New scientist (1971), 246(3277), 39–41.
  4. Ghanem, C. I., Pérez, M. J., Manautou, J. E., & Mottino, A. D. (2016). Acetaminophen from liver to brain: New insights into drug pharmacological action and toxicity. Pharmacological research, 109, 119–131.
  5. Kim, M., Lee, E. J., & Lim, K. M. (2021). Ibuprofen Increases the Hepatotoxicity of Ethanol through Potentiating Oxidative Stress. Biomolecules & therapeutics, 29(2), 205–210.

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


241 responses to “Why I Don’t Reduce a Fever – And What I Do Instead”

  1. Laura Avatar

    Great info here – thank you! Do you have a manual that lists natural remedies for various illnesses? Many thanks and take care.

  2. Kristin Avatar

    Hey, I appreciate reasonable people and advice. Careful with chamomile and echinacea. I’m allergic and my grandparents almost did me in with them. They are wonderful for people not allergic. Try cold apple juice or red cherry juice if you have a child or adult with an unreasonable temperature. As a nurse, when an CNA came to me about a patient of another nurse and we knew the next step was a chill blanket I gave cold apple juice and the fever broke. One nurse not knowing me flipped out until the other said she always does a home remed before the blanket.

  3. Grace Avatar

    Is this an error? “Despite what seems like popular belief, in most cases, a fever less than 103 will not cause brain damage, and a fever stemming from an infection will usually not go above this unless other factors (hot environment, etc.) are present.”

    Is it supposed to say 105? In the article that is linked in that sentence, it mentions brain damage not occurring until a fever reaches 107 and says a fever won’t usually go above 105 unless there are other factors present. 103 seems like a low threshold so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t written in error.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      I’ve read conflicting info from different sources but all sources seem to agree that 103 or below will not cause damage and most agree that 105 is also safe but I opted to be very conservative.

  4. Angela Avatar

    I tried this, here’s my advice on it: I was referring to your post here last night about my (almost) 5 year old’s temperature which has reached 104 last night. I was starting to panic since that is high, and I had called the pediatrician, but really wanted to avoid Tylenol or the ER unless it was still climbing. My children have never had a temp like that before, they are rarely sick in general. I got nervous but love your posts and I have found you to be very accurate in your advice. I have studied some in the medical field and specifically in nutrition myself. So to any other panicked moms who read this, here is what worked for me along with this article! (Don’t hesitate to call a doctor or go get help if you feel it’s necessary though! Your mom intuition is important!)
    I did a lukewarm bath, just the lower half with a towel around her shoulders. Our house is so cold so she was crying without a towel for warmth. Then we did some cold water to drink and she chewed on some soft ice cubes. We did a frozen fruit & veggie smoothie, and a cold forehead compress a few times. Then we snuggled for a few, and her temp eventually went down to the low 102’s within 30-40 mins, and then she wanted to sleep. We checked on her within a few hours, and her temp was back down to 98 consistently, and she’s feeling great ever since!
    We also threw in a Nature’s Way brand flu relief tablet and a vitamin C/elderberry/echinacea gummy to support the immune system.
    Another word of advice on fever reducers: we are blessed to have a very open minded pediatrician (but still a D.O.) and she told me she sees children who take baby Motrin/ibuprofen having kidney failure often and to never use it. She said if you must, use Tylenol, which she claimed much safer and that it filters through the liver instead of the kidneys. I’m still not a Tylenol fan, but it’s great to know in an emergency!
    Thanks so much for this article even though I know it’s from years ago!

  5. Katie Avatar

    This sounds wonderful! My main problem… getting an accurate temperature! I’ve been through at least a dozen thermometers since becoming a mom, can anyone make recomendations?

  6. Jessica Avatar

    Love this, and I agree wholeheartedly! As a nurse and a mother, I see medications WAY over used! Also try to let my kiddos ride out the fever, and let their bodies fight for themselves! Thanks for writing this informational post!

    1. Diana Avatar

      This article is very helpful. Bone broth is a staple in out home, so are fermented foods, etc. We also use peppermint essential oils and monitor our little guy when he has a fever.. we don’t worry too much, they’re typically under 105 and he doesn’t get them often, many experts say it’s safe, if the child isn’t acting unusual or vomiting, etc.. it’s not a cause for too much concern. I will use the elderberry recipe and also continue with the Rositas Cod liver oil. Thank you!

  7. Adeela Masood Avatar
    Adeela Masood

    My two year old had a febrile seizure 🙁 his fever was going as high as 104 degrees and I kept sponging him down to reduce it. I had also given him paracetamol but it didn’t help one bit. After sponging him down his fever came down to 102 degrees and I fell asleep with him while my husband watched him. He woke me up in 45 minutes and I saw my baby convulsing. We’re in the hospital with him now. It’s never happened before. How can I prevent it from happening again.

  8. Lisa Hewitt Avatar
    Lisa Hewitt

    We love using the Wet Sock Treatment alongside homeopathy — it has worked every single time without any medication for 15 years, and 3 children.

  9. Justin Avatar

    Lemon, fenugreek, and mint tea. Boil it all. Once it cools, I load with honey. I make enough to drink for the week. Works great

  10. Yesi Cantu Avatar
    Yesi Cantu

    Hello, here a desperate mama. We moved to a different city and its been a year that because of the climate change my two kids ages 2yrs-5yrs developed allergies and Bronchitis. Any help would be wonderful.

  11. Johannah Avatar

    With my research, I’ve come to find bone broth (any animal products) to prolong the healing process and actually aid in future illnesses/infections. I’ve come to find that shiitake mushroom, garlic and ginger broth is much better than any bone broth. Have you done any research on animal products or bone broth?
    I don’t think that it should be fed to sick children and adults, especially because numerous studies have shown how detrimental animal products are to health, even over marketed “bone broth” when we are sick. I just don’t feel comfortable feeding that to children to make them feel better.
    Lovely article, thanks for the tea recommendations and info!

  12. Susan Avatar

    I recently came across the book, Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel who also recommends ‘fermented’ cod oil for cavities. However, there apparently is a major controversy surrounding the ‘fermented’ type and specifically the one linked in your article. I would suggest readers research the matter thoroughly. The author has since past away and there is speculation that the fermented cod oil may have been to blame.

  13. Lynn Avatar

    I have always had a natural approach to everything I do. It has always been the way we live. I’ve done the same thing for both of my children. Wait the fever out. Make them comfortable as possible. You do mention febrile seizures don’t usually cause damage in high fevers. But, what you don’t mention is the fact that febrile seizures can happen at the onset of a fever. My three year old son recently had a seizure at a fever of 101.5 from TEETHING. We had to have an ambulance come because he is a perfectly heathy child who fell from a table eating from seizing. While it is uncommon to have them from a low fever it is absolutely possible. If you research the cause of febrile seizure it’s the sudden spike of body tempature. You mention seizures once during this whole article and downplay it completely. It doesn’t cause long term damage. But, how accurate is that? I can promise you it’s caused long term damage to my whole family. To go through something like that does have long term effects. I think you should do more research on seizures for this article because yes, you mention you’re not a medical professional. But, thousands of people go to you for help. I always have myself. This is a very serious thing and I want more people to know about it so maybe some could avoid the misery that we all went through watching our child become unresponsive because I was ignorant enough to “wait it out”

  14. Ola Avatar

    I prepare onion syrup. I am from Poland and my mum always was giving us to us things like that during cold/flu periods. Here is the recipe:
    1 sliced onion
    1 sliced lemon
    a bit of warm water
    I place onion slices with lemon slices in a lasagna style 😉 and then pour honey to cover it half way and press it a bit for them to release juices. I add a bit of water to increase the liquid. You can add garlic – I love garlic as it is a natural antibiotic and much more. Keep in the fridge, drink as much as possible. It is sweet and even kids can manage it.

    I also squeeze garlic into warm cup of milk (could be non diary) and add natural honey. Drink it in the evening. Or even crushed garlic on its own for adults 🙂

  15. Tiffany Avatar

    Chamomile is known to exacerbate seasonal allergies. Maybe try Valerian root or an echinacea goldenseal tea.

  16. Heather Avatar

    Love this post! Out of 4 children I only have one that I can’t allow her fevers to go over 100.4. For some reason if she has a fever that goes over that she has night terrors. I’ve always reached for the otc reducers. Next time I’ll have other ways to lower her temp. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  17. Isabel Avatar

    I find that checking the temperature isn’t always accurate. I will take the temp several times, and each time its different. So maybe when the people got their kids to the hospital it already went down, or the thermometer wasn’t accurate. I really have to agree with the person about the high temps. If its at 106 you can have brain problems as a result of a high temp and possibly die. A high temp really is a serious thing.

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