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OUTSMARTING THE FLU
The Art of Fever Management
Carole Tashel, Clinical Herbalist
me a fever, and I can cure any illness" ó Hippocrates
It may sound crazy, but fevers should be celebrated -- perhaps
even encouraged -- as part of a thorough, natural defense against
infection. A fever of 101 or 102 degrees (the ideal temperature
for fever) is a sign that your entire immune system is on high
alert. White blood cells develop a ferocious appetite, and circulation
increases, allowing immune components (white blood cells, antibodies
and interferon) to get where they need to go. Microbes hate the
heat, and die or weaken. (Influenza viruses prefer temperatures
slightly below 98.6 F.) When a fever "breaks" with copious perspiration,
viruses are forced out in the sweat. So the goal of fever management
is to nurture the ideal temperature, keep the person comfortable
until sweating occurs, then support convalescence. If you suppress
a fever, you can be sure it will prolong the flu.
Influenza viruses infect the whole body and grow best at temperatures
slightly below body temperature. At 105 degrees, they die off
after 12-14 hours.
HELPING A FEVER TO DO ITS WORK
It helps to know how a fever works, so you feel comfortable managing
it. When microbes are attempting to get a foothold, certain chemical
signals reach your brain, and in response, the hypothalamus (the
temperature-control center) sets your thermostat higher. In response
to this directive, your body conserves heat by shutting off blood
flow to small blood vessels in the skin. You appear pale, and
feel chilled. Though it seems paradoxical when youíre cold, your
temperature is on the way up.
When your temperature exceeds the point set by the hypothalamus,
you start feeling very hot. In response, peripheral circulation
opens up, you appear flushed and begin to sweat. Your fever has
"broken," and your temperature is on the way down.
When temperature is on the way up, herbs can encourage a sweat
and make sure your fever completes its important work. A tea combination
of elder flowers, yarrow flowers and peppermint leaves can do
the job. Hereís how to make it:
Elder flowers -
Yarrow flowers -
Peppermint leaves -
1 1/2 teaspoons
Place flowers and leaves in a quart
Mason jar and pour 3 cups boiling water over them.
Cover and steep 20 minutes, strain through a sieve or coffee filter.
Drink a cup of the tea every 60-90 minutes, as hot as possible.
A 10-minute hot bath can support the process. When you begin to
sweat, wrap up in a sheet and blanket and prepare to sweat profusely.
Most people sleep well and awaken refreshed the next morning.
A good time to do this treatment is in the late afternoon or early
evening, when fevers naturally tend to rise.
All three herbs are diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) when drunk hot,
and help relieve upper respiratory congestion. In addition, both
elder and yarrow are anti-inflammatory. Yarrow not only slows
down viruses and bacteria, but may also elevate an inappropriately
low temperature. Peppermint helps prevent the nausea, gas or cramping
that sometimes accompanies a fever.
Please note that capsules containing these herbs will not work
-- you must drink the hot tea. Why? First, cool teas or capsules
sometimes lead to different results, such as increasing urine
rather than sweat. Second, the hot liquid opens small capillaries
and brings heat to the skin, jump-starting the sweating process.
OTHER USEFUL TIPS:
you have all the signs of inflammation but your temperature
is low or even sub-normal, you could take a hot bath or sip
hot ginger tea to nudge your body into producing a fever. (Dried
ginger produces more heat than fresh ginger. Simmer one teaspoon
per cup water for 10 minutes, strain and sip.)
eat -- you will not be able to digest food well, because your
body is busy with other concerns. On the other hand, itís beneficial
to drink water or mineral-rich broths freely, especially after
suppress fever with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin.
These simply lower the thermostat and cool you down, without
killing the microbe. Thus, they block all the benefits of a
fever that is allowed to run its course.
Because high fevers do carry dangers such as dehydration and
seizures, it is important to monitor your progress.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR:
The person stops drinking fluids, appears listless or seriously
The fever exceeds 102 degrees, especially without sweating.
(Remember, the ideal range is between 101 and 102 degrees.)
The fever occurs in a depleted, chronically ill or elderly person.
A fever in a child is a very different matter. Childrenís core
temperature is higher than that of adults, they perspire less
easily and their fevers can shoot up more quickly. Treat with
great care, or consult a professional.
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