By Erin K Costello
Earlier today I came across a Facebook post about when to treat or how to treat a fever in a child. The post was found in an anti-vaccination group so of course the advice rendered was horrific. This post was not rare though. There are an untold number of posts, as well as memes, in anti-vaccination such groups, or natural cure groups, concerning the treatment of fevers in children. Most of these posts are filled with what is very likely dangerous advice and claims, and almost all of these posts are authored by people who have no idea what they are talking about. Don't get me wrong, I am also not qualified to advise anyone on treating fevers in children. I am not writing this to correct their claims. A medical professional is the person who should do this correcting. I am writing this to address more than just bad advice on treating fevers. This is about so much more than just fevers. I am writing to call attention to these mommy wannabe doctors on social media. Whether they have delusions of grandeur or are sadistic in nature, the uneducated and unqualified are everywhere on social media and pose a threat to many. Seeking their advice, let alone following it, is about the worst thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
First, I would like to discuss the fever for a moment. A fever is usually regarded as low grade when it is between 98.8F and 99.9F degrees (37.1 to 37.7 degrees Celsius). Though it is huge factor, degree of temperature alone does not indicate if a fever should be treated, or what that kind of treatment should consist of. However, it is important to remember that for all of us, young and old, a fever can become too high and even prove fatal. The point in which a fever becomes dangerous for an individual may vary for all of us. A fever of 105F (40.5C) may be deemed safe for you, but may cause permanent cell damage in someone else. This may even vary some within ourselves over time or situation. A once deemed safe 105F (40.5C) fever for someone may then become too dangerous for that person at a different date or situation. Whether to treat, or how to treat, will often also depend on other accompanying symptoms or behavior of the person affected. Age is also a determining factor to consider. The person best qualified to advise you on when or how to treat a fever is your physician, or your pediatrician in the case of a child. If your physician or pediatrician, advises you that it's safe to treat a fever, and safe to do so with an over the counter (OTC) fever reducer (usually acetaminophen or ibuprofen), then you should consider it safe to do so. Withholding such medication for yourself after confirming its safety with your doctor is unnecessary. Choosing not to use it for your child after it's been deemed safe to do so with your pediatrician is both unnecessary and mean
The main reason why parents refuse to use an OTC fever reducer when it's been deemed safe to do so is a belief that using it will prolong the illness or cause it to become more severe. Studies show there may be some logic in this, but only in low grade fevers. This is because of the role fevers play in fighting off disease or infection. Though, once a fever becomes too high or high grade, the risks associated with the high fever are often considered too great.
Some studies have shown that fevers may help our immune system. They suggest that one way our immune system might fight off disease or infection is by activating chemicals known as pyrogens. One common pyrogen is produced in the body by certain white blood cells. When these white blood cells come in to contact with certain viruses and bacteria, they will produce pyrogens, as well as signal other white blood cells, known as helper T cells, into action. Pyrogen will then travel to certain receptors in the hypothalamus, located in part of the brain. The hypothalamus is in charge of regulating body temperature. When pyrogens bind to these receptors it signals the brain to increase body temperature. It is believed that in doing so the body creates an inhospitable environment for the invading pathogen. Some studies have concluded this could be a likely cause, though it is not yet a proven cause. There just isn't enough information known to be sure. Regardless, this is not believed to be an important or needed tool in combating disease. A fever may be a tool for the immune system in fighting an illness or infection, though it is not believed or suspected to be a defining tool in whether the body is successful in this fight. A fever could end up becoming counterproductive in fending off a disease if it becomes to high. If the environment is inhospitable for the pathogen, how is this environment then affecting the body as well? No one aims to kill the infection or virus at all costs. The goal is to kill the invading pathogen while also protecting the host organism from death or permanent damage.
Whether the symptoms in question are a fever or something else, your doctor is the person best qualified to assist you. This applies to all areas of medicine, including fevers. One example of this is when a fever persists. Even in low grade fevers, if the fever persists you should contact your doctor. A fever of 100.1F (37.8C) for 24 hours is quite common and may not be seen as alarming. However, a fever of 100.1F (37.8C) persisting for a week or longer is not as common and can often signify a much more serious and pressing problem in the body. Symptoms of a cold or an ear ache are visible on the outside and therefor are almost impossible to go unnoticed until it's too late. For many other internal diseases and illnesses though, often times the only noticeable symptom for a while is a persistent increase in body temperate. Some of these illnesses are easily remedied with medicine or surgery if caught in time. Sometimes though they can end up being caused by a disease such as cancer and require a more complex or long term treatment plan. Either way, eating garlic cloves, or inserting them in other bodily orifices, will not reveal to you the cause of these persistent fevers, and it certainly won't heal your body. Medical testing done through your physicians office can often reveal to you the cause of such fevers. Depending on your diagnosis, your physician can then present you with the best course of action to treat the issue. What a doctor determines best for you may not be what was believed to be best for another patient elsewhere. Many factors go into choosing a treatment plan. One large factor that every doctor must consider when deciding an appropriate course is you. Just like different pathogens respond best to certain treatments, you may or may not respond best to a treatment plan that worked well for someone else. Medical history, genetic history, environment, lifestyle, age, gender, weight, and results learned from other medical testing help a physician in finding an optimal treatment plan. Facebook groups and mommy bloggers don't have access to any of your information and know nothing of your history. Sure, they could try asking you question about your medical history but this would be pointless since they won't know the right questions to ask let alone what the answers may mean.
In addition to your personal information, a doctor will also rely on his knowledge and experience in medicine while treating you or your child. This is what makes someone qualified to be your medical provider. If you are unsure what to do on behalf of yourself or a child it is usually because you are faced with an unfamiliar event or action. If you already know your child has seasonal allergies and sneezes a lot come spring, chances are you already know how handle the situation. If you have multiple children and your baby is crying a lot and grabbing their ear, you already know to check the ear because they likely have an ear infection. But, if you are faced with an issue or behavior that you are unfamiliar with and are unsure of what to do, you are going to seek advice. We all hear horror stories of how common mild symptoms end up leading to a cancer diagnosis. Though these examples happen much more rarely than most likely causes such as a cold or allergies, they are still possible and can usually be discovered though routine medical testing. Consulting your doctor and consenting to such exams and tests when necessary offer very little, if any, measurable risk. The results of these tests can provide benefits as big as a longer or healthier life, or benefits as simple as peace of mind. In the times where we are unsure of how to best treat ourselves or our children, shouldn't the place or person we seek advice from be qualified to offer this help?
According to the mayo clinic, "When you or your child is sick, the main goal is to relieve discomfort and promote rest. Treating a fever neither shortens nor particularly prolongs the course of an illness." When I come across posts on Facebook with "crunchy" moms claiming that Tylenol should never be given (NEVER EVER), or that Advil should only be given around a temperature of 105F (40.5C), I become amazed at how many parents insist on making their children suffer from severe symptoms while ill. My heart goes out to those who are duped into believing alkaline water will cure their cancer, or that you all you need to treat measles, which was likely contracted due to refusing vaccinations, is vitamin A Though many of these lies are told by one-line charlatans, they become wide spread beliefs for many members of this community, people who are just like you and I. Consulting and listening to on-line figures or social media groups carries untold risks and often time little benefit. In the worst of examples it can cause death in the affected person, and/or give parents a lifetime of regret and loss. In the best of examples it can cause unnecessary pain or suffering for a person or child, both from contracting a vaccine preventable disease (VPD), and from refusing to treat the symptoms caused by the illness. Being a parent is hard enough, not to mention being a new person and having to grow and understand life. As an adult it is often times still challenging to navigate through life. Why does this need to be made even more difficult for child, parent, or adult? Turning down vaccinations, Tylenol, or antibiotics for your child is not how to "mom-hard. Sadly, this is how a child is made to "live-hard" though. In order to mom-hard/dad-hard a parent must put their own work, blood, sweat, and or tears into a parenting technique. The sacrifice is to come from the parent, not from the child. If you knowingly cause a child to suffer from the medical choices you make on their behalf, and is not medically necessary for you to do so, then what you are doing is abusive and a form of medical neglect. Depending on the offense and where you live this may be illegal. In some cases where dangerous or illegal alternative treatments are administered, your choices to allow this is highly likely to be illegal because you are causing the physical abusing of your child.
I am sure that, like myself and most all parents, you love your child(ren) more than anything or anyone else in the world. Nothing is too good for them. Even the thought of anything bad or traumatic happening to them is devastating, and the thought of you being responsible for such a thing to happen to them is unimaginable. Because of this you seek the best available education, the safest car seat, least irritating soap or diapers, the most protective bike helmets, etc... Most of us also search for the best available health insurance and pediatrician. If you've done this as a parent or guardian, why would you then refuse to utilize these tools at your disposal? Aren't your children worthy of the best? If you want the best available health and medical care for your child, why would you then ignore those who can provide you with what the best entails, only to turn to those who possess no formal knowledge or qualifications to work in this field let alone be an authority to trust for appropriate advice? Let me try and provide a little perspective....
I have yet to hear of other parents accusing "big bike" of selling unsafe or dangerous bike helmets. I don't even hear of other parents testing the safety and efficacy of such helmets, or of questioning the data available. We all just accept what the industry says, what kind of testing they conduct, and what their data shows. We also accept the laws requiring our children to wear these bike helmets when riding their bikes, and we even accept the laws of physics that apply to the science of "big bike." Parents all over the country are trusting "big bike" with the safety of our children and even the lives of our children. We are figuratively, and somewhat literally, putting the brains and heads of our children in the hands of "big bike." We do this because we know there are regulations that must be followed in making the bike helmets. We know they must pass testing standards and prove to be effective in protecting the heads of our children. We know there is data available to account for this because the companies manufacturing these helmets are required to show they are safe and effective. Those who create and conduct these tests are known as experts in their relevant and contributing fields. There aren't parents publicly claiming to know more than those educated in physics. Parents aren't accusing linear motion, inertia, or momentum as being propaganda tools of the greedy and profit driven "big bike" industry for the purposes of getting rich and controlling the population. There aren't charlatans selling you a bike helmet made of bubble wrap while claiming that the benefits of bubble wrap are being withheld from you and that this is proven by each time amazon chooses to bubble wrap to keep items safe while in motion. I have yet to read anything like this on-line. If any of this sounds absurd to you it's because it is absurd. It sounds just as absurd when this is done against the medical community. When parents claim to know more than doctors, or that vaccines are used for population control, that the data and studies are all faked, and that the regulating bodies of government are allowing this to happen, it is all just as incredibly absurd as those mentioned above about "big bike."
I don't offer any medical advice or claim to know what choices other people should make in regard to their health or that of their loves ones. This is because I am not qualified to do so. I also do not know you or your medical history. The extent of my knowledge is that I am intelligent enough to know what I do not know, and to know what my limitations are. "Crunchy" mommy bloggers, natural medicine Facebook groups, and other opportunistic people like Larry Cook share my same lack of knowledge and qualifications. Unfortunately though they lack the ability to realize this, or they realize this and just don't care because they want your money. Your doctor doesn't get rich if you take their advice or follow a treatment plan. Their livelihood is not dependent on creating and providing treatments not covered by health insurance. You are not the one who will pay for their new car or mortgage payment. Your doctor is not selling you anything. This is because they have nothing to sell you. Be very weary of those who come to solicit, especially if they also create and produce the things they wish to solicit to you. Lastly, and I can not stress this enough, talk to your doctor regarding any and all health or medical concerns for yourself and especially for your loved ones. Please, do not listen to those trying to sell you bubble wrap helmets.