Fever: Leave It Alone Or Treat It?

Naturopathy believes that not only should symptoms not be the main focus of treatment, they should often be recognised as being the very expression of self-healing in action, and allowed to run their course.

When you have a fever for example this is evidence of your body's defence systems dealing with something out of the ordinary, perhaps an infection by a bacteria or virus.

In 9 cases out of 10 this will resolve itself without any treatment at all (especially if you are well nourished and cope well with stress) and only needs to be helped by adequate rest and suitable nourishment (liquids only for the first 24 hours of a fever has been shown to enhance immune function dramatically).

When however a fever is met by an instant attempt to suppress it (`the child has a temperature, we must get this down!` syndrome) what is being done is in direct conflict with the real needs of the person, unless the fever is actually life-threatening, which is rare indeed, and in which case appropriate medical care is essential.

Naturopaths recognise that fever is usually an expression of self-healing, a heightened degree of immune system activity. Naturopathic care would aim to help the immune system to do its job efficiently, initially by dietary modification and/or controlled fasting.

In addition it would use methods which would make life more comfortable while these necessary internal processes are doing their job (massage and osteopathic manipulative techniques can for example assist in the drainage of lymph, the fluid which carries debris away from the site of infection).

Some naturopaths would assist the healing process further by judicious use of herbs or homoeopathic medication, neither of which would be aimed at suppressing the fever but which would support the body's efforts.

Similarly hydrotherapy or acupuncture might be used to reduce discomfort and assist the self-healing work of the body.

Contrast the happy outcome of such a naturopathic effort with the result of the use of drugs to bring down the temperature, leaving the underlying condition unresolved and a frustrated immune system denied its opportunity to act on the invader.

So important as a healing aid do naturopaths see elevated temperature to be that in some conditions of on-going infection (as occurs in AIDS and in some instances of chronic fatigue) an artificial temperature is created by careful use of Hydrotherapy (a method called Hyperthermia), in which the person's body temperature is slowly raised by immersion in hot water).

This has no long-term side effects (but needs to be expertly supervised) unlike the long-term overuse of antibiotics which has resulted in a massive rise in the number of resistant bacteria as well as doing untold damage to the health of many people's digestive tracts where `friendly` bacteria (upon which our health depends to a large extent) have been severely compromised.