What exactly is a fever and why does it matter?  Over the years I have had parents come in with kids that were sent home from school for a “fever of 99”.  M’kay….. aaand? and that was it! No other symptoms or complaints. SO! Let’s talk about what a fever actually is and why we care….


Firstly, normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (plus or minus one degree) or 37 degrees Celsius.  The accuracy of the temperature will vary depending on where you take the temperature.  Your core temperature is most accurate and that can be taken rectally or orally.  When taking it orally, you need to be sure the probe is all the way under the tongue so that the reading is as accurate as possible which can be difficult in a little squirmy person. Outside of infancy checking the temperature rectally may not be the most comfortable option for both parties involved. So that leaves axillary (armpit), ear or forehead/temple areas.  There are lots of handy dandy electrical thermometers that can get a quick read if you’ve got a moving target like we did with BeBe. Be mindful that your reading can be off a degree or so if you do check in one of those areas. The instruction manual for your thermometer should be able to help you determine how much. Either which way once you start reaching 100.3 and above you’re getting into the fever zone. Now! why does that matter?!


A fever is ACTUALLY a part of your immune system’s defense mechanisms.  Most viruses and bacteria are able to thrive and replicate rapidly at your normal body temperature. When your immune system is out patrolling and notices a foreign invader is trying to wreak havoc on your body, it sends out signals to recruit back up. These signals are chemical mediators that beckon more immune cells to mature and differentiate to fight the infection at hand.  These chemical mediators also signal the thermostat in your body to raise the temperature in an attempt to make your body less inhabitable for the infection trying to take over. So mounting a fever in some ways is a good thing. However, in the very young and very old it may be a cause of concern because often times when you don’t feel well, your appetite may decrease. As a result you may also drink less and dehydration becomes a risk which can be dangerous in the very young and very old.  Also, when you have a fever, you sweat and lose fluid that way. The best time to try to encourage eating or drinking is about 30-45min after reducing the fever as this is when they will feel a bit better and be more willing to eat or drink.


When people ask me what temperature should be cause for alarm, I typically tell them there isn’t really a set number.  We have to look at the whole picture. I’m likely to be more concerned about the child with a fever of 101 or so that looks like they’ve been hit by a truck versus the kid with a 103 running around and playing.  Having said that once we get to 104 and definitely 105 and/or the temperature (and child) isn’t responding to the appropriate dosing of a fever reducer, then it’s time to take them in to get checked. If there are other symptoms of distress like difficulty breathing, or lethargy, or something “just isn’t right”, you know your kid so take them in to get checked. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


Temperatures typically spike in the afternoon or evening RIGHT when your Doctor’s office is closing. BUT there is always help out there for you. Your insurance card may have a Nurse advice hotline phone number that you can call for advice or recommendations on what to do. Also, your Doctor’s office will have an after hours operator that can direct your call to the Doctor or Nurse on call that night. They can help advise on things that you can do at home to help, and/or recommend that your child be seen and if it’s something that can wait until morning or if it needs to be addressed immediately.


It is typical to have a fever for 3-4 days with a run of the mill viral infection.  AND as I mentioned it’s also typical for it to spike up in the evening or over night but go back down during the day only to pop back up again that evening. Don’t be alarmed unless there are new symptoms or the symptoms seem to be getting worse and not better.  Once we are on day 4 and still dealing with fever, take your child in to get checked. Even if you went on day 1 and the Doctor said “oh it’s just a virus”, take them back in for a recheck. Viruses can sometimes be a gateway for a secondary infection like an ear infection, for example. Also, things can progress and change literally overnight. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it can’t hurt to get it rechecked.


Also be mindful that HYPOthermia (low temperature) can be just as if not more significant in the very young and very old. If the temperature is 97 or below, take them in to be seen immediately.  Sometimes in the very young and very old population, their immune systems may respond by DROPPING the temperature so don’t dilly dally and get them checked.


Don’t forget that taking a lukewarm (not cold) bath can also help reduce a fever.  Throwing a little Epsom Salt in the tub will help with any aches and pains that can come along with that fever. Drink plenty of fluids and rest! This too shall pass….


Back to School Germ Prevention

Now that we have discussed fever, what it is and what do about it, let’s dig a little deeper….

It’s that time of year again – Back to School!

This is that lovely time of year when kids dive in head first and swap cooties! Typically medical offices and urgent cares look like an abandoned Western Frontier Town right about now – tumbleweed and all.  Back to school physical exams are done and the dust begins to settle and then BOOM! Typically at just about two weeks after school starts there is a flood of kids coming in like a Petri dish Parade. The incubation period on all the cooties has expired and they begin to rear their ugly heads – strep throat, colds, stomach flu, the list goes on….

So what can you do to protect you and yours?

There are a few thing things that you can do to gird up your immune system. The most obvious is to eat a healthy, well-babilnced diet with plenty of (hopefully organic) vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats and protein – in that order! That is honestly the best foundation  Hippocrates even knew that everything begins in the gut. About 80% of your immune system is found in your gut in the GALT system (Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue).

With that in mind there are additional things that you can do to strengthen or regulate the immune system via the influence of what you ingest.  First and foremost taking a good quality probiotic daily can fortify your defenses in your gut and help crowd out any bad bugs trying to take up residence.  If you tend to have recurrent ear and/or throat infections, you can also use a probiotic powder and after brushing your teeth at night, sprinkle a little bit of the powder on the back of your tongue so that the good bacteria found in the probiotics can colonize the back of your throat and the opening of your ear tubes overnight to discourage the growth of the bad guys like strep! The Waldeyer’s Ring of Tonsillar tissue is a ring around the back of your throat full of immune system tissue and modulating cells.


Another option is taking colostrum.  Colostrum is that nutrient rich, antibody laden golden richness that is produced as the “first milk” when a child is born.  You can actually purchase grass-fed, cow colostrum and reap all of the benefits of the immune boosters there, too. Colostrum helps regulate the balance of immune cells in your system.  You have two types of helper cells in your immune system, Th1 and Th2 (T helper cells 1 and 2 respectively). Oftentimes due to insults like poor diet and environmental toxins the balance of these two types of cells is off and, therefore, not functioning optimally.  Think of it like this: your Th1 cells are your Watchers on the Wall and are supposed to protect the kingdom from any possible threat while the Th2 cells are the villagers down below. Now the Th2 cells aren’t pushovers by any means and can wield a sword when necessary but they are not the same caliber of warriors like trained fighters on the Wall. You do need both but The Watchers on the Wall (Th1) need to do their job properly so that the villagers (Th2) can do the other things that they are better trained to do and not wear themselves doing things that are above their pay grade.  Due to environmental insults all to often the Th2 cells are all over the place doing way too much and the Th1 cells are laying down on the job. Taking bovine colostrum can help rev up your Th1 cells so that they can do their job properly and the Th2 cell can go back to business as usual. Colostrum is three times more effective at preventing the flu than the vaccine.


One thing that you can also do to help prevent the SPREAD of germs is to teach your children (and yourselves) to wash your hands properly, dry them off and then use that paper towel to turn off the faucet (moist Petri dish) and then use it again to grab the knob (Petri dish number 2) and open the door with it, THEN throw it away.  Also, when you cough or sneeze, do so into your ELBOW – not your hands (that you will then use to open a door, use a pen or some other means to spread the joy). Some viruses like one of the most common causes of the stomach flu can survive on surfaces for 6 WEEKS!! This is how they get passed around so far so fast – think cruise ships.


In the event that you do get sick there are a few things that you can do to help shorten the course of the illness.  Increasing your probiotics to twice a day can help. If you take any whole food supplements like Juice Plus, doubling up for a day or two is helpful as well. Taking Activated Charcoal (especially with he stomach flu) can help absorb the bad bugs and their toxins and escort them out! Once the vomiting has subsided, you can crack open a capsule and put some in their drink of choice.  (If you have a super spy that’s picky like I do, put in in a dark colored, closed (straw) cup so that they can’t see it.  It has no taste but it is black and can STAIN clothes, etc so keep an eye on them while they drink it.  For smaller kids 1/4 – 1/2 a capsule should do it.

One last tip – Vitamin D! Taking vitamin D can reduce the risk of the common cold and flu.



  • Normal body temperature is 98.6F plus or minus a degree.
  • Oral and rectal temperatures are most accurate so adjust according to your thermometer’s instructions if you take the temperature in another location.
  • Fever for 3 days or so is typical with a virus.
  • Fevers tend to spike in the evening and overnight.
  • HYPOthermia (low temperature) is concerning in the very young and very old.
  • Prevent the spread by washing your hands!
  • Zinc, Vitamin C, D, probiotics, and colostrum are helpful in preventing and shortening the course of common illnesses.