Fever: An Inconvenience, or an Opportunity for Growth?

Fevers DG Dec 2017.jpg

Three years ago I started my Developmental Pediatrics practice in Sebastopol. I rented a very small room from a dear Chinese Medicine practitioner friend of mine. My regulars knew that the light in the room always went out about ten minutes after the appointment was started. For my appointments, it was just me and the child and the child’s caregiver(s). We had time to drop into deep conversations about how they experienced health and disease and together we came up with some amazing plans to heal their child.

As an osteopathic medical student, I was in the mix with other students from such prestigious programs as U Penn and Thomas Jefferson. We all used the same books and took the same boards (plus I took the additional osteopathic boards, just in case...). On rounds, the MD students would obediently list off the top three imaging studies and labs to draw for the “case.” I looked into the eyes of the “case” and saw a human being who was scared of being a test subject and just wanted someone to see his suffering.

In my chosen internship, which was a combined MD/DO “transitional year” designed to create a “fully integrated physician”, I trained under a group of Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs). These doctors, mostly male but a few were women, had already completed their medical school and residency in India and England and were here in the US to redo the entire process so that they could practice medicine in the US. These doctors had already managed their own patient load within a busy practice. They already saw the patients who “didn’t read the textbook” and presented with very odd manifestations of the narrowly-described diseases I read about in “Big Robbins.” And yet, they showed up every morning eager to learn a new way of seeing something they had already studied for years.

It was this group of doctors who taught me about the living patient in front of me. I was not allowed to order an imaging test or even a blood test without first talking to the patient, completing a thorough history and physical, and then describing the ongoing physiologic dysfunction and what I expected the tests to show. There was no ordering anything without having touched and talked to the patient. It was expected to ask the patient’s permission to speak about their case in front of them. We had to ask every patient permission to touch them during the examination and at no time while touching the patient were we thinking about anything else. We were there to be fully present to the process.

One day on the way to the operating room, an internal medicine “FMG” showed me how to maintain contact with the patient coming out of anesthesia by placing the middles of my first two fingers in the hollow of the neck, just above the clavicle. In this spot I could feel his heart rate and breathing and have a good idea about the timing of emergence from anesthesia. When the recovery room nurse hooked the patient up to the monitors, I was looking to see if any of the vital signs were different from what I had perceived. By maintaining a conscious connection with the patient, I was able to create a living movie of their physiology instead of a bunch of meaningless, disconnected snapshots.

Taking this training and experience into my private practice, I began looking at the physiology of warmth and how disease manifests as a lack of functional warmth in the body. In 1909, medicine took a dramatic change with the newly-embraced idea of reductionism. By taking apart the human being and treating the “one part” that wasn’t working, medicine could finally relieve the suffering associated with disease. In addition, each part that was isolated from the whole could be labeled, and a treatment could be attached to that label. The more labels created meant the more money that could be made. But healing was never part of the plan, just symptom relief.

Medicines were created to stop the uncomfortable physiologic response that accompanied disease. When the body stopped working, a congestion would appear such as with autoimmune disease or even with the common cold. Medicines to stop pain and medicines to stop runny noses were given. The process stopped. More receptors were discovered, more opportunities to stop the body were created, more money was made, and yet people were still not healing from their illnesses.

Time went by. Antibiotics exploded. Not just the medicine that kills bacteria, but all those “anti” “biotic” gestures such as fever reducers, pills to lower blood pressure, synthetic clothing, air conditioning, leaving children to “cry-it-out”, fake food, lack of meaningful work, the “cold war”, screens, fake light, fear-based living, and any other process that lacks the acknowledge that if life is present, change is eminent, and that the only way for growth is through conscious death, not this every day habit of killing under the false pretense of maintaining control.

This is not some “new age-y” idea. This is life. This is cell biology. My medical school textbook, The Molecular Biology of the Cell, lists seven life processes: growth, respiration, secretion, sensing... Our medicine over the past century-plus has been “anti-biotic”, “anti-physiology”, “anti-life processes.” Instead of meeting a physiologic challenge, learning from it, adapting to it, and growing as a result, we have suppressed our ability to grow, adapt and evolve. For over a hundred years we have told our body to “not respond.” We are meant to create, and when we hit a bump in the road of creation, we evolve.

It is easy then to see how we have changed from a society of heat-generating diseases such as tb, the plague, and cholera, to diseases of lack of warmth. These cold diseases previously only seen in the elderly are increasingly showing up in our children. Neurodegenerative sclerotic disease such as autism (alzheimer’s of childhood), Guillane Barre (Lou Gehrig’s disease of childhood), and the explosion of brain and blood cancers are contributing to the current statistic of 1 in 2 children having one of twenty chronic medical conditions today.

In the past, chronic disease was something associated with age. When an acute process was not managed properly over time, a chronic process would develop. We had the opportunity as a child to have a fevering illness which burned off those substances, which when left in the body, contributed to chronic illness. Children today have a double disadvantage: First, they are filled with toxins. Second, they are not allowed to fever, or go through any process of discomfort so that they might learn and then grow.

Children are born with over 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord, based on a 2005 Environmental Working Group study. If the baby had spent nine months in a uterus where the mom had even “moderately OK functioning” life processes, and did not suppress them with tylenol, antibiotics, and vaccines, the baby would first of all not see the amount of toxins from mother. Those toxins would simply pass through the healthy mother. But also, the baby would be able to use it’s own healthy life processes (again assuming no unnecessary “anti” “biotics” were given in utero) to move toxins on through and out of his system. In only a few extreme cases would toxins accumulate beyond the body’s ability to move them out. We saw this with DES and uterine malformation, and with thalidomide and limb malformation, as two examples.

I applaud mothers (and fathers) who are now starting to question the idea of “treating a fever.” This is a great advance in the ideology of how biology works. Maybe it’s due to the increasing distrust of the medical establishment, or to the increasing awareness that health doesn’t come from a synthetic pill, but more people are waking up to the fact that the body is actually always trying to heal. 

However, with the build-up of toxins in the child and the awareness that the body will always try to heal, this can be a dangerous situation when a fever is allowed to “run it’s course” without someone watching the child closely for complications that may arise.

What does this mean? Taking an example from nature, a river will flow in it’s direction of ease, even to it’s own demise. When the flow of the river gets interrupted, it will accumulate force upstream until a new path is forged. The river is not taking into account the feeling of the mountain as it carves it’s new path. The river is not considering the animals that will not be able to find it’s new path. The river is only trying to maintain an internal balance within itself and how it meets the world. It may be that the river carves too deeply into a mountain and the mountain collapses into the river, forever stopping the flow of water in that valley.

This is the same with fevers. Fevers are a build-up of immune force that was created to cause movement in the system. Many children don’t fever, at least they don’t fever effectively. Commonly a child will have little fevers of 99-100 several times throughout the winter but they never seem to be free of the runny nose and cough for more than a month or so. They look pale with dark circles under their eyes. They complain of belly pain and headaches and UTIs. The cycle of suppression with antibiotics and fever reducers continues.

We see symptoms arising in a child with an acute illness when physiologic flow changes. We are confronted with bacteria and viruses on an order of millions each day, yet we don’t get sick every day. Something changes in the physiology of the child to make them “prone” to illness. That something is an alteration in flow, usually a down-regulation of flow.

This first appears as a fussy child, one that is picking fights with their siblings, one that pushes the food around the plate, and one that is just “having a bad day.” Many parents upon retrospection say that their child was acting up a day or two (or three if they are really paying attention) before the illness manifested into the physical symptoms.

Some children have emotional fevers where a similar build-up is seen, a fever is experienced, and then the fever goes away as fast as it came with no other symptoms. Interestingly studies have been done showing tylenol as an “all around emotional reliever” and it’s not wonder tylenol will “work” to suppress the fever. We also know that children who have their illnesses suppressed will often have the illness reappear until the body fully learns what it needs to learn. Strep throat and ear infections are two common examples.

Children are imitators. We see colds blow through a classroom, taking “everyone down.” This inherent quality of children is meant to be burned off during childhood with proper immune education. Adults that frequently get sick every winter and “imitate” their cubiclemates are those who likely did not have well managed fevering illness in childhood. There is a certain childhood timing of meeting certain illnesses that is critical in the immune education of a person. We know from epidemiologic write-ups that appropriately-managed chickenpox integrated infant reflexes and allowed the crossing of the midline, as well as appropriately-managed measles allowed the two cerebral hemispheres to communicate for increased reading comprehension. We also know that having chickenpox as a child decreases the risk of aggressive brain cancer, and that having measles decreases the risk of multiple myeloma.

Now that we have removed many of these immune education sources through over myriad ways of “anti” “biosing” we are seeing a landslide of young adults with chronic illness, depression, and it’s becoming more common to diagnose 30-somethings with colon cancer which was previously a disease of the “male over age 50 who ate a consistently bad diet.” 

Fevers are a gift from the gods to provide a clean slate for the improved communication within the neuro-endocrine-immune system. Pieces of previously undigested viral and bacterial particles, as well as bits of metals, plastics, and other synthetic material, and even EMFs and residual emotions are finally digested once a fever is allowed to transition through the body and into the metabolic system. When fevers stay in the head, there is not enough room for heat expansion. Seizures and meningitis can result. When the fever is managed properly and brought into the gut (where 80% of our immune cells live) the gut can easily expand to accommodate the increased heat-generated increase in blood vessel size where flow increases (we want the toxins to flow through and OUT of the body, and they can’t if the gut vessels are clamped down).

Even if the fever is brought into the metabolic system, it still needs to be a dynamic process. The flow must continue to move through. When congestion is allowed to occur we see things like appendicitis (in the young child) or cholecystitis (in the middle-aged) or diverticulitis (in older people, although with advancing toxicity, all of these are seen earlier in society).

When a child is fevering, the body should be kept at a consistent temperature (to conserve energy) with the hands, feet, and belly all at the same temperature. Layers of natural fibers help to distribute heat evenly. Don’t forget wool socks. A hot water bottle on the tummy allows for blood vessel expansion, literally drawing the fever into that area and out of the head. Homeopathic bella dona helps the body to move the toxins through and out of the body. If the child is vomiting or having diarrhea, allow the body to rid itself of these fluids but be sure to keep giving warm fluids by mouth so the kidneys, liver and blood vessels have enough fluids to keep things moving. Watch your child for symptoms of neurologic irritation, such as high-pitched screaming, writhing, seizures, or lethargy (extreme tiredness even in mid-day). Children should look fussy and be responsive when they are sick; motionless, sedated children while fevering is a sign to see a doctor quickly.

Limit any extra sensory input, especially those they are artificial. Things like artificial lighting, sugars, dyes, synthetic clothing, screens, and pedialyte drinks all take an increased amount of energy from the body to process, energy that could instead be used to generate healing warmth and blood flow for better immune system conversation.

When a properly supported illness progresses, there is usually 3 to 5 days of fevering. The fever usually starts mid afternoon or early evening, spikes at around 3 am, and then goes down to near normal at around 11am. This cycle repeats itself, using inherent biorhythms, for a few days. The peak of the illness is usually around day 3 (assuming the illness is not a childhood illness like chickenpox, or a recurring fever of leukemia, or hasn’t gotten stuck somewhere in the body such as in strep throat in children or sinusitis in adults). This entire fevering process is obscured when tylenol or motrin is given. In those cases, you are literally flying blind, within an immune system that is “blacked out.”

As the child starts convalescing, the child will appear as if they grew up in some way. They may now be able to ride a bike, or hold a two sided conversation, or like my son, be able to write legibly in a straight line while seated quietly in his desk. Once a parent walks this path of working with the child’s body through illness and sees the developmental leap, they are now awakened to those subtle child development movements that occur even during health. The parent becomes more acutely aware of when their child is about to get sick and starts to limit the child’s sensory input even before symptoms manifest physically. At times, these parent-child dynamics come into such resonance that illnesses come about once a year, and last only a day or two, with a solid developmental leap following.

My own son who is now mostly recovered from autism had scarlet fever in second grade. This fevering illness allowed his body the opportunity to integrate many neural pathways that were previously poorly communicating. After his convalescence, he was able to read and show loving emotion (this was non-existent before his illness) and his writing became neat, orderly, and the size of his letters stayed consistent across the entire page of his main lesson book. Additionally, a fireplace and chimney appeared for the first time in his person-house-tree drawings which corresponded to the disappearance of 8 years of near-constant belly pain.

Of course, if at any time you feel concerned about your child, call your practitioner. Hopefully you have a practitioner that is interested in watching the details and your child’s development. Keep a diary of your child’s experiences with illness, including their responses. In this way, larger patterns can be seen giving clarity to any constitutional issues that may arise.

My hope is that this article gives parents an idea of the current state of the body and health patterns of children today. It is my desire that parents are able to develop the instincts they already have so they are more confident when faced with illness in their child.