Fever is a hallmark of most childhood illnesses. It is what prompts a parent to call their child’s doctor. It is what tells the mother to keep her child home from school. What is the relationship we have with illness? What is the relationship we have with fever, especially one in our child?
When faced with a fever in our child, a parent can have many different responses and resulting reactions. Some of these are based on the current moment, but most are actually based on beliefs about fevers that we learned in our own childhood. “Don’t let the fever get too high, you should treat the fever with Tylenol or Ibuprofen, you should take the child to the doctor, you should let them sweat it out, you should eat this, don’t eat that”, and on and on... Our views of fever determine our relationship with it.
Fevers have been treated the same way for centuries, and the treatment had nothing to do with the fever directly. Actually, it wasn’t the fever that was treated, it was the patient who was treated, or maybe even society that was treated. The fever was, rightly so, seen as a symptom of a larger issue. We have since changed the way we see a fever, and feel the fever should be dealt with directly. We have fragmented fever out of the context of the whole body, objectifying it and making it the enemy. A sort of cult of fear develops around fevers. As we became more and more afraid of fevers, we have lost our inherent wisdom about health and illness. There are still some working with fevers who see them as beneficial, but this is highly the exception. Because of the fear of fever, along with our separation from inherent wisdom, we turn to the doctor or the pharmacist or even the herbalist to tell us what to do.
All the ways we treat fevers boil down to two types of relationships. Resistance and Yielding. Resistance is stopping. Resistance is Tylenol. Resistance is antibiotics. Resistance is Oil of Oregano. Resistance is Colloidal Silver.
Yielding, on the other hand, is NOT stopping; even the traffic signs are different. One is yellow, the other is red. Yielding allows flow-through, adding something new to an already functioning system, without causing dysfunction in the process.
Resistance, such as giving Tylenol to suppress a fever, creates a force against the higher consciousness of the body. It causes a type of hardening, a paralysis that renders the neuro-endocrine-immune system less able to do it’s job for growth and development of the child. It is the suppression of the fever that creates the missed opportunity for the developmental leap that would otherwise occur from clearing of the gut and warming the nerve sheaths all the way out to the toes and fingers.
Our higher consciousness doesn’t judge. It only works to serve the body. There is not one part of the body that serves itself; every part serves the whole. If we tell the immune system, “Back off, we got this,” the immune system actually backs off. Our body grows as it moves through illness when the properly guided. The challenge of illness creates an opportunity for our interwoven communication system to learn new things.
Fevers, appropriately managed, mature the body using the body’s own resources and abilities. What does it look like to yield during a fever? When a child comes down with a fever, the parent looks at the child. How are they feeling, where does it hurt, are they eating, are they vomiting? How high is the fever and which way is it going? By watching the movement in the child, we can create opportunities for the fever to move through and out of the body, while causing healing on the way. We are not suppressing the fever response, but rather allowing it to move and not get stagnant. When the fever does get stagnant in an area, such as in the head, things like meningitis are more likely. It is the lack of flow, not the location during any one point in time that confers the risk. Things like compresses, leg wraps, and homeopathy all serve to get the body moving in a healing direction, without suppressing the illness and driving it deeper.
Healing is something we all do every day. It is part of the natural process. We have the daily choice of how to implement that healing. Will we watch disease come into the body, ignore it or worse resist it, and contribute to the breakdown? Or will we yield to open channels for flow and communication that is clear of filters and roadblocks?
Healing involves all of us. There is a responsibility to see what lives in our relationships. We need to look at our own daily contribution of resistance, especially in the relationship within our bodies and without in society as they ultimately reflect each other. We are all connected and the resistance can serve to pass the chains of hurts to another person and bury those hurts deep within our “selves.” Until every human is free, none of us are. This is where love comes in, to keep us wanting to connect with each other. Love gives us the chance to let go of the resistance that isn’t serving the greater goals. Love gives us the gift to continue healing within relationship. Love allows us to remain conscious of our contributions to our partner, our children, and our society. By doing this we can remain in flow with what we meet up against instead of fighting it, and we can then reintegrate our fragmented pieces back into the whole. That is healing on the deepest level. It can all start with how we create our relationship with fever.
“Anthroposophic physicians hold a beneficial view on fever, rarely suppress fever with antipyretics, and often use complementary means of alleviating discomfort. In AM, fever is considered to have the following potential benefits: promoting more complete recovery; preventing infection recurrences and atopic diseases; providing a unique opportunity for caregivers to provide loving care; facilitating individual development and resilience; protecting against cancer and boosting the anticancer effects of mistletoe products. (1)”
Jeanne Schirm, RN, ANS, is an anthroposophical nurse who just published a book called “Essentials of Homecare: A Gentle Approach to Healing” - a wonderful resource on healing at home.