If you have read much of what I write about fever, you might find it strange that I tell parents not to give their children Tylenol™ and Motrin™ when they have a fever. In fact, if you read my Myths & Facts section on fever you will see this:
Myth #3: If I reduce my child’s fever, they will get better sooner.
This, again, is FALSE. This is what the makers of Tylenol™ and Motrin™ would like you to believe. However it is undeniably wrong. In studies of children with routine infection, those who were treated with fever reducers stayed sick longer. If you think about it – it just makes sense. If the body is making a fever to stop an infection from thriving and you give a medicine to bring the body temperature back down to normal, the infection is likely to start thriving again. This translates into more work for the immune system and a duration of illness that is LONGER if you take a fever reducer.
Now the down side to fever is that it makes you feel very bad. Again, through intelligent design, our body wants us to lay in bed all day long so that all resources and energies can be diverted to getting well. As it turns out we in Western society are just too busy to take a few days off, rest, and get well. Thus we pop in a few pills, bring the fever down, feel better for a few hours, go on about our business, and then repeat the cycle over and over again. Sure, this may get you through work or your kid through school, but the overall duration of illness is generally longer. Worse, you will be sharing your illness with all of your co-workers and your kid with all their classmates.
My Experience… As a Parent
Now it is one thing to tell you what to do as a doctor. It is an entirely different thing to do it… As a Parent. So I am here to report on my experience at home with this practice. My first son (now almost 2 years old) has been typical in most ways. Getting sick is no exception. In his first year of life he was sick about 5 or 6 times.
With every illness where he ran fever, we had the typical parental urge to do something. However, I try to practice what I preach. For virtually every illness he had, we gave him plenty of fluids, let him take extra naps, and avoided the use of Tylenol™ and Motrin™. We kept an eye out for the more worrisome signs like:
- lethargy or extreme fussiness
- difficulty breathing
- severe pain
To our surprise (but not really when you read the FACTS about fever) he was generally only sick for about 24 hours. Only on one occasion was he sick longer. On that occasion he was sick for about 3 days in May of last year. He picked up that particular illness from me. Funny thing is that I thought I needed to take Tylenol™ and Motrin™ so I could take care of my various responsibilities. Ironic thing is that I was sick for a full 10 days. My son, on the other hand, who got sick after me, was better before me? Only difference – I loaded up every day on Tylenol™ and Motrin™. He just got lots of extra rest, plenty of fluids, and we let the fever work its magic.
Of course, in the end, you must decide. Click here to read more about fever.