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December 14, 2010

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TCM on treating fever in children

MANY parents are fearful when their children's body temperature elevates. Fever is in most cases a response to infections, diseases or extreme (also emotional) conditions for the child. Treatments to reduce fever are diverse, so what is the best thing to do?

In Western medicine mostly, the primary purpose is to reduce the fever promptly. This is often done with the help of fever-lowering or anti-inflammatory medicine, a cooling fan or wet towels to take away the external heat.

Traditional Chinese medicine, however, believes that bringing down the fever directly won't help the patient in the long run and often increases the recovery time. Fever has a reason and always comes with accompanying symptoms that help identify the root cause.

Fever's root causes are divided into external causes (cold wind, hot wind, warm heat and damp heat) and internal damage, such as yin (cold energy) deficiency and qi (energy) and blood deficiency. According to the specific diagnosis, the TCM doctor prescribes a herbal remedy that not only stops the fever but also cures the cause as it eliminates wind, cold, heat and dampness, balances yin and yang (hot energy) and tonifies qi and blood.

Especially when dealing with children, it is important to note that children have different constitutions from adults. Their qi is weak, thus, their lung organ system is weak.

Furthermore, children's yin and yang are not mature; usually children have an excess of yang. As a result, they have a higher tendency to be hyperactive and heated. Furthermore, diseases progress fast in children; however, they also respond well to medication and recover more quickly than adults. In conclusion, children need more gentle medical techniques and lower doses of medication.

Chinese medicine recommends giving the body some time to cure itself. Covering the child in layers of blankets to reduce the temperature (by sweating) is one "home" treatment in China. Also, Tiger Balm and oils (like peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus or tea tree) can be beneficial. Some practitioners also advise rubbing downward on the child's spine to push down internal heat.

In general, it is always the best to visit a doctor (especially when the fever is already over 38.5 degrees Celsius and lasts longer than three days) in order not to endanger the child's health.

(Doris Rathgeber is the founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics.)

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