You may not want to pop a pill after reading this…
A fever can be super scary. One minute you’re fine - and the next you’re alternating between being hotter than Hades and feeling as if you’ve been unceremoniously dunked in an ice pool. And then there’s that energy-sapping all-over body fatigue…
The bad news? A dreaded virus or bacteria has struck you down. But there’s also good news. A fever is your body’s way of attacking all those foreign invaders to kill them off before they do you any harm.
So fevers actually help – not hurt. They’re a symptom of your body very effectively doing its job. And by popping a pill, you could be stopping this natural healing process.
Find out how essential oils can safely and naturally ease the symptoms of a fever while letting your body do what it does best…
WHAT CAUSES A FEVER?
Infections - most commonly either viral or bacterial - are the primary cause. But a fever could also arise as a result of other factors such as fungi, parasites and certain toxins.
Bacterial and viral infections have a number of things in common. They are both caused by microbes – bacteria and viruses – and spread in similar ways: coughing and sneezing; close contact with infected people; touching contaminated surfaces, food or water; and contact with animals or insects.
But there are also enormous differences between bacteria and viruses.
Most bacteria are harmless – the bulk of them actually help the body – and fewer than 1% of bacteria cause diseases in people. Most of the ‘bad’ bacterial infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
Some examples of bacterial infections which can cause a fever are a badly infected wound, strep throat, urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, food poisoning, chickenpox and bacterial meningitis.
Unlike bacteria, most viruses do cause disease. Viruses can’t survive for too long without a host - like your body - where they attach themselves to cells, reproducing and reprogramming these cells until they eventually die or, in some instances, land up diseased. What’s more, it’s of absolutely no use popping pills as antibiotics do not work against viruses. Your only course of action is to get vaccinated against a specific virus.
Examples of viral infections which can cause a fever are the common cold or flu, a coronavirus like COVID-19, SARS or MERS, dengue fever, rabies, norovirus, and hepatitis B.
The good news is that whenever your immune system detects any form of foreign invader, whether it be bacterial, viral or otherwise, it immediately leaps into action by increasing the body’s temperature to kill off any potential infection. And before you know it, you have a fever…
THE SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT OF A FEVER
The sweats, the shakes, the headaches, the chills, and all-over body fatigue – all the classic signs of a fever. If your temperature is just a degree or so above your normal body temp of 98.6 F (37 C), it’s considered a low-grade fever. It’s only when it reaches 100.4 F (38 C) that you reach full-blown fever mode.
A fever is not an illness. It cannot be ‘cured’. However, many of us may reach for a Tylenol or Ibuprofen to help alleviate the symptoms. But this may not always be the right choice…
A fever is actually a very clever response by your body to kill off an invasion of viruses or bacteria, as many of these organisms cannot live at a higher temperature – even if it’s only an extra degree or two.
The downside of the temperature increase is that while the brain is now sitting at a new setpoint, the body feels colder as it hasn’t yet caught up with that setpoint. As a result, it starts working to generate heat by contracting and relaxing muscles – hence the shivering, or chills.
If you allow your body to naturally do the germ-fighting work that it’s designed to do, the symptoms will eventually subside of their own accord. Hence the best advice for treating a fever is to actually ‘wait it out’ until your body works out all the foreign invaders in your system.
If the most helpful course is to leave your body to do what it does best, then how can you at least ease some of the symptoms of a fever? That’s where natural home remedies like essential oils can help…
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HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS TO BREAK A FEVER
Essential oils are true little multitaskers that can help with a wide array of fever symptoms. Got the sweats? They can cool you down. A headache or muscle pain? They can also help with those. And when you have the chills? Yes – that too. Think of a symptom and it’s highly likely that one or more essential oils will be able to help.
Even better, some essential oils can actually disrupt the lifecycle of a virus (like the flu or a coronavirus), so killing it off before it even becomes active. Which is why it can be helpful to use a blend of a few oils to maximise their effect when treating a fever.
The great thing about essential oils is that they can be used in so many different ways to help with a fever. They can be inhaled via diffusion (or direct out of the bottle) for almost immediate relief; their healing properties can be absorbed through your skin; they can cool you down or warm you up; and be powerful disinfectants for any surfaces and the air around you to avoid spreading any germs. And if you’re struggling to sleep, they can help with that too.
Just choose the best essential oil - or oils - for some much-needed relief from a fever…
Sometimes called ‘fever oil’, it’s not surprising that eucalyptus tops the list of essential oils that help reduce feverish symptoms. With its fresh, minty scent and cooling effect, not only does it lower the body’s temperature, but it also opens up the arteries and veins to relieve blood pressure and allow more oxygen-rich blood to flow through the body. This helps ease the pain and inflammation that are commonly associated with a fever.
Eucalyptus can also help fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections in your body, as it’s been found to get rid of several germs that cause illnesses. And if you’re suffering from a stuffy nose or a cough, it helps clear up lung and nasal congestion.
How to use eucalyptus oil for a fever: Use a cold compress 3 times a day. Soak a wash cloth in a small bowl of cold water with 3 drops eucalyptus essential oil and 2 drops of lavender, squeeze and place on the forehead. Leave for a couple of minutes and repeat the process.
Otherwise, toss a eucalyptus infused eye mask and neck pillow into the freezer, and drape over the forehead as well as the back of the neck that leads to the part of the brain that helps regulate your body’s temperature. Or you can use a cooled eucalyptus spa blankie for all over body relief.
Research has also shown that the vapor from diffusing a few drops each of lavender oil and eucalyptus oil has positive benefits for a fever caused by a virus. Lavender will also make it easier to get to sleep when you’re suffering.
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Tea Tree Oil
A well-known home remedy to help your body fight off infection, this powerful antibacterial and anti-viral oil can help relieve fever and its related symptoms – and fast. A study found that it is effective against the flu virus within only 5 to 10 minutes of exposure. Tea tree essential oil helps contribute to the efficient functioning of white blood cells which chase away unwanted germs and strengthen your immune defences against a fever.
This camphor scented oil is also probably one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories. It’s been found to bring down redness, swelling, and pain - some of the symptoms of a fever.
How to use tea tree oil for a fever: Mix 3-4 drops of tea tree oil with 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil. Gently massage into the forehead, neck and shoulders.
Use it as a natural disinfectant spray to freshen the air and remove bacteria, viruses and mold from your home. Fill a spray bottle with water and add equal parts tea tree, lemon, peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils to keep the germs at bay.
Holy Basil (Tulsi) Oil
Known as the “Queen of Herbs” and “Mother Nature of Medicine”, this sharp, fresh herbaceous-minty oil is packed with so many nutrients, phytochemicals, terpenes and flavonoids that it has the enviable status of being one of the most powerful herbs worldwide. Shown in several studies to have potent antipyretic (fever reduction) properties, it’s one of the most effective ways to lessen a fever. In fact, this oil’s ability to lower body temperature is similar to aspirin.
As a proven antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and analgesic (painkiller), it can also help kill any microbes causing the infection, and reduce chronic inflammation and pain.
How to use holy basil oil for a fever: Dilute 5 drops of holy basil oil in 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil and dab onto the back of the neck and on the soles of the feet. Repeat three times a day for up to 5 days.
Holy basil pairs well with eucalyptus, lemon or rosemary to help ease a fever. Just add a few drops of two or all three of these oils into a diffuser to permeate the air with a healing aroma.
Eugenol, a compound which makes up 75-80% of clove oil, has been found to have marked antipyretic (fever reduction) activity that helps reduce feverish symptoms. It works in the same way as that of common medications prescribed for fever, such as acetaminophen, but without any of the bad side effects.
Most well-known to provide relief from a toothache, clove oil’s potent anti-inflammatory properties can help also ease any of the aches and pains associated with a fever. In addition to its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that kill off all the germs, the antioxidants in clove oil help rid the body of dangerous free radicals so strengthening the immune system.
How to use clove oil for a fever: Make a cold compress by steeping a wash cloth in a bowl of cold water with 5 drops of clove oil. Place the cold wash cloth on your forehead, replacing it with a fresh one every half an hour.
Clove oil blends well with many essential oils which are also good for a fever - including holy basil, rosemary, cinnamon, lemon, peppermint and lavender. Use a mix of a few of your favorites in a diffuser.
Make use of clove oil’s antimicrobial properties to disinfect surfaces and air. To make a disinfectant spray, fill the bulk of a 16oz glass spray bottle with high proof alcohol (min 60% ethanol - like in vodka - or isopropyl alcohol, AKA rubbing alcohol) and add 30 drops tea tree essential oil, and 15 drops each of clove oil, lemon oil and eucalyptus oil.
If you have a fever, a cold or the flu, the infection-fighting properties of ravintsara oil have been shown to help kill off both viruses and bacteria, while also clearing out excess mucous and preventing sinus infections. It also helps ease headaches, muscle and joint pains, and stress induced fatigue. Its fresh, slightly sweet balsamic aroma can help you sleep better and lift your mood when you are feeling down with a fever.
Not to be confused with the more potent ravensara aromatica oil that should be restricted to adult usage only, the gentler, safer ravintsara oil can be used by all, including children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. However, they both have very different chemical compositions, so can easily be used together.
How to use ravintsara oil for a fever: Mix 3-4 drops of ravintsara oil with 1 teaspoon of carrier oil. Massage gently into both your forehead and neck, repeating three times a day.
Use both oils together by adding a few drops of each to a diffuser to kill off airborne viruses.
Unlike the oils already mentioned, cinnamon’s magic kicks in when the chills set in. Known as circulatory diaphoretics, essential oils like cinnamon, peppermint and ginger increase blood flow and warm up the body. In doing so, they can cause sweating as they work to balance out the body’s temperature. As your body heat dries out your sweat, this can effectively help bring down a fever.
Containing several types of natural antibiotics, cinnamon has also been shown to be effective in eradicating certain viruses and bacteria - even some that can’t be treated by drugs. Killing off germs faster and more effectively helps reduce fever symptoms.
How to use cinnamon oil for a fever: To ease the chills, make a warm compress by adding a few drops each of cinnamon and peppermint oil to a bowl of warm water. Soak a couple of wash cloths, and apply to both the forehead and back of the neck.
To help control the infection, blend 1 drop each of cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, clove and tea tree oils with a tablespoon of carrier oil and apply to the bottom of the feet 4 times daily.
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ESSENTIAL OILS AS A FEVER TREATMENT FOR A CHILD
As essential oils are very concentrated and powerful remedies, it’s important to be cautious when treating a fever with small children and babies. If in doubt, diffusing essential oils into the air is safer than using them on a child’s skin. Even then, they can be irritating for certain skins, so always do a patch test on the inside of the upper arm for 24 hours before using. It’s not advisable to diffuse essential oils around infants under 6 months old.
It’s also important that your baby or child does not touch the areas where oils are applied and then rub their eyes. When using directly on the skin, always dilute to a ratio of 6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil (or 3 drops per tablespoon) for a child or toddler.
Protect your child’s health by following some simple guidelines for using essential oils safely and effectively, and stick to the gentler and safer essential oils.
Well known as the ‘Queen of Sleep’, lavender is a natural sedative that soothes the nerves, relaxes the mind and helps you forget about stress. It’s well known as one of the gentlest oils so is ideal for use with children and babies.
Lavender is also a potent antimicrobial, which means that it helps kill of all sorts of germs whether they be bacterial, viral or fungal. This, together with its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, can make it a powerful natural remedy in the fight against a fever.
How to use lavender oil for a fever: Dilute 3 drops of lavender essential oil in one tablespoon of a carrier oil, and rub into the bottom of the feet and back of the neck. For babies under 6 months, you can use one drop of lavender oil if you have patch tested, while adults can go up to 5 drops for each tablespoon of a carrier oil.
A lavender infused neck pillow or spa mask chilled in the freezer and placed on the back of the neck is another effective cooling method as that’s where the temperature control function of the body is located.
If you or your child have the chills, simply warm up a lavender spa blankie in the microwave to help regulate their all over body temperature.
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Just like lavender, both German chamomile and Roman chamomile are gentle essential oils that have natural soothing effects that have been traditionally used for young children and babies (and adults) who have trouble sleeping.
However, both these oils can also be used to help reduce a fever due to the presence of a compound called bisabolol, a potent anti-inflammatory. But each delivers different results. Roman chamomile will help cool down a high temperature, while German chamomile is a warming oil for when your child has the chills.
How to use chamomile oil for a fever: To cool down the body, add 2 drops each of both Roman chamomile and lavender essential oils to a bowl of cold water to double up on the benefits of both oils. Dip a sponge or wash cloth in the water and gently sponge all over the body starting from the neck.
Once the sponge bath is complete, place a cooled wash cloth on the forehead for a few minutes. Repeat 2 or 3 times daily.
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When fever strikes, essential oils can be a remarkably effective home remedy to get rid of all the symptoms without comprising the natural healing processes of the body. Skip the pills and let nature do its job…
Please check with your doctor before using essential oils to treat any medical concerns.
If temperatures spike at 104 F (40 C) or higher (or 101 F in an infant between 3-6 months), it may be dangerous and require immediate medical attention. As a general guide, regardless of their temperature, if your child is under 6 weeks of age, they should be seen by a doctor immediately. If the child is 3 months or younger, you should call your doctor for guidance.
As essential oils are concentrated and powerful, please use caution when applying directly on the skin because this can cause irritation. Be sure to patch test on the inside of your forearm for 24 hours beforehand.
There's a difference between a eucalyptus or lavender essential oil and a lavender oil, which is simply a perfume. If a label does not clearly state that it is an 'essential oil,' then it is not a pure oil and should not be used as suggested.