A few weeks ago I finally got around to listening to the audio recording of Dr. Tom Cowan‘s talk at the last Wise Traditions Conference on childhood fevers. An interesting lecture, Dr. Cowan discusses a possible link of chronic fever suppression to the propensity for developing cancer later in life. Hmm. I certainly am not a huge proponent of fever reducing medicines (like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin) used in excess, but his presentation still gave me pause.
A few days later, my five year old woke up with his first fever in a long while, so I had a chance to face my opinions on treating a fever first hand.
I helped my red-faced son into comfy jammies, hydrated him, and tucked him into bed. He seemed to be quite miserable and uncomfortable, since he was shrieking at a very high pitch. Though I don’t typically take temperatures, I did this time, and he registered just under 103°F. I gave him some homeopathic arnica pellets for the body aches, some extra fermented cod liver oil and elderberry syrup, and a Chinese herbal formula called Xiao Chai Hu Tang, which can help support a child’s immune system in many cases, especially when there’s a fever present.
Then on the advice of Dr. Cowan, I tried a method that I had previous heard of but never tried: lemon socks. Dr. Cowan explains that if we look to nature, we can find the cures we need. A lemon fruit can withstand extreme heat and even thrives in such a severe climate, making it an ideal therapeutic tool for navigating a fever. Lemon, when applied in the method described below, will help to alleviate the child’s discomfort while allowing the fever to continue burning. The child may appear more alert and clear, and even ask for food, but the temperature will not be forced into suppression, thus allowing it to finish its job.
How to Make Lemon Socks
Ideally you can collect lemons from a nearby tree, but organic lemons will also suffice. Do not use store-bought bottled lemon juice, as the energetics will be lost in a processed product so far removed from the actual lemon.
You will need:
- 2-4 lemons, depending on their juiciness
- Hot filtered water
- A medium sized bowl
- 2 thin wash cloths or flannels (I used cut up flannel swaddle blankets)
- 2 large wool socks – use heavy cotton if you do not have wool, but do not use synthetic fiber. I found that an adult sock worked best for my five year old once it was slipped over the hot flannel.
Lemon Socks Method:
- If you are using store bought lemons, first pour some boiling water over the lemons to remove any wax that has been added to prolong the lemons’ shelf life (this goes for organic lemons too!)
- Place the cloths into the bowl.
- Squeeze the lemons completely, making sure to juice all the way to the pulp and squeeze the skin gently into the juice to include some of the oil from the rind.
- Pour the lemon juice onto the cloth in the bowl.
- Add just enough hot water to drench the cloth.
- At your child’s bed, let your little one know what you are going to do. Tell him that it won’t hurt a bit and will help him to feel better.
- Wring out one cloth into the bowl making sure it is hot but not burning, quickly wrap it around your child’s foot, and cover with the wool sock.
- Repeat the wringing, wrapping, and covering with the second foot.
- Gently tuck your little one’s feet under the covers.
- Within 15-30 minutes you may notice a shift in your child’s comfort level.
- With a high fever, you may notice that the socks dry surprisingly fast. You can repeat the process as often as you’d like, using your child’s demeanor and your intuition as guides.
To be perfectly honest, at the time, I didn’t really think the lemon socks did much, but in retrospect, my son was able to calm his shrieking and get some rest once the socks were on. Upon waking he requested a second round of lemons socks which he insisted on keeping on his feet for the rest of the day. The next morning he awoke and was practically as good as new.
The most important thing during a fever is to help a child stay hydrated, rested, and comfortable. Whether my son’s calming, comfort, and speedy recovery was due to the herbs, arnica, lemon socks, daily cod liver oil and elderberry syrup, a nutrient dense diet, all or none of the above, it doesn’t really make a difference to me. Lemon socks (like the other remedies and preventative measures I choose) will likely be making a repeat appearance the next time fever strikes at my home because this type of approach makes sense to me and my child seemed comforted by the act.