Lemon Socks for a Fever


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 an clear, and even ask for food, but the temperature will not be forced into suppression, thus allowed to finish its job.


My patient’s feet awaiting treatment.

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-soaked flannel on the left awaiting a wool sock, outer wool sock on the right.

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.

In my next post, I will discuss the fevers in more depth – including the risks and possible benefits of fever reducing. Got questions? Ask them below. What are your favorite remedies for a fevering child?

This post can be seen at the following blog carnivals:  Sunday School and Simple Lives Thursday.  Hop on over to check out some other posts you may enjoy!

Lemon Socks

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  1. L.S. says

    Interesting. Calcium Lactate is pretty cool for fevers, too. I would think the two might work in conjunction with each other. The lemon socks helping with comfort, and the calcium lactate allowing the fever to do it’s job, but without getting too high.

  2. says

    Rubbing peppermint oil on the feet is supposed to help too. Although I don’t try to bring a fever down, unless it’s been over 3 or so days or it’s 104 or so. It’s the body’s way of fighting the infection. If you try to bring it down, it will extend the infection.

  3. Laura G says

    I am a big fan of not reducing a fever as well. I am an acupuncturist as well and always give herbs and/or homeopathic remedies when fever strikes. However, in the past year my son has had 3 febrile seizures. For the first one (he had just turned a year) , the fever was actually quite high and nothing I did brought it down. The last 2 happened a few months ago. His fever was quite low at 99 all day so I did nothing. But then it quickly went up to 101 and he had a seizure. I did resort to baby Motrin and as it wore off, another seizure occurred. Our holistic doctor told me I just need to treat the fevers from now on to avoid any damage. Sorry for the over load of info but I am hoping that you cover febrile seizures in your fever post. Using fever reducing medication goes against what I feel is the right thing to do, but then again I cannot have him having frequent seizures. Thanks for all the great info.

    • says

      Hi Laura – It is my understanding that febrile seizures, while scary, are not an indication of anything pathological. Just keep your little one comfortable and safe during an episode. He is likely to grow out them soon.

    • Elizabeth says

      You also can try (and I’ve read that it is more effective and quicker acting than fever reducing drugs) peppermint oil. Rubbed in soles if feet or along spine. Avoid the face – could make your child’s eyes water terribly. Supposed to take about 5-10 minutes to work. Just a thought.

    • Macy says

      I am a CNP and I agree with Laura, fever over 101 need to be treated specially if a kid had Hx. of febrile seizure. you need risk benefit analysis.. seizure can cause brain damage.

      • Haley says

        Both of my daughters have had febrile seizures, the most recent being my youngest at 15 months. While I am a firm believer in holistic approach to health, when either of them break 101 I bring put the suppressors.
        My youngest suffered 3 febrile seizures one day the week before Christmas last year. The 3rd one lasted well over an hour (she was en route to the hospital via ambulance at 7 minutes in). Her co2 levels reached a highly toxic and fatal level of 98% due to her not being able to fully exhaust her breaths and take in fresh oxygen. She needed resuscitation at one point, and the doctors were preparing her for life support to help her breathe and rid the highly toxic levels as her little body was not capable of doing that task anymore.
        Saying I have never been so terrified and lost in my life is a drastic understatement. I prayed until my knees were numb, and kept on praying. I had the 4 walls of the bereavement room in the er alone to echo my wails. My husband was 6 hours out of town on business when it happend and made it in 4 hours back to our hospital (erratic driving naturally).
        Thanks to God she pulled through, but endured many tests (CT scan, EEG, Lumbar puncture, and countless blood tests I hated her being subjected to) and a week in pediatrics.
        Amazingly she is developing normally now (brain damage can occur 5 minutes in to a seizure…), but she is still considered an out patient because her liklihood of another episode is so high.
        I came across this post in search of some comfort, as again she has a high fever and my husband is out of town. I’ve done everything to comfort her, wet socks and all, and I’m praying we never have to face that monster again. Holistic methods are so fantastic for many health issues…but I would never recommend anyone to sit idly by as your young one endures a febrile seizure. They must be taken as a serious sign to get medical help asap after 2 minutes.

  4. Tina Warren says

    Adjustments (I’m a chiropractor), and ferrum phos homeopathic for anything over 101. The one time in 12 years he got over 103, I gave him a fever reducer (he was also really lethargic, no appetite, no desire even to watch TV). Under 100, we do hot Epsom salt and Apple Cider Vinegar baths with essential oils depending on symptoms (and then follow up with an EVOO rubdown and full-body wrap and cuddle!). We also push Vit D3, Vit C and lots of healthy foods and fresh juice.

  5. Najla B says

    Though I am a holistic practitioner, I am just too terrified of seizures and too much of a wimp to watch my child scream in discomfort. It is a terrible dilemma for me as I do know the purpose of a fever, and yet I just can’t do it. I like the suggestion of xiao chai hu wan. the cancer thing is very guilt provoking indeed, but I don’t know where the data on that one would have come?

    • says

      HI Najla – This book (available online) has some interesting data about the link of cancer and fever suppression.

      Gorter, Robert and Erik Peper. Fighting Cancer: A Non-toxic Approach. North Atlantic, Berkley: 2011.

      Personally, it makes sense that repeat suppression of fever can’t possibly be a good thing, but I think in most cases, cancer occurs because of an accumulation of many different factors over time. In other words, I don’t think occasional fever reducing meds are going to directly lead to cancer on their own. Just my gut feeling.

  6. Kyung says

    I’m also an acupuncturist and we do herbs and acupuncture for fevers (no retention of the needles for the younger ones). I agree that a fever is helpful but the kids shouldn’t be too uncomfortable. We use the herbs and acupuncture to bring the temp down to a comfortable level (usually anything between 99 to 101f). That way it’s still fighting the virus or infection and the kids can read or play quietly and eat if they feel like it. They’re not upset or lethargic. There are many reasons a fever can get too high such as too much “heat” in the liver or stomach or “phlegm” in their system. If your child gets very high fevers or convulsions, have them checked out by a holistic practitioner when they are well to prevent those issues in the future. Thanks Emily for your great blog!

    • mary jo fanjul says

      My daughter was diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The doctors want to give her enbrel shots. I need help as to what else can be done.

  7. says

    I love using Herbs for Kids Temp Assure and sponging with a mix of lavender essential oil, apple cider vinegar, and filtered water.

    I love the lemon socks idea. Living in SoCal, we always have lemons, so I plan to give this a try! Thanks for the great recipe.

  8. Cheryl says

    Wow…this really worked!!! My daughter was spiking a fever at 103.5 all day and nothing was helping her. I went on the computer and this was the only post I found about LEMON SOCKS, others mentioned egg white, onion, vinegar and cold socks. My daughter was miserable and this seemed like the only option she would let me try. So we did it with a pair of cotton ankle socks soaked in lemon with wool socks. Within 30 minutes she went from laying limply on the couch to sitting up and asking how long she had to keep these wet socks on. We took the socks off and took her temperature again and it was down to 101.4!! So right before bedtime we did it again and she was so much more comfortable, talking, and asking for more water. Not sure if it was a conincidence but I do know that I would definitely try it again. THANK YOU for sharing this method!

  9. Michaela says

    Interesting, back in Prague where I am from, we use vinegar socks for the same purpose – I have been using it on my 3 kids since they were little – fortunately we don’t mind the smell and it goes away soon. May need to try the lemons too !

  10. Jodi S says

    My 2 yr old had a febrile seizure last month, and I felt so guilty because I don’t give Tylenol or Motrin for fevers. But now I must admit, I’m a bit freaked out by fevers. She woke up from a nap a couple weeks ago burning hot, and since her ears had not cleared infection according to the recent pediatrician check, I panicked thinking she would have another seizure. I did give her Motrin, but I sat her in the tub for at least 30 minutes with a cup or two of Apple Cider Vinegar. Her temp went down degree by degree and eventually was gone a couple hours later and did not return. I tried the ACV in the bath with my other daughter but it didn’t reduce or eliminate her fever.

    I still want the fever to do it’s job, and I will do anything (before panicking and giving Motrin) to keep the kids cool in the hopes a fever doesn’t suddenly spike and cause another seizure. Scariest moment in my life to date, and I’ve had a lot of scary health things at this point with my 4 kids!!!!

      • leah says

        I work as a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Nurse in one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation. Although I’m trained in western medicine, I’m a huge proponate of complimentary medicine. With that being said, febrile seizures are not harmless!!!! True, many times febrile seizures can be benign, and an isolated event. However, I have seen many small children sustain brain damage due to extended seizures and the hypoxic events associated with such seizures. I have also seen children die from these “generally harmless” seizures. Bottom line is to “treat” the fever, by whatever means necessary. Whether thats by homeopathic means or Tylenol/Motrin, and to call EMS “911” when a child has ANY seizure!

    • Audrey says

      I feel the same way! I don’t know what to do. I try healthy remedies and we eat EXTREMELY well, but after my son’s seizure a few months ago do to a spiked fever (he was teething and got sudden ear infections), I have given the best option of fever reducer possible…Now I worry about his liver. Any one know of a gentle natural liver detox that would help. Certain juicing combinations? etc? He is 21 months. Right now molars are coming in and his feet are wrapped in the lemon and socks. Thank you. Trying an apple cider vinegar bath next. Already caved into the fever reducer once today.

  11. krystal says

    So last year my so ran a fever of over 105 for three
    days! I let it run its course, cause thats what ive heard
    to do…..Biggest mistake of my life!….When i finally
    took him to his peditrician, he was taken by ambulance
    to the childrens hospital, where he stayed there four
    days & almost died on us!! Never again!

  12. Rochelle says

    Yes, it is good to allow a fever to run it’s course but don’t let it get to the point where your child is in danger! You have to be diligent and watch their symptoms. I always tell my friends and family to watch carefully and if the fever is over 103.5 for more than three or four hours AND you can NOT bring it down naturally with baths, homeopathic remedies or other natural treatments than give them Motrin. Never let a fever of a 105 go on for THREE DAYS!!! NOT even one day with calling the doctor. The only time my kids have had a fever that high they ended up having strep throat. Always go with your gut as a mother. Absolutely, a fever is there for a reason and it should be left alone unless the child has too high or too long of a fever. If your child becomes lethargic or delirious with any fever they should always be seen by a doctor. Also I think if a child is having seizures I would definitely give them some Ibuprofen an get them to a hospital. I always get up all night long and check my sick child because you never know when their fever will spike or their symptoms get worse. Better to be on the safe side. I am definitely going to try the lemon socks…Love it!

  13. Jodi S says

    The problem is with the seizure…the neurologist told us that even if we had given Motrin, she probably would have had a seizure anyway. The seizure occurs when there is a sudden rapid spike in temperature, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how high it’s at….meaning it could be 102 and suddenly spike to where the brain sort of “shorts out” so to speak…..it’s impossible to control that aspect of it or to know when it might happen or not happen. It’s in the good Lord’s hands and we do what we can to the best of our knowledge and ability. Plus, a seizure usually occurs because of a secondary infection, as in the ear infection my daughter had that we didn’t know about. She hadn’t been all that sick up until that point. The best thing we can do is learn, try, and pray! And doctors are there to prevent death (as opposed to promote health). :) They have their place, and it’s an important one.

    • says

      “Doctors are there to prevent death (as opposed to promote health). :) They have their place, and it’s an important one.” I LOVE this. So true. Thanks for sharing, Jodi! :)

  14. Kat says

    I learned about Ginger baths when I married my husband. His Grandmother always taught them to use them for fevers and they work amazingly. Draw a warm bath and add ginger powder from kitchen or ginger root to the water and stay under as long as possible. When getting out, wrap in a blanket from head to toe and your body will sweat out the fever.
    What I have learned recently, is that the ginger causes the body to fight the body invaders (whatever is causing the fever) and the fever will diminish naturally and not too quickly. The baths have always worked well for my family including my son who had the fever seizures from birth to about age 8.

    • Jodi S says

      Wow, Kat, your son had seizures until age 8? That is scaring me! My daughter is only 2.5. Hoping she never has another one. How much ginger (dried/powdered from the kitchen) would you add to a bath? Did your son have a seizure in spite of having a ginger bath? Did he usually have an ear infection or something else going on when he would experience a seizure? Just trying to learn all I can. although every person’s situation is different. Thanks for the ginger bath tip!

    • briana says

      Kat – how much ginger powder. I am interested, my daughter has FS too. Did this cause the fever to reduce slowly?

  15. Kayla says

    Do you think that using warm water with Lemon EO would have a similar effect? I usually have lemons on hand, but if the need arises and I don’t have lemons….do you think it would work since EO’s work into the body well, etc.

  16. says

    Here in Germany, my ped advised that cooled peppermint tea would contain just enough of the essential oils to cool off a feverish baby when added to a sponge bath. She advised against a full bath, since that might be too shocking to a tiny body. I’ll add the lemon sock idea, and the ginger for older kids, thanks!

  17. Maddie says

    My father is a physician, so we all tend to be a little “med-happy”. I remember several instances during my younger years when I’d get so sick with a fever that wouldn’t come down, despite alternating between ibuprofen and acetominophen every four hours; and my mother would start bagging me with ice and cold wash cloths. My daughter recently went through a fever that we managed with infant ibuprofen, and kept down to 100 degrees. I finally ended up putting her in a cool bath and letting her play in there for a while. Lucky for me she love the pool, even if its a bit chilly so the bath was no big deal. Is there a point when a fever is too high to allow it to continue? Fevers make my little one so uncomfortable and miserable, and cuddling tends to only make the fever worse with my body heat against her.

  18. says

    Hi Maddie, thanks for the question. I would suggest reading this post on Fever Fears to look out for the danger signs and what you can do to keep your little girl comfortable when she’s feverish.

  19. cia parker says

    The Waldorf medical practice recommends this therapy, but warns that it should not be used while the fever is still rising and still needs to be high. You can tell by feeling the calves of the legs: if they are cool, you should not use this or any other method to reduce the fever. When the body is ready to disperse the heat, the calves will feel warm, and then you can use the lemon wraps. I used it on my daughter when she was younger, and was surprised to find that her calves really did feel cool even though she had a high fever, so I waited. They eventually felt warm, and then the lemon wraps reduced the fever immediately by one degree!

  20. kara says

    How do you get your kids to take the fermented cod liver oil? I have a 4 year old who doesn’t swallow capsules yet and I can’t figure out how to get it in him. I can’ barely take it, its so strong (we have the blue ice liquid kind flavored with carob/banana).

    He won’t drink smoothies (although even the smoothie I made I could still taste the fish!)



  21. Shawna says

    I used to work for a Naturopathic/Homeopathic doctor who prescribed wet cotton socks (soaked with vinegar water) covered with larger dry wool socks. He said the body would draw down the heat to your feet and stimulate the immune system. By morning socks were dry and fever broken.


  1. […] This is an old remedy used by grandmothers and great-grandmothers that is thought to “draw out” the fever – people still swear by it! Soak a couple washcloths in apple cider vinegar and place on forehead and tummy, or add a cup to a warm bath. Some people also soak a cloth in and wrap it around the soles of the patient’s feet – my friend Emily at Holistic Squid says lemons work, too. […]

  2. […] This is an old remedy used by grandmothers and great-grandmothers that is thought to “draw out” the fever – people still swear by it! Soak a couple washcloths in apple cider vinegar and place on forehead and tummy, or add a cup to a warm bath. Some people also soak a cloth in and wrap it around the soles of the patient’s feet – my friend Emily at Holistic Squid says lemons work, too. […]

  3. […] to get a fever down?  Try ‘lemon socks.‘  Sounds crazy, right?  But Holistic Squid swears they […]

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