Fever should not be feared. It’s the body’s means of fighting a bacterial or viral invasion. Reducing fever with medication only reduces the body’s fighting capabilities and there are rare neurological complications from combining any aspirin, Tylenol (acetaminophen), or Motrin (ibuprofen) type of medication with some viruses.
It is a standard recommendation that the pediatrician be called when there is fever over 100.4 F (38C) in a baby under 3 months old. Once a doctor confirms that a baby is not in any real danger, it’s up to the parents to care for their sick baby at home.
Some doctors assure us that a fever can never get too dangerously high, while others suggest upper limits from 104 to 106F. Many parents feel compelled to try something for a child’s fever somewhere in that range if for no other reason than the discomfort it can cause the child. The theoretical risk of an excessively high fever is damage to the brain. Many children respond to fevers over 101 with swimmy headed feelings or even febrile seizures, which are found to be harmless but can be frightening to parents. Since it’s the head that is the concern, and over-the-counter medications are not ideal choices, cooling the head with cold cloths and even a bit of ice is a great option. This will not block the infection-fighting power of the fever in the rest of the body. A cool bath helps too if one really wants more cooling.
The Recommended Daily Intake for vitamin C in a child 1-3 years of age is 25mg and the suggested upper limit is 400mg. We know that RDIs for vitamin C are usually pretty low but maybe something around that is a good daily dose to add to the C derived from your child’s daily fruits and vegetables. You may want to just provide a daily multivitamin, though it’s not necessary in a child who eats her veggies. For an illness, you can increase vitamin C to a few hundred mg per day for your two year old. Some of my other favorites for preventing and fighting illnesses are grapefruit seed extract, grapeseed extract, goldenseal, astragalus, and bioflavonoids. There are good research studies behind all of these. Of course, you don’t need to give all of these. You’ll probably find a nice children’s formula with some of these. Echinacea may be helpful for an active illness but you don’t want to use it daily. It’s not harmful; just less effective used daily.
A baby that is not yet on solid foods should derive all the vitamin C they need from their mommy milk or formula. When baby is challenged with an illness, a breastfeeding mom can take more probiotics, Echinacea, grapeseed extract, or the like, as well as more vitamin C, and the levels supplied in her milk may increase. Mom’s body may also provide specific antibodies for her baby’s illness through the entero-mammary pathway. Formula does not have this advantage and is very low in antioxidants. I would probably be tempted to supplement a little vitamin C with rose hips or bioflavonoids to a formula-fed baby over a few months, when some illness is going around.