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Our 53rd Year

An Attitude Toward Fevers By Phillip Incao, M.D.

Philip Incao received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and then studied Anthroposophic Medicine in England and Switzerland. He practiced family medicine in Harlemville, NY for 23 years, then in 1998 moved to Denver and now has a medical practice there. Dr. Inca() also travels extensively, giving talks on his approach to children’ s health. This interview is reprinted from the John Lee Medical Letter (JLML), edited by John R. Lee, M.D., a long time friend of FACT who did groundbreaking work on the problem of hormonal imbalance so common today. He is author of several books, including Natural Progesterone, available on the FACT Book List.

JLML: Dr. Incao, can you give us a thumbnail sketch of what Anthroposophic medicine is? PHILIP INCAO: Certainly. Anthroposophic medicine is an extension of Western medicine based on the teachings of the Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. It takes into account not just the physical body, but also the. spirit, the soul, and the life force or “chi” of the human being, for example. All of these aspects of the human being affect each other, and we need to consider all of them in healing. I’ve used these principles in my practice for over 25 years, and I’ve found them to be wonderfully effective and gentle.

JLML: One of the hallmarks of your treatment approach is that fevers are beneficial, and that by suppressing a fever with Tylenol or antibiotics, we’re often doing a child more harm than good.

PI: That’s very true. We have a tyranny of fear in the U.S. about fevers and infections, which is understandable. At the turn of the century many children died of pneumonia, scarlet fever or whooping cough. Parents are overanxious to lower a fever, and assume that when it goes down the child is healthy, which is often not the case.

We have a mindset that says it’s bad to have an illness, and that health is the absence of illness. This isn’t always true. Fever is the healing flatne, the great cleanser of the body, and a critical part of developing a child’s immune system. An immune system that is vigorously exercised in childhood is a much

stronger and more able adult immune system than one that has been suppressed since birth with vaccinations, antibiotics and fever-reducing medications. The “use it or lose it” adage applies well here.

JLML: ‘Why do you think it is that children have more fevers, and higher fevers than adults?

PI: Childhood is the time of most rapid growth and dramatic change, and a child will remodel and renew his body many times as he grows. Every remodeling job requires some demolition, a brealdng down of old cells and tissues which results in debris, which must be cleaned up before the body rebuilds itself. The immune system pushes the debris out of the body. That is why children so often have more discharge of mucus and pus, because their immune systems are actively working. This is great! If you suppress fever or the discharge, the debris stays in the body and becomes a poison, or may cause allergies or other chronic problems.

Germs don’t really cause illness, they feed on them. Every childhood inflammation, every cold, sore throat, earache, fever and rash is a healing crisis and a cleansing process, a strong effort by the human spirit to remodel the body so it can be a more suitable dwelling.

JLML: Wow, that’s a different and beautiful way to look at a process that every parent goes through seemingly endless times during childhood.PI: It’s amazing what a different attitude toward a fever can do for a child’s healing process. They seem to intuitively know this is something they need, and they don’t suffer as much from a fever as an adult does. It’s not at all unusual for me to see a child with a fever, happily playing, that would have put an adult in bed.

JLML: But that doesn’t mean they should be running around outside, right?

PI: Oh no, definitely not. This is a time when the child should rest, and it’s extremely important for them to stay warm. My general rule of thumb is to dress them warmly enough so that their cheelcs are rosy and their hands and feet are warm, but there is no sweat or perspiration. The body needs to be hot to burn out the illness. If the body is harboring a lot of toxicity, then a discharging fever with a runny nose, vomiting, or diarrhea for example, could be just the housecleaning that the body needs. The discharge is a sign that the fever and inflammation produced by the immune system is “digesting” toxins and releasing them. Most people are actually healthier after they’ve had a fever.

JLML: So much for germ theory!

PI: In its time, germ theory was a great revelation. The discovery that bacteria could influence the course of illness helped us Create a whole new level of public and private hygiene, which has given our immune systems much less work to do in some respects. But germ theory is very limited. There was an article in Scientific American way back in 1955, titled, “Second Thoughts on the Germ Theory,” about the observation that everyone harbors disease germs, but not everyone is sick. The conclusion was that whether or not we get sick depends on the condition of the host your body more than it does on the germs.

So we’ve known for a long time that germs feed on disease and weakness, they don’t directly cause it. That’s why I prefer the word “inflammation” to the misunderstood and misleading word “infection” which strikes so much fear into people’s hearts. In the case of inflammations involving germs, the germs are doing us a favor by helping to cleanse the body.

JLML: We’ve been so conditioned to think of fevers as dangerous, how does a parent know when it’s serious?

PI: Even mainstream medicine agrees that a child’s fever would have to go over 106.5° before there is even a risk of brain, damage, but most parents think that the magic number is 104°. Our culture is “feverphobic,” a term coined by Barton Schmidt, a professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Denver.

A typical parent will give a child a fever-reducing medicine if the temperature is one degree above normal. What that does is send whatever was trying to come out of the body into “deep storage.” Nothing has really gone away, and it will either simply recur or worse, may reemerge as a different, more chronic illness anywhere from weeks to years later. A good example of this is the repeated earaches children get when the first earache is not really healed but is only suppressed by an antibiotic. Although they can be lifesaving when really needed, when given unnecessarily, antibiotics actually weaken the immune system.

JLML: What about febrile seizures? The great fear of every parent is that their child will run a high fever and have a seizure.

PI: This is another example when parents have been unnecessarily scared out of their wits. The first misconception is that a febrile (fever-caused) seizure, also called a fever convulsion, is directly caused by a high fever. This isn’t totally accurate, because 99 percent of kids have a high fever and don’t get a seizure, and kids who do get a febrile seizure often don’t have that high a temperature . A seizure is caused when the fever rises very rapidly, often before the parent even knows ifs there. Some children will get a febrile seizure because the body doesn’t go with the flow of the fever warmth surging through it This often happens when the hands and feet are too cold and the fever gets “stuck” in the head.

The other misconception is that febrile seizures cause permanent brain damage they don’t. Generally, if a convulsion has not occurred in the first 24 hours of the fever, then it is not likely to occur.

The best way to avoid a fever convulsion is to keep the child warm and give plenty of fluids, so that the heat of the fever can circulate throughout the body. If the child is throwing off the blankets, at least keep the belly, legs, and feet warm.

JLML: When should a parent see the doctor about a fever?

PI: I don’t have a set answer for that question. It depends on the parents, the child, the doctor, and the specific details of the illness. Once my patients have gone through a few fevers with their children, I rarely hear from them unless the fever looks like it might go above 104°, but every parent has to use their judgment and intuition.

JLML: Can our readers contact you?

PI: Yes, they can call my office in Denver at (303) 321-2100 or send e-mail to me at drincao@aol. com. There’s a Home Remedy Kit I recommend for the common inflammations of childhood with a dozen remedies I’ve used for 25 years with excellent results.

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