Barbara Roberts, Homeopath

Paracetamol and Fever

Paracetamol is one of the most common medicines in use in New Zealand today, if not the most common. I used to dish out loads of it as a Pharmacist. But I also find it a medicine that people take for granted, and these days recommendations for use have changed, but common use has not.

My focus is Homeopathy, so towards the end of this post I will talk about alternatives to Paracetamol for fever, but let’s look at the drug itself first.

There are a number of names for it, but one long chemical name is Para-acetaminophenol. In New Zealand we take the first half and the last two letters and call it Paracetamol. In the United States they take the middle, and call it Acetaminophen. Same thing, different name.

Paracetamol was first discovered in the late 19th century, it wasn’t used widely as a drug until the 1950s, when it was first marketed as a painkiller. With seven decades of use, you would think we would know how it works, right? Actually no, there have been a number of theories over the years about how paracetamol works, and currently it is thought to work through a number of different pathways, including serotonin pathways, cyclooxygenase inhibition (like anti inflammatory drugs) and endocannibinoid pathways.

(Back in the day, this was my response to people trying to trip me up with how Homeopathy works- because if we can’t explain how Paracetamol works, but just accept that it does, why can’t we do the same with Homeopathy?!)

Paracetamol has commonly been used with for pain and for fever. In the last couple of years the recommendations have changed- something many people are not aware of.

Ibuprofen is now considered first line for fever, *if* a child needs medicine. Even then, it should only be used if the child is in distress as fever is a normal physiological response. Ibuprofen is well tolerated, has a faster onset than paracetamol and a longer duration of action. But I would like to stress this- most cases of fever do not require an antipyretic medicine, and if you are able to treat homeopathically you should be able to shut that bottle in the cupboard and forget about it completely.

Things to be aware of:

Paracetamol is the leading cause of acute liver failure from overdose. If you suspect your child has been helping themselves to the bottle, or you and another caregiver have both been dosing, please treat this as an emergency and take them for immediate medical assessment.

Paracetamol depletes Glutathione. If you have a child with problems detoxing, this may be a problem.

While Ibuprofen is an alternative if your child is distressed it should not be used if they have any history of gastric ulceration or bleeding.

Ibuprofen is cleared through the kidneys, and should not be given to children who are dehydrated.

If you are using either paracetamol or ibuprofen, please check the dosage to make sure what you are giving is effective. These are worked out on weight, and your local Pharmacist can help you with the correct dosage for your child.

As a parent, when your child has a fever it can be scary. We’ve been conditioned to think that fever is bad and should be lowered, and it can make you worry.

Physiologically, Fever is your body’s first defence against micro organisms. The body’s recognition of bacteria, viruses or their toxins triggers a raise in temperature and the release of immune cells called cytokines that then trigger cytokines receptors to get the immune system effectively fighting against the invader.

(As an aside, adults can also have a Prolonged chronic fever due to autoimmune or inflammatory diseases. Elderly people are less likely to get fevers and so a raised temperature is more likely to indicate a severe bacterial infection and need assessment by a doctor.)

Fever remedies to consider:

Aconite- at first signs of an illness, it may come on after a cold wind. There could be a dry or croup like cough. Can be restless or fearful with dry, hot skin and a racing heart. They may have one red cheek and one pale cheek. Aconite complaints tend to come on in the evening and may peak around Midnight.

Belladonna- flushed, glassy eyed, fever is high and comes on suddenly, they may have a high pulse rate. There may be febrile convulsions or delirium. They can have little or no thirst during a fever. Belladonna has an aggravation time of 3pm.

Arsenicum – restless but lethargic. Fever with burning sensations and feel better for warmth. Often they are thirsty. They may be anxious and want reassurance.

Ferrum Phos – fever is not as high of as sudden as Belladonna, and symptoms are not really clear so it is hard to pinpoint a remedy. Can be useful in early stages of respiratory infections.

Pulsatilla – there is a clear emotional picture, with clinginess and they may be weepy, better for being comforted. It is most likely to appear in the evening, they won’t want to be covered and are likely to be thirstless. If they have any discharges (from eye or nose) they will be thick, bland and yellow.

Homeopathy helps by supporting the body. Sometimes this means that the fever does not lower, but the miserable and upset child will go back to playing happily, or they will fall asleep. This is when you watch the child not the thermometer, and be guided by the way they are behaving.

Do encourage anyone with fever to keep well hydrated. Dehydration can be serious and can itself raise the body temperature.

Things to watch out for, and see a doctor straight away if you notice any of these:

If your child is extremely lethargic, not fully conscious, or floppy.

Trouble breathing or problems with heart rate.

If they have a stiff neck, are unable to look at the light and they may have a non-blanching rash go to the hospital immediately (meningitis).

Children’s complaints are notorious for happening in the evenings when normal business hours have closed. While if you are in a city there are A&E clinics open late, for people in smaller centres or rurally it may be a long drive to a hospital.

If you are concerned in any way you can ring Healthline on 0800 611 116 to speak to a registered nurse. Trust your gut, if you think it’s serious seek help.

If you want help and support homeopathically, then check out

They are a worldwide service with Homeopaths available at every hour of the day or night, so you can get support when you need it.

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