By Tim Johnson
Starve a fever and feed a cold (or vice versa)
There’s some evidence that this piece of medical advice was actually popularized by classic American novelist Mark Twain—a man who trained as a steamboat pilot, not a physician. “And let’s remember that in Twain’s era, bloodletting was still seen as a viable treatment and leeches were common in hospital rooms,” laughs Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatrician from Orillia, Ont., and a member of the Canadian Paediatric Society Public Education Committee. “This was not a time of high science.” Smith adds that there’s absolutely nothing to this one, and parents should ignore it, opting instead to treat viruses such as cold and flu with straightforward tactics such as lots of rest, plenty of fluids to promote hydration, nutritious foods and so on.
Moreover, experts feel that fever has actually gotten a bad rap. “Fever is, in a way, a good thing. It’s a reflection of the body mounting its own defences to fight off infection,” notes Dr. Robert Bortolussi, professor of pediatrics at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, and chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Infection and Immunization Committee. Discomfort can be eased with a mild painkiller such as acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol or Tempra). Very young children between six months and five years run the risk of suffering a febrile seizure as a result of a sharply increased temperature, and for kids in this age range, Dr. Bortolussi recommends a sponge bath in lukewarm water to bring down the fever. “And the trick is, don’t dry them off afterward with a towel. The benefit is tha