Fever Has Its Benefits. Meat I’m Not So Sure About

I’m not sure how this meat thing is working out. In addition to throwing up in the car last Friday, Martin has appeared queasy since we started giving him beef broth. He opens and closes his mouth and licks his upper lip when he eats. He’s sallow, pasty-faced with pinkish circles weighing down his eyes. My poor little guy.

It’s not so bad as all that, you may accuse. Those impressions probably stem from your prejudices against meat in his diet. The vomiting was motion sickness. Adrian drives like a maniac.

Fair enough. But we’ve spotted some less-subjective signs, too. Martin has been sleeping restlessly and waking early. This morning he materialized in our bedroom at 5:54 a.m.; usually we have to toss him like a football just to rouse him at 7:00. And the crabbiness! Dealing with Martin’s tantrums has given me a headache for the past few days.

He seems to be on the constant verge of coming down with something.

To tell the truth, I wish he would. I’m hoping for a fever. Half a dozen times daily I press a hand to his cheek, feeling for warmth. No such luck.

I want a fever because fevers help. I’ve read about several studies, and anecdotal evidence, confirming the “fever effect” in kids on the spectrum: a temperature eases the symptoms of autism. Children become suddenly more verbal and responsive, and they make better eye contact.

At the same time, kids on the spectrum rarely get fevers. Much less often than neurotypicals. In case anyone questions where I got that fact, let me explain my method: One of Martin’s health practitioners once mentioned to me that ASD kids don’t get fevers (at least, not prior to biomedical intervention or detoxification) because their systems are too weak to mount an immuno-response, which is what a fever is. I followed up on her comment with a highly scientific investigation, in which I randomly asked acquaintances whether their ASD children get fevers. Everyone I spoke to responded with some form of, “Funny that you ask! I can’t remember him ever having a fever.”

Martin never got a fever, either. All through infancy and toddlerhood, past his third birthday—nothing. He had occasional colds, and stomach bugs, but no fever. We took this as an indicator of unusually strong health. Only later, after the ASD diagnosis, did we learn that absence of illness and fever could indicate health problems. Later still did we realize that wanted Martin to get a fever, to experience the body’s way of burning off malicious intruders.

We started homotoxicology in early May. We hoped it would lead to a fever for Martin. It didn’t. At least, not for several months. Not till we’d let down our guard.

We were vacationing in rural Maine late in July when a fever, his inaugural fever, struck Martin unexpectedly. It was Saturday evening. We’d lugged Martin’s oils and drops and supplements and special foods from New York to the rental house, but nothing for a fever. No homeopathic remedies. Not even a thermometer to determine how high the mercury rose. Without much else at hand, we comforted Martin with wet cloths draped across his brow.

Around midnight the fever spiked. Martin’s skin sizzled to the touch as he flopped restlessly about the king-size bed where we’d installed him. Adrian and I hatched a panicked plan: Adrian stayed with Martin while I woke my brother Eddie, who was staying with us, to accompany me on a thermometer-seeking expedition. (We focused on finding a thermometer so that, at a minimum, we could know if Martin’s temperature rose so high we needed to visit an emergency room.) Eddie and I located a Wal-Mart on-line that, according to its webpage, stayed open 24 hours. We plugged the address into my GPS and drove almost an hour through the black New England woods, arriving just after 1:00 a.m. to find the Wal-Mart closed. Quite closed. Since midnight. Until 6:00 a.m. So we doubled back into the only town we’d passed and checked every convenience store, grocery, or gas station we could find, to no avail.

We returned to the house around 2:15 a.m., empty-handed. I found Adrian awake and vigilant, watching over a sleeping Martin. The fever had diminished. I climbed into bed with them and dozed off and on until Martin woke around 7:30 Sunday morning, still feverish, whereupon I plopped him into a lukewarm bath, over his protests.

Then I dragged Eddie back out the door, this time to a grocery with pharmacy we’d seen during the night. We bought a thermometer. The children’s fever medications, however, were unsatisfactory. Having never been called upon to use one before, I’d never read their labels or realized how many chemicals and additives they contain. At this stage of the recovery game, I could not imagine giving such a tonic to Martin.

By lucky coincidence, as I stood bemusedly in the grocery-cum-pharmacy, a friend who was joining us in Maine called en route from New York. She and her husband were at a Whole Foods Market. Did we need anything?

“Belladonna!” I replied, referencing a homeopathic antipyretic that we kept stocked at home. “Please. Belladonna.”

The new thermometer showed Martin’s fever to be higher than 102 degrees, though he felt much cooler than he had at midnight. Our friends arrived with the belladonna, two doses of which lowered Martin’s temperature to normal by late afternoon. Everyone relaxed, Eddie went kayaking, and we were back to vacationing again.

Those studies I referenced on the “fever effect” note that the behavioral improvements fade when the fever does. I can well believe that to be the case for dramatic behavioral improvements, like a non-verbal child suddenly speaking, or a nonresponsive child making eye contact. Martin experienced no such major changes while feverish; he was only fussy and miserable. Nevertheless, the fever seemed to bring on subtle advances—increased willingness to hold hands, some expansion of one- or two-word declarations into sentences—that remained with Martin after he felt better. For that reason, based solely on my family’s experience, I believe that suffering a moderate fever helps Martin’s recovery, and I keep hoping that his current queasiness, whether or not related to beef broth, might preface a rising temperature.

Now, if I were to ask my poor brother Eddie his opinion about fevers, I’m certain he’d prefer that Martin refrain from sponsoring any more midnight junkets through the middle of Maine.

4 thoughts on “Fever Has Its Benefits. Meat I’m Not So Sure About

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