Dietary Advice during a Fever
As the rainy season sets in, we are seeing that many are down with various kinds of infections and fever. It is important that food intake is not neglected at this time. We are aware that when a child or person is ill they are very fussy about their food and keep refusing to eat.
This makes them very weak and usually we see that they keep falling ill repeatedly thereafter. One of the most important factors to be considered while feeding a child with a fever is the timing of giving a feed. If milk or food is given when the temperature is rising, the child may refuse to eat, may vomit what he eats or if he does eat it, it would cause the fever to rise higher.
Milk or any meal must be given only 45 minutes to one hour after a dose of paracetamol has been given and one sees the temperature coming down. All fatty foods should be restricted as they are difficult to digest and may cause the fever to rise higher. When the fever is very high (first 2-3 days) milk should be diluted 2/3 milk to 1/3 water. Rice kanji with curd or thin dhal and mashed vegetables, fruits and fruit juices may be given. Small frequent feeds are advisable. Light biscuits like Marie, Arrowroot or Monaco salt, Rusk, Toast, etc. can be given frequently along with milk or as snacks in-between to provide more energy. Jam, jelly and custard are also helpful in increasing energy intake. It is also very important to give a morning and evening dose of B and C vitamins during a fever.
During a fever the body temperature is high. This raises the metabolic rate of the body and one tends to burn much more calories. This is the reason why we see a quick weight loss during a fever and this also makes the body very weak and susceptible to further infections. To protect against this our mission in feeding must be to supply a high calorie diet which is however low in fat content. This can be achieved by giving small frequent feeds of carbohydrate foods. Jam/honey and toast is one of the best options, light biscuits, rice and curd or rice and thin dhal, rice or rava kanjee or porridges and plenty of fruits, fruit juices and vegetable soups must be consumed whenever possible. I have personally followed this and tried this with my three children and have visibly seen very quick recovery when committed effort was made to keep the carbohydrate intake as frequent and as high as possible.
This is not easy as the appetite is low but here it helps if we take a B complex supplement. Also when ill the tongue gets coated and there is no taste in the mouth. Keeping the tongue clean and mouth fresh helps to keep the appetite up.
Glucose may be used instead of sugar to sweeten milk and juices during a fever as it is more quickly and easily absorbed into the blood stream. The water intake must be increased as large amounts of fluid are lost when sweating occurs as the fever comes down. The daily requirement can be any thing between two and a half to three liters. Water, tender coconut water, fruit juices and soups help to meet this need.
Those doing regular exercise or children in training camps or coaching must be made to completely drop all exercise and rest as much as possible for 2-3 days at least so that calories may be saved and the body uses these calories to fight the infection and recover.