Well. The last six weeks have been insanity here. It is the end of the school year. My husband is a teacher at the local high school, and we are used to June craziness. It’s always hard. This year, I wasn’t teaching, but Jake was finishing kindergarten. We had four field trips, (which I volunteered to help with, a dream come true!) class parties, and of course, sick kids.
Jake gets a fever when he is stressed. Or overtired. It is miserable and predicable. My husband, mother and I have all caught the pattern. He missed 26 days of school this year. Of those, 1 was for a family trip, 7 were medical appointments or fun days off, and the rest were due to the fevers. That is a lot of fevers.
They almost always come along on a Friday. That brings the lovely addition of ruining any fun plans we had for the weekend. Jake gets miserable, lethargic, whiney, and very snuggly. The snuggles and sweet lovey conversations are the best part. But I hate seeing him so sick, with no other symptoms. He loses his appetite and we go through bottles of Tylenol and Advil. We have had so many fevers this year that I have started keeping a ‘fever journal’ to show the pediatrician when we see her next.
I wonder about Celiac disease, and I am looking into the gluten free/casein free diet. I picked up a recipe book from the library yesterday, and it said this in the introduction:
“A short time later, Eric started to respond to the diet… Eric’s mysterious fevers disappeared.” (The Autism Cookbook: 101 Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Recipes by Susan K. Delaine and Peter J. Bauth)
Of course, I have Googled ‘autism and fever,’ and I did learn some interesting things. There is a medically documented correlation between fever and improvement of autistic symptoms. There are enough parents who have noticed their autistic kids improve when they have a fever that it has been studied, documented, and put through scientific and statistical analysis.
A study discussed in Time magazine found the following:
The brain region that drew the attention of the authors is known as the locus coeruleus, a small knot of neurons located in the brain stem. Not a lot of high-order processing goes on so deep in the brain’s basement, but the locus coeruleus does govern the release of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, which is critical in triggering arousal or alarm, as in the famed fight-or-flight response. Arousal also plays a role in our ability to pay attention — you can’t deal with the lion trying to eat you, after all, if you don’t focus on it first. And attention, in turn, plays a critical role in such complex functions as responding to environmental cues and smoothly switching your concentration from one task to another. Those are abilities kids with autism lack.
Certainly, many other parts of the brain govern concentration and attention, but the locus coeruleus does one other thing too: it regulates fever.
While this is utterly fascinating to me, it does nothing to help me ease Jake’s fevers, or to prevent them. I can see a connection to the noradrenaline and being over tired or stressed. Perhaps the locus coeruleus is having trouble maintaining the high octane life and shuts down, resulting in a lack of noradrenaline and also, a fever. That’s my personal hypothesis, however.
Aside from drugs, it seems the only thing I can do is to manage Jake’s stress levels better. I will have to work harder to keep him relaxed, and work with him to learn some strategies he will actually be willing to use to lower his feelings of panic. And I guess I will have to look into the diet with more conviction as well.