What Modern Medicine Says About “Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever “


Little girl with pigtails eating soup

There’s an old saying that goes, “feed a cold, starve a fever.” The idea behind the saying is that food makes it more difficult for the body to fight off a fever, but that food can help a person recover more quickly from the common cold. This saying dates back hundreds of years and has become outdated as science has revealed better ways to approach cold and fever remedies.

This article explains why “feed a cold, starve a fever” is not a good approach to caring for a sick child and why modern medicine advises against these practices. It will also provide information about healthy food for fever and cold symptoms in children.

Origin, Truth, and Myth

According to history, “feed a cold, starve a fever” dates back to the 1500s, when a man named John Withals described in a book how food affects these illnesses. His idea was that fasting can remedy fever, but that eating food helps the body generate warmth to overcome a cold. But modern medical science says that this old belief is misguided because good nutrition is essential in boosting the immune system to fight any illness.

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Should You Starve a Fever?

The simple answer to should you starve a fever in children is no. Forcing a child to fast is not safe or effective in reducing a fever, and kids with fevers should be encouraged to eat if they are hungry. Additionally, fluids are very important and something that is not addressed in the old saying. Kids need to drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated and replace lost electrolytes when they have fevers.

Should You Feed a Cold?

This part of the old saying has some truth to it, as healthy foods can help the body naturally fight off sickness. However, it is now known that colds result from viruses and not a low body temperature that needs to be warmed up with hot food. Chicken noodle soup isn’t a magical cure, but soups are a great way to get more fluids in the body during sickness and prevent dehydration.

Healthy Food for Fever and Cold Symptoms

Starving a child is never a good cure for any illness, and some foods are definitely better for sick kids than others. Make sure to add more antioxidant-rich foods into a sick child’s diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, cranberries, and kidney beans. Foods rich in beta carotene are also good for children with colds and fevers, including broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, tomatoes, and watermelon. Meanwhile, citrus fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C, popsicles can soothe sore throats, and hot tea can help clear up congested sinuses.

Children may not feel much like eating when they are sick with a fever or cold, but it’s important to encourage healthy eating during all stages of illness’ progression. By using over-the-counter remedies like PediaCare and practicing well-balanced nutrition, kids can feel better and get back on their feet again within just a few days.

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