The Meaning of Childhood Illness

We all know that certain types of illness occur at different stages of life. We accept as natural the rheumatism of the elderly, and stress-related heart disease of the middle years. For some reason, though, we no longer comprehend the so-called children’s illnesses, nor do we accept the fact that the beginning of life can be beset by physical crises. A few considerations may help solve the mystery of illness at the beginning of life.

It helps to regard the illnesses of youth and of the elderly as polarities. In childhood crises acute fevers, external inflammations and contagion predominate, while in later years chronic hardening or deteriorating illnesses prevail, often lurking deep within. There is the duality of body and soul. The harmonious coexistence of these, one within the other, is the basis of health. The newborn child is given an inherited physical body, placed at its disposal by its parents. To a certain extent body (earth) and soul (heaven) must be made to fit each other, and this struggle helps explain the acute, feverish illnesses at the beginning of life. Fever is a means of purifying the solid physical, making it more malleable for the individuality that is seeking to personalize it. It causes change and renewal right down to the cellular level. What is old or hardened is dissolved away and forces of resistance are honed, which in later life, can help guard against intruders such as bacteria and viruses. The individuality needs warmth in order to grow and develop and is intensively involved in the event of the fever.

The skin is a cleansing organ and a mirror of physical/organic and emotional states. Through the skin the body casts out what it rejects in its interior spaces. Rash or redness always indicates heightened circulation and metabolism in the process of “reorganizing” the body.

The illness is the end event of a period of development, an expression of overcoming or casting off a piece of childhood.

During the first seven years children are most busy with their physical bodies – transforming and developing the inherited “model”.1 They are completely absorbed by their physical environment, imitating everything, down to their metabolism. Infectious illnesses are contagious because they are “imitated” by a body that has not yet quite been mastered by the soul. The stronger the individual becomes, the less the external world is imitated, and the danger of contagion becomes less. Fear, when the individual withdraws, or becomes weakened, greatly increases the risk of contagion .2

Children’s illnesses modify the body and make it more akin to the individuality inhabiting it. There is now greater compatibility between the outer person (body) and the inner person (soul/spirit). The child becomes more stable, more enclosed. The fire/fever process sweeps away inherent weaknesses, chronic colds, bed wetting, psychic problems – every mother can attest to this. Symptoms should not always should be suppressed because often they will recur later in different or more aggravated form. Childhood illnesses warn us, whether we are parents or physicians, to take the language of the body and soul seriously and not to hinder what wants to express itself in a crisis of the body. An illness, overcome correctly, will lead to health in adulthood, for the battle of our spirit with our physical always leads to increased strength.

1. R.Steiner
2. Paracelsus


Wiep de Vries, RN

Most childhood illnesses come with a fever. Here are some “fever facts”:

  • The temperature of a child can change rapidly, and has a wider range than an adult.

  • Normal range of temperature can go from 96.6F – 99.4F, it increases during meals and activities.

  • Fever is a reaction to the release of pyrogens, and is therefore an expression of an increased state of defense (more leukocytes to destroy bacteria, viruses).

  • Higher temperature stimulates the body to help elimination and excretion.

  • Convulsions happen only when the temperature rises too quickly.

Temperature can be decreased through a sponge bath with tepid water. Important to know is that evaporation, and not the temperature of the water brings the fever down!

If fever persists for more than three days, or if it rises unduly, consult a physician.

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Written by Olaf Koob MD

Explore Wellness in 2021