PFAPA or Not – Cause vs. Outcome

Recently in working with clients, and over the last few years with clients with PFAPA, it has become very clear to me that it is certainly possible not all the children I work with have the condition despite what their doctor has said.

What is PFAPA?

In review – PFAPA is a periodic fever syndrome. This is when there is a clear cut, and defined timing of fevers that are repetitive and along with those fevers the child also has enlarged and sore tonsils (sometimes with sores on them), mouth sores, and the children will also complain about some joint pain and sometimes stomach upset (all accompanied each episode with the fever).

What does this really look like or mean?

Every 17-24 (or a longer time if lucky) days the child has this episode that lasts 5 to 7 days. The fevers are 102+ with absolutely no other illness detected via testing, and no signs of it physically. It is CLOCKWORK. If you are reading this and you are saying well my child’s isn’t like clockwork – I cannot PREDICT the next date, but they have the other symptoms with this, but sometimes it’s not 5 days minimum or there are things that are off here, then it’s possible this is NOT what your child has. Normal viruses can be 3 days of fevers up to 102-103. They can have very minimal symptoms in some children. If you notice visible or obvious signs of illness like cough, runny nose, itching eyes, tired and a fever, you have a germ. Learn more here.

It’s not to say that your child isn’t having recurring fevers – if they are having fevers frequently ranging from 100-103 – those are recurring. Joints get achey with a fever. Sometimes we feel off digestively with a fever. And sometimes we have a problem with tonsils that create a fever – but those things all along are NOT PFAPA. 

PFAPA is an auto inflammatory response triggered by food, environment, and lifestyle imbalances that create an immune response that results in a high fever that takes 5 days or so to recover, along with other immune symptoms listed above.

And I wrote about this before… the name of this condition isn’t the focus point, and that is where things go wrong in the family when it becomes the focus point. When we focus on the outcome of what is going on rather than the CAUSE we get nowhere fast. In this case the fever, and other related symptoms are the OUTCOME, the CAUSE are other imbalances in the body that need to be worked on in nutrition, environmental, and lifestyle changes. Stop focusing on the fever and focus on what happens THE REST OF THE TIME.

There are other driving forces for fevers and symptoms

Your child can have many food sensitivities, many environmental allergies, and lifestyle triggers like stress and excitement. In addition, many children have some pretty unbalanced digestive systems. This alone can be the cause for immune triggers and responses. If your child has a lacking nutrient density, not a lot of whole foods, lacks variety in eating, they likely have nutrient gaps that can create these symptoms if there is no pattern. And even in PFAPA these are causes.

Other things like toxic metals and mold in the environment/home can be driving forces for repetitive immune issues. Severe digestive upsets like chronic diarrhea or constipation, acid reflux or GERD, repetitive antibiotic use all lead to imbalances in the body and can lead to immune system imbalance.

How do I really know?

If your child is having fevers multiple times per month (in less than 30 days) or multiple times a week, this is NOT PFAPA that isn’t how it works. You are missing illness as one of those fevers, or maybe it was a fever with germs once, and then a flare of PFAPA, or they have other imbalances that need addressing all together. 

If there is no consistency or predictability to the fevers, you are likely looking at just immune system response and interactions with germs or the environment, food or all things combined.

If you say your child doesn’t get mouth sores, or doesn’t get issues with tonsils, but just has fevers, you are likely looking at something else as well.

These are all things to discuss with your doctor and immunologist to go over testing results in addition. Test results during what you believe to be an episode can confirm or deny this reaction/response as well. 

The Most Important Thing In the Scenario

Your child’s immune system is firing no matter what the label is. Our immune systems do not fire without triggers OR perceived triggers in our body. That means there is a breakdown in one or more body systems and there is imbalance. This leaves the child vulnerable to misinterpretation of the system or a real response to clear the body of the imbalance or problem. It means your child needs digestive work, needs detox work, needs blood sugar balance, and needs a nutrient dense diet. I haven’t met one PFAPA diagnosed child yet that doesn’t need all these things. And even the ones where it seems unlikely they have this diagnosis (aka no symptoms but a fever) there is still loads to be done to balance the body to stop the response.

What Can You Do At Home Now?

Of course I am here to help you determine what exactly your child needs, as you can tell they are all very different. Each case has different imbalances that need adjusting and in different ways. But if you want to try to start at home – here is where to go.

1- Nutrient density

Eating Whole Foods is the ONLY thing and ONLY place to start in scenarios of body system imbalance. The reason the body is out of balance is because it’s not getting all the nutrients it needs. The cause of this today is from processed food diets for the most part. Yes there are other components to this but many issues can be balanced and resolved just by getting rid of processed foods, and eating Whole Foods instead. Want to learn more about what this means? Check this out or this here.

This means you need to get locally sourced, pastured raised animals, grass fed and finished for beef, turkey, chicken and uncured bacon, and when getting seafood go wild caught. If you have to choose a farm sourced fish it should be organic. If you cannot tell the way the animal was raised or you have to go with grocery, use organic as a guide, or look for the same labels, with organic.

You want to have A LOT of vegetables in the day as well. These need to rotate and have variety. The best way to do this is to eat in season. If you shop from local farms, and markets you can easily do this as they will only be carrying what is available at that time. This will make you get creative and get you out of the rut of the same 2 vegetables all the time that everyone has grown to hate because they are bored. You want to cook with healthy fats like butter, beef tallow, avocado oil, coconut oil and dress with olive oil. Sauces can be made from the same bases for the vegetables and meats. Organic for vegetables and oils is best.

When it comes to auto inflammatory and autoimmunity many grains are problems for people. One that is a cross reactor to grain but is generally more tolerable is rice. Wild and brown are excellent sources of nutrients if rice is tolerable. Potatoes, sweet and other, are also good sources for fiber and carbohydrates. Beyond these I caution when it comes to these responses as these are common food irritants that cause inflammation in people. 

Fresh fruit is a great addition to the day as part of breakfast, or a snack during the day. Organic is always best.

2- Variety

This was hinted at above with density. You might have a great whole food diet, but if you literally eat the same four Whole Foods all day long every day – you are lacking in A LOT of nutrients. You will develop deficiency and imbalance from lack of variety. Our body needs a lot of different types of nutrients daily to make our elaborate system function properly. 

Getting a meal service or delivery box forces us to “think outside that box” ironically enough. Otherwise we tend to go for what is “safe” or we have made many times and know.  Remember there are only so many meats, so your best bet is to rotate through them in a variety of choice, and then once in awhile you throw in something brand new that might pop up at a market or in a box that you haven’t had before. This goes for eating seasonally. When you see something new and wonder what that food is – ask and then buy it and go on the web and get cooking! The more color, the more variety, the more nutrients you will get.

3- Environment

We need to be careful about our cookware, antibiotic and medication use, use of pesticides on our foods or in the environment around us, choose cleaner less chemical or chemical free products for body and home. All of these are just a FEW things that can go wrong that really impact how our body behaves.

If you have moisture or mold in your home, you need to get a remediate in and look. If you think you do but don’t know – many companies do estimates. MANY health problems are driven by mold exposure. This can be true with toxic metals also. Many can come from the animals being eaten (from what they ate or where they lived), exposure through vehicles, your own soil, paint in the home, certain types of pipes in the home and more. These are tests that can be run for metals and molds to help determine exposure and what you can do about it following.

All of these things add up and do matter in your health and your child’s condition. Our body responds to these types of issues through immune reaction and response, or other imbalances that cause body systems to not function properly. 

4- Water

Hydration is a huge problem for most children I see. Unfortunately for some reason parents seem to not understand or have been even misleadingly told their child doesn’t need to consume water. This is just not the case. Every human needs at least half their body weight in water daily, and that is a minimum to avoid dehydration. If that doesn’t happen there are different levels of dehydration that occur. 

Grabbing the coolest water bottle out there is where you can start. Know how many ounces are in this water bottle, and know how many your child needs and do the math accordingly. If you haven’t had your child drinking water and they are over 1.5 years old it may be a transition but stick to the routine of water drinking between meals and you will get there. 

Water is needed for almost every body function, from stomach acid, to eliminating waste, to minerals and more. Without this you will become deficient and imbalanced in many body systems. We can go a long time without food, but less time without water. It’s that important.

Need help with this process? That is what I do. Just not even sure what is what anymore? Let’s consult. I look at every body system, their symptoms and have a detailed way to find the imbalances and help guide you in making changes to help your child.