• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Autism: Sensory Overload and Fevers

Does having a fever help stop a full-blown meltdown or shutdown? Can it lesson or control sensory overload?

 adult autism meltdown shutdowns fevers and sensory overload

Mayday! Mayday! Meltdown Imminent!

I have been running an unexplained low-grade fever for the past few weeks. The only connection I am noticing is that they come on the heels of over stimulation, overload, and meltdown.
Last night, I was so close to classically holding my head and rocking in the corner that I had to retreat to my bedroom and quite literally lock everyone out. I am pretty sure at some point one of the boys walked in before I locked that door because I heard my self yell, “Intruder!” Then leapt for the door to get it shut again.  Mom was cruising down meltdown highway.
The kids had been loud and rowdy for over two hours, the TV was on with flashing cartoon characters bothering my eyes, the baby was screaming, and all the while hubby was snoring away on the sofa. How in the world he could sleep through the madness is beyond me.
My head was pounding, my eyes went fuzzy, and the room was beginning to spin. I felt out of control, and disoriented. When I my son tried to speak to me, I barked something that did not resemble actual words. My earplugs were failing to even filter out the sound of the crickets outside. Mom was about to lose it!
After about an hour locked away in my bedroom with earplugs in and my head underneath a stack of pillows, I felt the fever start. I can always feel when a fever is coming on.  It starts with a tingling in my back, which travels to my head and rest of my body.
Not long after it turned into a full-fledged fever my sensory overload began to lessen. Then I was able to remove the earplugs, come out of the room, and re-enter the land of the living.

Research Study about Fevers and Autism

After doing some research, I found a 2009 article citing a study, which implied the reason why some autistic children show marked improvement in their behavior while running a fever.
The correlation between my fevers and the lessening of my sensory overload is makes sense according to the logic behind this article, but I am beginning to wonder if my body is becoming so worked up from the overstimulation that it is actually causing the fevers, which then in turn calms down my senses.
Wouldn’t that be an odd way for our bodies to compensate for the overload? It figures being sick would make me feel better.
Of course my fevers could be completely unrelated and just happen to come on at the exact times of my overload. I’m inclined to think this is unlikely, since I am not a big believer in coincidences and this has been happening more frequently lately.
That said I will be making a doctor’s appointment first thing tomorrow morning for a check-up just in case there is another explanation for these interestingly timed fevers.
Am I the only one who has experienced fevers in the face of overload or meltdown? What do you all think? Fevers related to autism and meltdown, or a separate issue altogether?

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.
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