Can you apply rubbing alcohol for a fever?
You should not apply isopropyl alcohol directly to the forehead or anywhere else on the body. Isopropyl alcohol, unlike ethyl (drinkable) alcohol, is toxic to the body. In small amounts applied to wounds, it is not harmful, but since isopropyl alcohol is easily absorbed by the skin, it can rise to toxic levels very quickly. However, since rubbing alcohol is offered as either isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, if you have a purely ethyl alcohol and water- based rubbing alcohol, it can be used for this purpose. However, it should first be diluted with more water since it is of a very high concentration that is still harmful to the body. Use about 1 part ethyl rubbing alcohol, 2-4 parts water. Obviously, do not use this on young children because it has the same effect as if you gave them alcohol to drink.
Sure won't hurt, it also won't help. It might feel cooling but it won't significantly affect your internal body temp. You need to rid your body of infection or take a medication that will lower your temp such as aspirin, acetominphen, or ibuprofen. However, don't take aspirin if you are under 15 years old because of the risk of Rye's Syndrome. Studies have shown that using isoprpyl alcohol and water baths for fever can be dangerous. The fumes from the mixture can be harmful to both the person being bathed and the person giving the bath as they can be absorbed through the lungs. The isopropyl alcohol can also be absorbed by the skin when applied to the skin. The amount of alcohol that would be used in a bath could lead to alcohol toxicity. Medical studies have shown that inhalation or absorption from the skin could lead to toxic levels of isopropyl alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol can be applied directly to the skin, or it can be used to soak a pad, which is then applied to the skin. Either way, the rubbing alcohol cools the skin as it evaporates. That said, using small applications of rubbing alcohol to cool the skin will probably not be sufficient, in itself, to break a fever. Rubbing alcohol can be used as an adjunct to other fever-reducing measures, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen…
No, as pediatricians, we prefer you NOT use rubbing alcohol - the alcohol can be absorbed into the body via the skin, creating a possibility of alcohol intoxication. The optimum way to cool down a child with a high fever is to put him/her in a warm bath and then turn on the cold spout - apply luke-warm water to the arm-pits and groin. RBB, MD