Updated and reposted from April 2013.
Every autumn or winter my children come down with at least one nasty cold complete with fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and teary eyes. These nasty viruses wreck havoc in our home. Nobody sleeps well at night and the days are not much better. With the help of a few natural cold remedies we soldier on and everyone feels a little better.
I have a background in nursing and so it’s my trained response to give children acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the first sign of a fever or any sort of discomfort. It’s difficult to see a child in pain, and I would be lying if I said I never gave conventional medicine to my children; however, I do take a more restrained approach these days. Over the last few years I have accumulated a variety of natural remedies for soothing symptoms of illness. Below are my five favourites cold remedies for children.
With the increase in bacterial resistance to antibiotics, more doctors are taking a wait-and-see approach to prescribing antibiotics for ear infections. Many times ear infections are caused by viruses which means antibiotics won’t even help. When my daughter was a baby she was very prone to ear infections. After several rounds of antibiotic I started using ear oil at the first sign of a cold and had great results.
Ear oil is an oil that has been infused with garlic, mullein and possibly other things. You can purchase ear oil from health food stores and many pharmacies. Another option is to use plain olive oil, which is what my doctor recommends. Pour a little bit of warm olive into a bowl, lay your child’s head on your lap and use a medicine dropper to gently put a couple drops in each ear a few times a day. Make sure that the oil isn’t too hot and don’t put oil into an ear that has a ruptured eardrum (puss and blood are coming out).
Suggested reading: Do Bugs Need Drugs?
Suggested reading: Ask Dr. Sears: Ear Infections.
Elderberry syrup has been used by people for the treatment of colds and influenzas for centuries and research supports that it is effective at reducing the severity and longevity of these types of illnesses. Our family started using elderberry syrup over the holiday season, many years ago, when everyone around us is sick and we want to stay healthy. We did stay healthy!
Resource: Homemade elderberry syrup.
Echinacea has also been used by people to treat colds for a long time. Medical research shows that echinacea is effective against the common cold and many people swear by it. I give my children echinacea as soon as I notice symptoms or even earlier if we’ve been around others that are sick.
Homemade Vapor Rub
Vapor rubs are helpful when children are congested and coughing. Vicks Vaporub has three main medical ingredients: camphor, eucalyptus and menthol. This combination is harsh for young children which is why pediatricians recommend it should not be used for children under the age of two. Making your own vapor rub allows you to choose what goes into it and how intense it is. I make vapor rub following this quick and easy recipe.
Resources: Quick Homemade Vapour Rub.
Lemon and Honey Tea
When my children (or myself) have a cold I make a pot of lemon honey tea first thing in the morning. It soothes sore throats and hydrates and the sweetness of the honey keeps my children coming back for more. Don’t forget that babies under 12 months of age shouldn’t eat raw honey.