12 natural cold remedies for kids
It comes with little warning. One minute your child is romping around and the next, he's stuffy, coughing and whiny with the oh-so-common cold. With more than 200 viruses floating around, it's no wonder the cold is so common. Unfortunately, there's no easy cure; in fact, there's no cure at all. Primary care physician Jerome E. Sag, M.D. explains, "Colds have a limited shelf life, usually between four and 10 days, and pretty much go away on their own. The best you can do is deal with the symptoms which, by the way, are evidence that your body is fighting the virus."
The fact is, your child's cold, while sad to watch, will vanish in a few days, and though you may not be able to do much to cure the cold, there are ways to ease the symptoms colds produce. Todd A. Hoover, M.D., board certified in both family practice and homeopathic medicine, says providing natural remedies to patients with recurring colds can go a long way toward relieving the ills the virus causes. And you might feel more comfortable letting your babysitter or nanny administer them, before resorting to medicines.
If you're hesitant about using over-the-counter medications or looking to test out some great natural remedies, always be sure to consult with your physician to let them know what you're planning on using.
Sleep is truly a great medicine, keeping us healthy in good times and helping us heal when sick. Released compounds boost the immune system, so encourage napping. Just don't layer on too many covers, as that can overheat your child, which, in turn, can elevate his or her temperature.
2. Elevate the mattress
Adding a bit of lift to the mattress at the head of the bed helps sinuses drain more readily, thus adding to your child's comfort. A rolled towel or yoga mat will also do the trick.
A cool-mist humidifier goes a long way in relieving dry, stuffed up nasal passages by adding moisture to a room. G.K, a Philadelphia mom of two boys, 5 and 7, says, "I've got a humidifier in each of their rooms and turn them on at the first sign of a cold. Helps every time. I just have to remind myself to clean them after each use."
She makes an important point, here. While a humidifier can help relieve congestion, mold and mildew can build up and be sprayed into the air if not cleaned properly each and every time.
Keeping your child hydrated is essential to flush out germs, so push such drinks as water, fruit juices, herbal teas and broth. Jell-O is another option, as are cooling, soothing ice pops. Milk is OK, too; that it thickens mucus is a debunked old wives' tale.
5. Chicken soup
Grandma was right when she prescribed a cup of chicken soup for a cold — and the good news is, whether it's homemade or store bought makes no difference. The steam helps loosen congestion and the broth hydrates. Studies have also found that the chicken and other ingredients in the soup actually have an anti-inflammatory effect — a very good thing, since inflammation causes coughs and stuffed-up noses.
6. Shower steam or warm baths
As said, warm, moist air is an effective symptom reliever, so in addition to using a humidifier, turn on the shower and let the hot water flow. The resulting warm air will help your child breathe more easily. If your kiddo prefer baths, immersing your child in a tub of very warm water works amazingly well in reducing a high temperature.
7. Saline nasal spray
Unlike over-the-counter decongestant nose sprays, which shouldn't be used for more than three days and can actually worsen symptoms, saline nasal sprays are a simple mixture of salt and water. They can be used repeatedly and can even be made at home.
To make the solution, combine two to three teaspoons of salt (non-iodized) with one pint of water and voila! You have a homemade natural remedy. Just have your child blow his nose first and then block one nostril at a time before squirting. And no blowing for several minutes afterward.
8. Nasal strips
Made for small noses, Breathe Right for Kids works by lifting up the sides of the nose and offers fuss-free, stuffy nose relief. They're especially good for getting through the night and perfect, too, for kids who hate nose sprays.
A postnasal drip not only annoys but also causes coughing and sore throats, too. Instead of reaching for medicated cough drops, though, simply mix ¼ teaspoon salt into a cup of very warm water for your child to gargle with. Though not a cure, it's sure to relieve the pain for a while and can be repeated as often as needed.
A 2007 Pennsylvania State University study led by Ian Paul, M.D. compared the effectiveness of a dose of dextromethorphan found in many cough syrups to buckwheat honey versus no treatment at all for coughs. The winner: honey. Just be forewarned that giving honey to a child under 1 risks botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning.
11. Homeopathic preparations
Umcka ColdCare comes in several forms: drops, tablet, syrup and powder. Jim Wilk, a certified nutritional counselor at Holly Hill Health Foods, says, "Umcka has been shown to lessen the effect of colds on kids, relieving sore throats, coughs and congestion, too. We've had good results with it. We also stock Sambucus for Kids. It's an organic product made with black elderberry extract that works really well. It's flu and cold-oriented."
Onion's pungent cousin contains allicin, a compound which has been known to have antibacterial properties. The only problem you might face is getting your kids to eat it. Try mincing the garlic very finely and adding it to a light pasta sauce at dinnertime to avoid its detection.
Read next: 5 health benefits of kids playing outside
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.