Now that’s it’s November it means the “holiday season” is officially upon us! And when I think about the holiday season, I can’t help but think of all the holidays over the years where at least one of my kids was sick! Definitely puts a damper on the celebrations!
You might find yourself, out of desperation, reaching for over-the-counter medicines to help make your little ones feel better as quickly as possible, but many have side effects and can even be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving OTC cough and cold medications to infants and small children because of the risk of life-threatening side effects. Not worth the risk I’d say!
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While you can’t cure your child’s illness, these gentle, effective, and safe home remedies will soothe the worst symptoms and make him or her feel a whole lot better!
First a few basics rules to follow no matter what the illness:
LOTS OF REST
- It takes energy to fight an infection, and that can wear a child (or an adult) out. When your child’s resting, he’s healing, which is exactly what he needs to do.
- Let your child watch that favorite video or television program one more time. Or bring him a new set of crayons and paper or coloring book. Even a puzzle can be manageable in bed.
- Of course, a bed isn’t necessarily the best place to rest. Fashion something more fun than his bed – like a tent in the living room or a snug, pillow-filled area near you.
- The best way to survive a virus is to sleep through it. Make your child comfortable and let him sleep as much as possible.
STAY HYDRATED – INSIDE AND OUT
- Drinking plenty of fluids helps prevent dehydration and flushes and thins your child’s nasal secretions.
- Plain water is great, but your child might not find it very appealing. Try fruit smoothies and other favorite healthful beverages and ice pops made from 100 percent juice. For younger ones, 2 months-1 year old, or children who are vomiting, pedalyte is the best choice of hydrating fluids.
- Breathing moist air helps loosen the mucus in the nasal passages. Have a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporizer going in your child’s bedroom when she’s sleeping, resting, or playing in the room.
- Give your child a warm bath in a steamy bathroom. Let a hot shower run for a few minutes before getting the tub ready for your child. If she’s old enough, let her play in the bath as long as she likes – supervised, of course, unless she’s old enough to hang out on her own.
- For children over the age of 2, adding a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil to the bath water (or vaporizer) may also help her feel less congested.
- If it’s not a convenient time for a bath, simply turn on the hot water in the tub or shower, close the bathroom door, block any gap under the door with a towel, and sit in the steamy room with your child for about 15 minutes. (Bring a couple of books.)
Here are some remedies to treat specific ailments your little ones might be experiencing:
If your child’s temperature is up, it’s a sign that his immune system is working hard to fight the cold bugs, so it’s best to let a fever run its course unless he seems uncomfortable. (The exception: If your baby is under 3 months and has a fever of 100.4 degrees F. or higher, call your doctor. Fever in a baby can be dangerous.)
- Give him a bath. A five-minute sponge bath in lukewarm water can help your kid feel cooler and can lower his temperature.
- Keep him hydrated. Your child loses more water when his body’s fighting a fever, so make sure you offer him plenty of fluids to keep him from becoming dehydrated.
- Apple cider vinegar-soaked washcloth to your a child’s forehead.
- Ginger Tea. Ginger has an antispasmodic property that helps settle down the muscle contractions in the tummy that produce nausea. Add a teaspoon of shredded fresh ginger to 4 ounces of boiling water and let it steep for five minutes. Serve it to your child warm or iced, and sweeten it with honey.
- Chamomile Tea. Chamomile relaxes the muscle of the upper digestive tract, easing the contractions that move food through the stomach and small intestines; this will relieve spasms and tummy cramps. Give your child a cup of chamomile tea (one cup of water per teabag or 1 drop of chamomile essential oil per cup of water.)
- Peppermint Tea. Peppermint tea is also refreshing and can ease the pain of a tummy ache. Use 1 drop of Peppermint essential oil in a mug of hot water. If your child refuses to drink tea, a peppermint candy, while not as potent, may settle her stomach.
- Apply Heat. Placing a hot water bottle or heating pad on your little one’s tummy while she’s sitting or lying down should relieve some of the pain. Heat increases the blood flow to the skin surface, which can diminish the perception of pain coming from deeper in the abdomen.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Add a drop of peppermint and/or lavender essential oil to a small amount of coconut oil and rub it on their forehead (avoid getting close to eyes.)
- Apply ice. Wrapping several ice cubes in a dish towel will help soothe your child’s head pain (never place ice directly on his skin because it’ll burn.) To keep the towel-wrapped ice from slipping, press it against his forehead or temples and secure it with a bandanna tied at the back of his neck.
ACHES AND PAINS
- DIY Heating Pad. Instead of buying a heat wrap, make one by filling a sock with uncooked rice and tying it closed with a string. Microwave the sock for one minute or until warm, and place it wherever your child has pain. When it cools off, microwave it again. You can also freeze the rice-filled sock to use as a cold pack.
- Try massaging your little one’s aching neck and shoulders.
Coughing helps your child breathe better by clearing mucus from her airways, so don’t try to stop it. Nonetheless, all that hacking can leave your kid’s throat irritated.
- Provide sweet relief. Recent studies show that honey is better than cough medicine for relieving coughs and helping a sick child sleep better. Give half a teaspoon to children ages 1 to 5 years and one teaspoon to kids ages 6 to 11. But never give honey to babies younger than 1; it can cause a rare and sometimes fatal illness called infant botulism.
- Honey and lemon juice. Lemon dries up congestion and honey provides a soothing coating. Mix together a tablespoon of each, microwave for 20 seconds until warm (not hot), and have your child swallow the mixture a teaspoon at a time. Caution: Honey is not safe for babies under 1 year.
- If your child is old enough (usually school age or older) gargling with salt water is a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. It also helps clear mucus from the throat. Simply combine 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and stir. If your child doesn’t mind the taste, a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice can be a soothing addition. Aim for gargling three or four times a day while your child is sick.
STUFFY OR RUNNY NOSE
You may be going through a lot of tissues, but all that mucus helps wash the cold virus out of your child’s nose and sinuses. Don’t panic if you notice his mucus changing from clear to yellow to green: It’s a sign that his immune system is fighting off the virus; it doesn’t mean he needs antibiotics.
- Saline nose drops are better than any medicine you can buy for loosening up mucus. You can purchase saline solution at any pharmacy or make your own by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of water. Make up a fresh solution every day and keep it in a clean bottle. Use a clean dropper to put drops into the nose. Water can also be dripped in using a wet cotton ball.
For the younger child who cannot blow his nose:
- Place 3 drops of warm water or saline in each nostril. (If your child is younger than 1 year old, use only 2 drops at a time and do 1 nostril at a time). After 1 minute use a soft rubber suction bulb to gently suck out the loosened mucus.
For the older child who can blow his nose:
- Use 3 drops in each nostril while your child is lying on his back on a bed with his head hanging over the side. Wait 1 minute for the water to soften and loosen the dried mucus. Then have your child blow his nose. This can be repeated several times for complete clearing of the nasal passages.
- Prop her up. Elevate your child’s head with an extra pillow at night so mucus can drain. For babies, raise the head of the crib mattress by placing a wedge or pillow under the mattress.
- Eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil can also provide congestion relief. Add a few drops to a bath or to a humidifier, or mix with coconut oil and massage the “vapor rub” into your child’s chest, neck, and back. Don’t put on broken or sensitive skin or apply it to your child’s mouth or nose, around her eyes, or anywhere on her face.
And finally, don’t forget the chicken soup! Doctors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found evidence that chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent a cold’s miserable side effects. Chicken soup also helps you to stay hydrated, which is key to recovery. So have your kids eat up and feel better!
Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!