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While your child can’t completely avoid colds, you can relieve her cold and flu symptoms with these natural home remedies. From steam to saline, here are easy ways to help your child feel better.
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Natural remedies for cold and flu
It's inevitable that your child will catch a cold at some point in those first few years. She may even get the flu. The cold or flu has to run its natural course, which is usually seven to 10 days, but there are some safe, tried-and-true home remedies that may relieve some of your baby's symptoms.
Everyone knows how much your body needs rest when you're sick. Extra rest is key for your child. Remember that it takes a lot of energy to fight off an infection, and being sick can be very draining. Rest gives your child time to regain energy and to heal his body, and resting doesn't necessarily mean sleeping. It can be in the form of quiet time – like reading some stories, watching a video, doing games or puzzles, or just cuddling in bed.
Moist, steamy air is another helpful remedy. Breathing moist air can loosen the mucus in her nose and relieve her congestion and cough. There are many ways to accomplish this. You can run a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer in her room. Or you could sit with her in a steam-filled bathroom. Just turn on the hot water, close the bathroom door, and let yourself steam up for 15 minutes. A warm bath in a steamy bathroom will also do the trick.
For most kids, blowing their nose is a learned skill and does not come easily in the first few years. Until she learns to blow her nose effectively, I recommend saline drops or spray, and a bulb syringe or other nose suction device to help clear her secretions. If her nose is very moist and filled with mucus, you might not need any extra saline drops. In that case, you can use the syringe or suction to suck up mucus a few times a day. You may want to try this before a feeding as the stuffy nose may interfere with her eating. I would limit this to a few times a day, as too much nasal suctioning can irritate the mucosa of her nose and cause bleeding. And never use a nasal decongestant spray on your young child, as these sprays are not recommended for children under 6 years.
There are so many good reasons to give your sick child lots and lots of fluids. Extra fluids will thin his nose secretions and keep him well hydrated. For babies 6 months and older, warm clear liquids may help with congestion and soothe your child. You could offer warm water with lemon or with chamomile, broth, or even chicken soup. Believe it or not, our grandma was right about chicken soup. Studies show that chicken soup really does relieve many cold and flu symptoms like body aches, congestion, and fever.
If your child is over a year, it may help to elevate her head when she sleeps. This will help her breathe easier and allow her secretions to drain better. You can use pillows or towels under the mattress to elevate the head of her crib or bed. If she's over 2 years old and sleeps on a bed, you can give her an extra pillow right under her head.
Honey is a great remedy for your child's cough or sore throat, but don't give your child honey if she's less than a year old as there is a risk of an infection called infant botulism. Honey coats and soothes the throat and can suppress a cough. Recent studies show that honey can help with a nighttime cough and improve overnight sleep even when compared to cough syrup – and it tastes great. So why not give it a try? You can offer your child honey in a spoon, or mix it with warm water or another warm clear liquid, like chamomile tea or water with lemon. Honey sticks are another great way to entice your child into eating the honey. I encourage my patients to try these natural home remedies, but if your child's symptoms are not improving, please call your doctor.
Video production by Paige Bierma.