7 Mum-tested natural remedies for fighting kids' colds

With that change in the south-east Queensland air, cold season is near. For some, it will mean stocking up on natural remedies that with help comfort your kids if they catch a cold.

Regardless of whether it’s a headache or cough, a sore throat or tummy bug, when your kiddo gets sick, you just want to make them feel better. These tried and tested natural remedies are proof ‘Dr Mum’ can really save the day.

What to do for a blocked or stuffy nose

For babies, it’s almost impossible they are going to be able to blow their nose when it’s blocked due to a cold. It’s the pits — for them and you. An absolute God-send though is a nasal aspirator. These remove mucus from your baby’s nostrils, which helps them breathe more freely. When you’re looking for an aspirator, get one that you are going to be comfortable using (it can be a bit like the dread of nail clippers for some parents) and also easy to clean.

If you have an older child, consider a saline nasal spray. You can place this up your child’s nostril to clear the passage and relieve them of congestion. We’d suggest getting your child to gently blow their nose after the spray has been given. This helps remove mucus.

If your child is having difficulty breathing when they are lying down because they are congested, a vaporiser or cool mist humidifier can do the trick. Additionally (and depending on your child’s age) you might want to prop them up with a few extra pillows. The more upright position helps them achieve easier breathing, while the vaporiser/humidifier works to break up mucus, alleviate congestion and keep the coughing at bay. The humidity also has other benefits. It keeps your child’s nasal passage and throat hydrated, and it assists in warding off the flu virus because it limits its ability to survive in the air and on surfaces.

Natural remedies for a cough

A number of studies show that 1 teaspoon (15ml) of honey about 30 minutes before bed can help settle a cough. Honey has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, making it as effective as a soothing agent as throat lozenges and cough medicines. Just remember, due to the risk of infant botulism, don’t give honey to children aged under one.

What to do for a disruptive cough

A child’s coughing can be noisy, disruptive and worrisome. It can also interfere with a good night’s sleep (often for you too). If you’ve got a tub of Vicks Vaporub in the house, it can help. Though it’s not exactly a ‘natural remedy’, there is a small amount of evidence this topical option can improve symptoms at bedtime. Of course, there are natural alternatives to Vicks. In Australia, they include Little Innoscents Organic Winter Blues Balm, PURE Papaya Care Vapour Balm, Badger Aromatic Chest Rub and Kiwiherb De-Stuff Rub. You can also make your own, see below (the measurements are suitable for children and babies).

DIY Vapour Rub

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp beeswax
  • 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 drops fir needle essential oil

Method

  1. In a mason jar or glass jug, add beeswax, shea butter and coconut oil. Place jar or jug into a saucepan filled with 6cm of water. Melt ingredients over medium heat.
  2. Once melted, remove from heat and add essential oils. Stir to combine.
  3. Pour mixture into your chosen jar or container. Seal tight and store in a cool dry area out of sunlight.

What to do for a fever

No doubt you’ve heard about putting your child into a lukewarm bath to bring their fever down. Further to that, adding a cup of apple cider vinegar to the bath water is a natural remedy for fever reduction that’s been used for decades. If your kiddo isn’t up for the tub, add a few drops of ACV onto a warm, damp cloth and place the cloth across your child’s forehead. In addition to helping prevent cold and flu viruses from setting up house in your kid’s system, apple cider vinegar is also good for gut health.

What to do for a headache

Kids and headaches are a bad combination. Headaches can occur for a lot of different reasons, from anxiety to dehydration and even not enough rest. If the headaches are infrequent and any serious symptoms have been ruled out, consider these tried and tested natural remedies:

  • take your child to a dark, quiet room and encourage them to rest or sleep
  • apply a cool compress to their forehead, eyes or the back of the neck
  • encourage your child to take a warm bath or shower and then apply a warm compress on their head or neck
  • if you think your child needs hydration, give them water
  • give your child something to eat if you think they have a hunger headache
  • use relaxation techniques like deep-breathing exercises, music relaxation or progressive muscle relaxation.

Natural remedies for nausea and vomiting

Your kid is feeling nauseous and their tummy is about to lurch. Yikes! Quickly boil the kettle. Ever been calmed by a spot of tea? Ginger root and lemon are powerful forces for soothing an upset tummy. Slow boil sliced ginger root in a saucepan for 15 minutes, then turn it down to a simmer. Add the vitamin C-rich juice from half a lemon and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Serve the lemon and ginger root in warm water and encourage your child to sip it. If they need a bit of sweetness, add in a drop or two of honey.

Watch for dehydration, too. Kids become dehydrated more quickly than adults do. If they are acting tired or cranky (which is different to say, your five-year-old at 5pm) have a dry mouth, cool skin and sunken eyes they could be dehydrated. Also, if they are either not urinating as often or have urine that is darker yellow when they do go, it could be dehydration. To prevent and relieve dehydration, try to get your child to drink in very small amounts. Try ice chips and sips of water. Even if they continue vomiting, your child is still absorbing some of what you give them.

What to do when the whole house goes down

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, isn’t it? Like a set of dominos, one by one every member in the house succumbs to a dreaded bug, cough or flu. There are no guaranteed ways to avoid illness, but these tried and tested remedies have certainly proven helpful (and are given the thumbs up by doctors and nurses). First and foremost, wash your hands. As often as is necessary, which could be a lot! Then, boost your vitamin C intake. You’ll also want to drink more water, more than you think you might need. Finally, if the issue is tummy related, add a probiotic to your diet to keep more of the good gut bacteria working hard.

When you should seek medical help

The following are signs you’re not dealing with a run-of-the-mill cough or cold and your child should be seen by a healthcare provider:

  • wheezing
  • laboured or fast breathing (nostrils are flared, skin is stretched tight over the ribcage and a prescribed inhaler isn’t helping)
  • a cough that leads to choking, vomiting or trouble breathing
  • infrequent urination due to dehydration
  • more sleepy than usual or difficulty waking up
  • a stiff neck or complaints that light hurts their eyes
  • a rash
  • pain that doesn’t get better.

These symptoms could be red flags that you’re dealing with a serious infection.

Also, if your baby is younger than three months old and has a fever of 38C or higher, even if they have no other symptoms, you should see a GP. If your child has a weakened immune system for any reason and has a fever above 38C, you should seek immediate care from your doctor or hospital emergency department.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your or your child’s personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and should not be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Written by Calista Bruschi

When she’s not moulding Play-Doh or dancing in the living room with her children, Calista Bruschi is an editor and writer. She has oodles of experience working on newspapers, magazines and websites. Calista likes to organise and be organised. She loves being a mum, Italian food, wine, sport and stationery. She hasn't sleep a full night in more than five years and is powered by coffee.

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