It’s the time of year when you know almost every kid in school is going to catch a cold that’s going around … and it doesn’t help that you usually end up catching it, too.
For years, the go-to’s have been NyQuil, Tylenol, and maybe some Gatorade, but now more than ever, we’re wanting more natural alternatives. I’m empathetic to the fact that some parents are reluctant to opt for natural remedies because they just want their little one to feel better ASAP and don’t trust that something more natural can cure their children the same way medicine can.
As a pharmacist, here’s my take: almost all over-the-counter cold remedies simply alleviate symptoms. They aren’t actually helping kill off the infection or virus. The reason I like many herbal and natural remedies is because they can be super helpful in shortening the duration of the cold and boosting the immune system. I recommend either starting with these or at least supplementing cold medicine with natural remedies. Of course, if your child is still not cured after trying natural remedies, definitely call your pediatrician to see if an antibiotic or something stronger is needed.
I also want to make one point here—there’s definitely no shame in conventional medicine, and sometimes it’s absolutely needed. I just believe that you should try these remedies before giving your children tablets of medicine that they might not actually need.
Here are some amazing preventative measures that can really help you get a head start. Try implementing these into your routine once cold season comes around!
I’m not going to lie, adding raw garlic to your diet can sound pretty unappealing to kids (and adults!), but it can be so worth it. Garlic contains allicin, a compound which has been known to have antibacterial properties. It’s also known to speed up your healing process. So basically, the only problem you might face is getting your kids to eat it. Try mincing the garlic very finely and adding it to a vegetable broth or even to a light pasta sauce at dinner time to avoid its detection. Tip: adding it to a vegan creamy/cheese sauce (with a cashew almond milk base) can really help hide it. Make sure not to use actual cheese or dairy, as this can worsen phlegm and mucus buildup.
Elderberry plant has been used as a natural remedy for colds for hundreds of years and is mostly known to fight upper respiratory infections and boost immunity. Elderberry is most commonly found in the form of teas and syrups, and while there are many different kinds of elderberry plants, the one that you’ll typically find is the Sambucus nigra. There are several small studies that suggest that elderberry can be an effective natural remedy. One study showed that when elderberries were taken early on, they were able to stop a virus from causing infection, and when taken even after the virus caused infection, they were able to stop it from spreading.
Vapor rubs can be super helpful when children are congested and coughing. However, certain drug store vapor rubs have three main medical ingredients: camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol, which can be really harsh for young kids! I’m someone who loves to make DIY remedies, and for all the moms and dads reading, it’s actually super therapeutic—so you should definitely take a little for yourself, too. Here’s one to try out:
2 teaspoons beeswax (grated)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
25-35 drops peppermint essential oil (substitute 4 drops for babies and very young children)
15 drops eucalyptus essential oil (substitute 4 drops for babies and very young children)
10-15 drops rosemary essential oil (substitute 4 drops for babies and very young children)
Instructions: Melt the beeswax and olive oil together until smooth on low heat on your stovetop. Stir well with a whisk. Continue whisking while adding the essential oils drop by drop. Transfer to a small lidded container. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
A cool-mist humidifier can go a long way when it comes to relieving a dry, stuffy nose. Humidifiers add moisture to a room, which helps open up your nasal passageways. I recommend using one whenever you see the first sign of a cold in your child—it really does make a difference. But there are two important things to point out. First, make sure to use a cool-mist humidifier, as warm mist can be dangerous for young children. Second, make sure to be diligent when it comes to cleaning your humidifier. If you’re not, mold and mildew can build up and contaminate the air.
5) Gargling with Salt Water
When I was growing up, whenever I had a sore throat (or the signs of a sore throat), my mom would make me gargle lukewarm water with salt—and it works. Gargling with salt water can reduce swelling and help flush out irritants. I recommend having your child gargle with half a teaspoon (or a little more) of salt dissolved in one cup of warm water two to three times a day.
The number one priority when your child is sick is to make sure they’re drinking a ton of fluids. Hydration is absolutely key when it comes to flushing out germs and bad bacteria. It will also help your body return to homeostasis, so make sure your child is constantly drinking room-temperature water, herbal teas, and clear broths in order to get them back to normal.
I know that a lot of parents tend to believe that Gatorade is essential to help their child replenish their electrolytes, but personally, I don’t agree. I would avoid Gatorade because of how much sugar and processing goes into one drink, and instead go for something more natural, like coconut water. One thing to keep in mind when your child (or you) is sick is to give your body the highest quality, most natural ingredients possible. You want to help your body heal, so if you fill it with processed junk like Gatorade, you’re just feeding it more foreign substances that it has to work to break down.
One tip to help get your child to drink natural herbal teas is to get something with natural floral or fruit flavor (hibiscus tea is great) so it has a beautiful, bright color. Serve it room temperature and call it juice. Or even make a fun name for it like “magic juice” to make them feel better.
7) Consume Infection-Fighting Foods
Food is medicine. Make sure your child is getting the proper nourishment, because it really will make a huge difference and will speed up the recovery time. Here is a short list of some great, natural foods to eat when your child is battling a cold:
• Bananas and rice to soothe an upset stomach
• Vitamin C-containing foods like bell peppers and oranges
• Organic fresh fruit and veggies (whole or juiced) to boost immunity
• Carrots, which contain beta-carotene to help produce white blood cells to fight infections
• Cranberries may help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the bladder and urinary tract
• Mustard or horseradish may help break up mucus in air passages
Onions to help the body clear infections