Help relieve the symptoms of your child’s cold (and prevent future colds!) with our 10 natural remedies you can do at home.
Cough and cold season is upon us. Despite our best efforts and healthy diet, our kids can catch viruses they just can’t shake. When treating our kids for the common cold or cough, we want our kids to feel comfortable and recover as quickly as possible. Below are 10 natural cold remedies that will help with recovery from those nasty little bugs.
1) Practice Prevention
There is a lot we can do to help prevent the common cold or cough. Before the virus hits, we can build a body that is capable of fighting foreign invaders. Some healthy habits to implement that have been shown to help prevent illness include:
- Eating greens! The studies are in, and greens really do assist in building our bodies natural immunity.
- Vitamin D– Kids need sunshine to build proper immunity.
- Getting plenty of exercise. (play outside and you get the D, PLUS the exercise.)
- Staying away from other sick kids. This might not always be possible, but if you send your kids to school or daycare, you know how important it is to keep your kids home when they are sick, so others aren’t infected. Being around sick kids really does lead to the likelihood other kids will get sick as well.
2) Build immunity
Once a virus has invaded, you can give your body some extra support to fight the attack even harder. Although clinical trials may not always support the benefits, there have been enough reports of anecdotal relief with the following supplements.
- Probiotics. “Challenging” the immune system can be the very thing that builds it! Probiotics can do this with the presence of friendly bacteria that your immune system has to deal with.
- Vitamin C- the biggest benefits have been shown in populations that are deficient in vitamin C. Make sure your kids have a balanced diet, and supplementing with C isn’t necessary. If they are not eating because of their illness, a vitamin C supplement may be helpful.
- Zinc. “Zinc is a trace element essential for cells of the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function as they should. Caution: While it’s important to have sufficient zinc in your diet (15–25 mg per day), too much zinc can inhibit the function of the immune system.” (source)
- Elderberry. This powerful berry can boost immunity and reduce the duration of colds and flu.
3) Stop the spread of germs
I almost put this as #1 because I think it’s so vital! Once a virus has invaded your home, see what you can do to stop it from spreading! Whether it’s spreading to the other family members, or just that it keeps reinfecting the poor child, sanitize the surfaces the virus is living on.
- Wash hands– Apparently a virus can live for several hours on your hands.
- Clean hard surfaces. Door knobs and light switches harbor viruses for several hours as well. We are not germaphobes at my house, but if there is a live virus situation going on, we make sure to clean these surfaces extra well.
- Wash the bedding– Germs live on pillowcases and sheets. Wash in hot water to kill the bugs.
4) Stay hydrated
Taking plenty of fluids may not have much impact on symptom relief, but it’s still necessary to stay hydrated. When a person becomes sick, often water loss follows, especially if the illness is exacerbated by diarrhea, vomiting or fevers. So, drinking water, eating fruit, even sipping some broth can help kids to stay hydrated.
5) Reduce Fever
If your child has an accompanying fever, making him comfortable is important. A fever can be brought down with:
- A lukewarm bath. Make sure you don’t put your kids in a bath that is uncomfortably cool for them. But one that’s lukewarm can help relax them and bring down a fever.
- Cool washcloths under the armpits. Interesting, right? This method can reduce body temperature in people who are overheated from exertion or suffering a fever.
- A smoothie popsicle– better yet, how about our Anti-Flu Super Smoothie, made into a popsicle! Although we’re talking about colds and coughs here, the Anti-flu smoothie is designed to build immunity, and turning it into a popsicle can cool a fever.
6) Soothe sore throat
- Coughing for too long just hurts! You can soothe a sore throat naturally with a homemade honey lemon drink. We have a recipe here.
- If your kids know how to gargle, gargling with warm salt water can provide some relief to a sore throat.
7) Reduce Inflammation
- Echinacea– Even before the discovery of antibiotics, people have been using echiniacea for fighting infections for ages. It’s convenient, safe, easy to find in any store, and it’s believed to decrease inflammation that helps your body heal from the cold or flu.
- Resveratrol is a Powerful phytochemical found in red grapes and berries. Not only does it appear to fight inflammation, but also fights aging (double bonus!) I’ll be eating my dark red berries just for that.
8) Encourage Activity OR Rest.
There are arguments for both sides of this coin. I’ve heard experts recommend activity to treat a cough or cold. But I’ve also heard rest is vital for helping kids get over the virus.
I think the best advice here is to listen to your body. Kids are much better at this than we are as parents! If one of my kids are ever sick, I usually can tell first because they are soooo ready for a nap! No child of mine ever willingly heads to his/her room and falls asleep in the middle of the day (or the floor), unless they are sick! Don’t fight it. Let them rest if they’d like to rest. If however, they are up, alert, and following you all over the house, it’s probably safe to encourage being active to kick-start healing and a normal routine.
9) Try Natural Expectorants
I’ve become a big supporter as of late of expectorants. When you are in the throws of a coughing spell, the last thing you want to do is suppress the cough. In fact, you just feel like getting something OUT. An expectorant encourages a productive cough as opposed to suppressing one. Some natural expectorants include:
- Hyssop– You can drink this herb as a tea, it’s an expectorant as well as anti-viral.
- Eucalyptus oil– When inhaled, eucalyptus oil can help loosen up the mucous to make a cough more productive.
- Water– drinking water can assist with coughing.
- Licorice is not only a natural expectorant, it soothes scratchy throats and burning lungs (source)
- And if your kids can handle the heat, make this cayenne concoction! Not sure if my kids would go for that one though.
10) Relieve Congestion
Feeling congested in your head can leave you miserable! I remember a very specific year (1995 to be exact) when I got the worst cold of my life! I literally felt like my eyes were going to be swollen shut, and that I would never breathe through my nose again. I used nasal sprays, put a towel over my head to breath over a sink to breathe in the steam, I took antihistamines, decongestants, ran a humidifer, everything! I was determined to clear out my head and relieving the pressure and congestion. The most effective thing for me at the time was actually inhaling anything with menthol or other strong odors to get through the muck. Since then, I’ve learned these two plants help to do that:
- Eucalyptus oil
Drop it into a bath, inhaled, add to a humidifier, or rub onto your chest, Eucalyptus oil can help to relieve congestion.
PeppermintContains menthol, a vapor that when breathed or inhaled can provide congestive relief.
If you don’t have time or resources to make your own, both Eucalyptus oil and peppermint you can find in an all natural vapor rub product like Maty’s. It’s a natural remedy, already ready for you, with all the right ingredients, in the correct amounts! Unlike other brands, this one is petroleum free and drug free! It’s safe to use on kids who need some relief from the congested head and sinuses. When you rub it on their chest or neck, they naturally inhale the vapors that provide relief.
You can also put this vapor rub in a bath bomb! Try making our Soothing Peppermint Cough Suppressant Bath Bombs
I actually prefer this brand over others and just used some last night to help relieve my son’s cough (a persistent asthma cough). This brand isn’t sticky or greasy like other brands. ( I was able to wash it off my hands with just some soap and water). The smell is mild to those around you, but pungent enough to break up the congestion.
If you are reading here because you have sick kiddo’s, I’m so sorry! Hoping you can find some natural relief right away!
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie