When you have two kids, chances are someone in the family has a cold at any given time during the winter season. Charlie had a cold pretty much the entire winter and spring the first two years of his life. He finally built up his immune system and has been very healthy this past winter (knock on wood!). Unfortunately Olive has caught cold after cold, and it’ll probably be a while before she builds up her immune system.
We’ve tried tons of remedies over the years to combat colds and coughs, and this is what’s in our toolkit:
1) Boogie Wipes – When little ones have nonstop runny noses, these saline wipes make wiping their noses much less painful. Some people think the Grape Scent is too strong (it also comes in unscented) but I love it.
2) Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermomter – For infants a rectal thermometer is best (we loved the Vick’s Rectal Thermometer). But for toddlers, I love our Braun Thermometer. It’s quick, easy, accurate, and the kids don’t mind it. We previously had an Exergen Temporal Artery forehead thermometer, but I could never get consistent readings with it.
3) Eucalyptus Oil – This is an absolute must have for us to treat colds and coughs. It really clears your sinuses! I put a couple of drops into a pot of water and keep it simmering on the stove all day. I put a couple drops in a cup then stand in the bathroom with the hot water running in the shower for 10 minutes while patting Olive on the back to break up her congestion. Afterwards, the snot just pours out of her nose! When Olive is really congested, I do this before every nap and bedtime and she usually sleeps pretty well even with a cough and congestion.
4) Raw Honey – Raw honey is great to coat throats and treat coughs. I recently made honey lollipops, and Charlie loved them (though he didn’t even have a cold). Olive wasn’t a fan so I just fed her a spoonful of honey. (Infants under the age of 1 shouldn’t be given honey because of the risk of botulism.)
5) Carlson Vitamin D Drops – I got lax about giving Olive Vitamin D drops as she got older, but I started giving them to her daily in the winter because she spends so much less time in the sun. I also recently found out that I’m extremely Vitamin D deficient, and evidently most people who live in cold areas are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D boosts your immune system, helps with calcium absorption, and has a slew of other benefits. The Carlson brand is our favorite (over Trivisol or Polyvisol), and they make one for older kids as well.
6) Probiotics – Probiotics have so many health benefits including boosting your immune system. Charlie gets a daily Metagenics chewable probiotic (only available through nutritionists), Olive gets Metagenics powdered probiotic added to her water, and adults should take a daily probiotic too. (I wrote a post on probiotics and the different strains here.) I also load the kids up on fermented foods that have probiotics like pickles, kefir (has 3x the probiotics of yogurt), and probiotic goat’s milk yogurt. I also started washing kimchi and giving it to them, and sneaking it into soups. I have to see if they’ll eat sauerkraut too!
7) Staying hydrated – When Olive is sick, she has no appetite at all so it’s very important to keep her hydrated. You can actually make your own pedialyte at home!
8) Margo Moo Nebulizer – If your child has a wheezing cough that you can hear in their chest, you should take them to the pediatrician right away. Both Charlie and Olive had RSV, and we treated them at home with this nebulizer and albuterol. Our pediatrician gave us a prescription for a big supply and told us it was fine to use the nebulizer any time the kids had a wheezing cough. We’ve only had to use it a couple of times, but it makes such a huge difference.
9) Nosefrida – We didn’t use the Nosefrida too much with Charlie because his colds tended to be more of the coughing variety, but there was a period where we used the Nosefrida daily for a month with Olive. The amount of snot you can suck out is incredible! Some parents prefer the BabyComfyNose Aspirator, but I haven’t had a chance to personally use it.
10) Saline Spray – Olive hated the saline spray so most of the time we just used the steamy shower + eucalyptus oil trick. But when there are dry boogers causing congestion, saline spray can really loosen them up for the Nosefrida.
11) Vicks Babyrub – We apply this to chests and feet to help with congestion and cough. I’ve heard that you can apply eucalyptus oil directly instead, but I’ve never tried that since it smells so strong and I’m afraid of irritating their skin.
12) Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen starts acting faster but Ibuprofen lasts longer. Charlie didn’t have high fevers so we usually stuck to acetaminophen. (I vastly prefer the concentrated drops but they’re being phased out.)
13) Ibuprofen – Olive has always been prone to high fevers that respond much better to ibuprofen than acetaminophen. We switch off between acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the daytime to make sure that the timing works for her to get a dose of medicine before bedtime.
14) Socks – We’ve always applied Vicks to feet and covered them with socks because stories of it being the most effective cough treatment abound on the internet (whether or not this is true remains undetermined on Snopes). I’ve also heard about naturopaths applying cold, wet socks to feet which is supposed to increase circulation and decrease congestion. It sounds interesting, but I haven’t tried it yet!
15) Vicks Waterless Vaporizer – This releases Vicks into the air from a scentpad to ease coughing and congestion all night long. I’ve never tried this product myself as I use the poor man’s method of putting some eucalyptus oil into a pot of hot water and keeping it in Olive’s room.
16) Humidifier – We used to run the humidifier nonstop in Charlie’s room when he was sick. But after he got RSV and we learned the children with allergies or asthma shouldn’t use humidifiers at all, we stopped using one altogether. But for children without respiratory problems, a humidifier can be really helpful in the dry, cold winter air. Air O Swiss is a great brand.
17) Bone broth – Bone broth is full of so many nourishing nutrients that boost your immune system. You can check out my post and recipe on it here.
Phew that was an extensive list! When Olive is sick, this is my step by step process to caring for her: 1) give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat fever; toggle depending on the timing, 2) load up on bone broth, probiotics, honey, and liquids, 3) simmer a pot of water with eucalyptus oil in it all day, 4) add eucalyptus oil to a cup in the shower, run a steamy hot shower and stand in the bathroom with Olive while patting her back to break up the congestion, 5) Nosefrida, 6) apply Vicks to chest and feet and cover with socks, 7) leave a pot of hot water in the room with a couple drops of eucalyptus. Though Olive always wakes up more at night when she’s sick, she usually sleeps pretty well for that first long stretch.
For battling sore throats for adults, I tried this concoction that I found on Pinterest, and it is the best sore throat remedy I’ve ever tried:
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (like Bragg’s)
2 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon honey (locally produced raw honey, if possible.)
Take 1tb as needed to treat sore throat, cough, and congestion.
What are your best tips and tricks for treating coughs and colds for little ones?
PS - More tips on how to prevent and treat colds.