The common cold is a virus infecting the upper airways. This virus is transmitted by contact from hands to mouths, as well as through infected respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing. It’s not uncommon for a child to get multiple colds during a year.
Common cold symptoms include: a sore throat; stuffy, runny nose, sneezing, headache, ear congestion, a low grade fever, and a sore, achy body. Although it may seem like your child is catching a cold every other week, your child’s immune system is actually in the process of evolving from a series of uncoordinated reactions, to an intricate set of responses designed to defend against foreign substances. While the symptoms can sometimes be uncomfortable for your child, what we don’t want to do is suppress the immune system’s fight to strengthen itself. What we do want to work on is boosting your child’s immune system with diet and herbs in order to lessen the frequency, intensity and duration of illness.
Try one of the following strategies to boost your child’s immune system during the cold season:
- Siberian Ginseng Tincture: One dose, once or twice a week, helps build the immune system and strengthen the body.
- Echinacea and Goldenseal Tincture: One dose, twice weekly during cold and flu season, stimulates the immune system and helps the body clear infection.
- Occilococcinum: One dose weekly during cold and flu season. A homeopathic remedy useful for cold and flu prevention. Alternatively it can be used at the very first signs of a cold. Keep 5 tiny granules of the remedy under the tongue until they are completely dissolved.
- It is imperative to practice good hygiene at all times: Careful and frequent hand washing is very important for all members of the family, since many viruses spread by hand.
Here are some strategies that can be used during a cold:
- Drink lots of fluids: If your child doesn’t have an appetite for solid foods, it’s best not to force it. Instead, encourage simple, healthy foods like diluted pure fruit juices, applesauce, soups, broths, and herbal teas. Children with fevers can easily become dehydrated, so flush their bodies with as much fluid as they will accept. Fluids also help to thin mucous secretions, making them easier to eliminate.
- Limit refined sugars: Sugar creates an acidic environment in the body which may cause a cold to linger.
- Avoid dairy products: These foods have a tendency to produce more mucous in the body.
- Drink ginger tea: Ginger helps to cleanse the body as well as reducing the intensity of a cold. Ginger increases perspiration, therefore helping to bring down a fever.
- Use a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room at night: This helps to thin secretions.
- Use a saline nasal irrigation: This is especially important for infants who have a hard time getting mucous out of their noses. Saline sprays come in different strengths; choose a fine mist for infants and younger children, and a more powerful spray for adults.
- Try sugar free vitamin C lozenges or zinc lozenges to soothe a sore throat and boost the immune system: For children over 2 years old, vitamin C and zinc lozenges can be taken on an as-needed basis or you can give your child 1-2 zinc lozenges per day until symptoms subside.
- Drink licorice tea or a tincture of licorice: Licorice has antibacterial properties, tastes sweet, and is effective for soothing the throat. Warning: licorice should not to be given to a child with high blood pressure. Take one dose, three times a day.
- Marshmallow root tea: Marshmallow Root is also soothing to the throat. Take one dose of tea, three times a day.
- Try a home made tea of sage and thyme: One dose, three times a day.
Untreated, a cold can last anywhere from 7-10 days however natural medicines can be very helpful in reducing the severity of cold symptoms and can even shorten the amount of time a cold sticks around for. Keep in mind however that prevention is the best medicine. Before the cold and flu season begins, it’s a good idea to give your child’s immune system a little boost by following some of the suggestions mentioned above.
In an appropriate dose, the aforementioned herbs and homeopathic preparations are safe for young children; however it is advisable not to begin using these suggestions with children younger than 1 year old.
If your child has a pre-existing medical condition, is taking other medication or their symptoms have not improved in 7 days, please seek advice from a qualified a healthcare practitioner.
Editor's Note: We recommend Lemon Ginger, Chai, Sweet Cinnamon and Chamomile Citrus teas from our sponsor Bigelow Tea for soothing your cold and flu symptoms.