We’ve had sick kids this week! So today I’m sharing what I keep on hand for cold and flu season, along with a list of natural ideas to decongest and ease pain for little ones who are too young to take medication. You can watch the YouTube version of this post here.
Keep in mind that I am not a doctor and these are just some ideas to research and consider. Reading labels for age and dosage is extremely important.
Medication to have on hand
I’ve found that having these three pain-easing medications on hand is helpful for when symptoms come on quick so you’re not running to the store late at night and paying too much. For little ones there’s not much you can give them other than the occasional Tylenol for fever, but for 6 and above I keep (and use sparingly):
For kids who need the liquid version, I prefer to buy the name brand, dye-free Tylenol. Maybe it’s just me but it seems to work better and longer than the off-brands. It works for fever and body aches, though research shows it works in the child’s favor to let the fever do its job of fighting off illness when it’s not too high. I tend to use this only if the fever is getting too high or repeatedly interfering with sleep.
I did buy an infrared thermometer (similar) that requires no contact and gets a read in a second. No more struggling with keeping it in their mouths or armpits … or wherever. I still keep my old school thermometer on hand though for back up.
Decongestant shrinks blood vessels in the nasal passage to help with breathing. When the kids were younger I have them something like Hyland’s cold and cough. Now they can swallow pills and I give them half an adult decongestant like Sudafed or something similar.
Just note, allergy medications work differently than decongestants.
My-Doc.com says: “While antihistamines work to prevent and quell allergy symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine, decongestants work by narrowing your blood vessels, decreasing swelling and inflammation.”
Cough suppressant is next on my list. It’s irritating and disruptive when the cold is gone and they are no longer contagious, but still have that lingering cough! A nurse once suggested Delsym and it really works. I’ve tried the homeopathic cough suppressants before and unfortunately they just didn’t do the job. But you be the judge for yourself. We only use this sparingly.
Cough drops also help with a scratchy throat and lingering coughs, so I do like to have these on hand as well.
There is a place for medications, but there are some more natural things you can do to boost their immune systems and care for those too young to take these.
Outside over-the-counter medications, these are the things I do to prevent spreading germs, boost their immune systems and ease their pain. These can also boost the immune system of other family members to it doesn’t spread and take 2 weeks out of life by the time everyone gets it!
There are all kinds of immune boosting supplements and tinctures, but to keep things simple, Vitamin C, elderberry, echinacea and zinc gummies are a good place to start. I’d love to hear your favorites too.
Along with vitamins, I start everyone on probiotics. When the kids were little I bought the powder form probiotics so I could put it in drinks and smoothies and no one would know. It worked wonders for Clara when she was a cranky, gassy baby too!
Now I buy all of us some form of Garden of Life probiotics. I typically only hand these out when we’re sick because it gets pricey to take them on the regular.
Give lots of water. If diarrhea or vomiting have left your little one dehydrated, you can try concentrated electrolytes instead of sugary drinks like Gatorade.
Baths themselves are perfect for a little sick person, but you might not have thought about epsom salts for kids. Epsom salt is good for pain and achey muscles. It can boost magnesium levels, help heal cuts, treat migraines. I use the original salt with no added fragrances that could irritate skin.
If the weather permits, expose 80 percent of the child’s skin to the sun for 20 minutes to stimulate vitamin D production. Vitamin D helps boost the immune system and fight depression, among many more benefits. Obviously don’t over do it. A little sun goes a long way.
A humidifier adds moisture to the air which is useful during dry winters. It helps with nighttime coughing and those never-ending boogers. Just make sure you change the filter when it is discolored and leave it open to dry after use to keep the air clean.
This one brings back all the memories of holding a baby at midnight in our small bathroom with the shower on hot and sink plugged full of hot water. Nighttime is so hard for babies who are plugged up. This trick works well because the steam breaks up the mucus and you hold them upright so it can work its way down. I still stick my older kids in the steamy bathroom too when they middle-of-the-night coughing fits. Works like a charm.
Saline nasal spray is helpful especially at the end of a cold when the snot is thick. And a bulb syringe is definitely not a baby crowd-pleaser, but it really helps when they’re too little to blow their nose.
My son and I have mild asthma and I’ve found this mask to be helpful when my lungs are congested — which for me, happens every cold. It comes with a child and adult size mask as well as a piece that can be inhaled by mouth.
To make your own saline solution combine:
- 2 cups of distilled or boiled water
- one teaspoon of salt
- Let cool to lukewarm.
If my kids are sick and not hungry I don’t force them to eat, but when they do get an appetite back I want to give them nutrients to help their body get well again.
No or very limited sugar
The less sugar the better when their little immune system is already compromised. Loma Linda University’s research found that white blood cells effectiveness decreased up to 50 percent after one to two hours of eating sugar. https://blog.bioticsresearch.com/does-sugar-weaken-the-immune-system The same study also said “a bacterial infection requires a fast, or abstinence from sugar.”
The American Heart Association recommends kids not eat more than 6 teaspoons (or 24 grams) of sugar a day. Look at the added sugar in yogurt, fruit juice, cereal, sports drinks, etc. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/#:~:text=The%20AHA%20suggests%20a%20stricter,of%20sugar)%20for%20most%20men.
Avoid dairy for upset tummies
Dairy products and milk can make an upset stomach worse because they are difficult to digest.
What to eat
- Organic fruit and vegetables
- Dairy-free smoothie
- Healthy popsicles
- Chicken soup
- Chamomile tea
Homemade popsicles feel great on a sore throat and can help prevent dehydration. I use smoothies, applesauce, or juice.
Your grandmother was right, chicken soup is good for you. Broth, especially bone broth, has anti-inflammatory properties.
Too much sugar will weaken the immune system, but raw honey is a natural way to help coughing. It coats the throat and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Raw honey contains B6, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc. Whew. Honey, however, is not recommended for children under 12 months.
A warm cup of chamomile tea (maybe with a little honey) can hydrate, relax and offer your little one some upset stomach relief. It feels good on a sore throat.
I’ve read the oil diffusers can be harmful to kids with irritated respiratory tracts. My guess is it depends on the child and the oil, but I have more reading to do. Just something to keep in mind.
It never fails that I forget half these tricks when a child starts to get sick, so I put my scribbled Post-It into a printable checklist. Here’s a copy for you:
Click image to download high resolution printable.
That’s it for this post. They’re on the mend now! I hope you picked up a trick or too. Let me know your ideas in the comments.