Every year hundreds of infants and small children suffer from colds and coughs, mainly due to their weak immune systems. In fact, within the first year of life, most babies will have up to seven colds.
Children pick up the various infection-causing viruses through contact with an infected person or contaminated air or surfaces.
Some symptoms of colds and coughs in babies are a congested or runny nose, a low-grade fever of up to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, sneezing, coughing, loss of appetite, irritability and difficulty sleeping.
Dealing with a sick child can be really difficult for parents as well as caretakers.
As the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving cough and cold medications to children under 6 years old because of potentially fatal side effects, it is best to stick to natural methods. Home treatments will ease their symptoms and strengthen their immune systems.
However, be sure to call your doctor if your child has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and symptoms that last more than a week. Always consult your doctor if your baby is younger than 3 months old and has a fever.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for colds and coughs in babies.
1. Sponge Bath
To reduce a fever in small babies, give them a cool water bath or sponge bath to regulate body temperature.
A bath has the added benefit of relaxing your child and it will help them sleep better, which is essential for faster recovery.
- For small babies, give a sponge bath 2 or 3 times a day. Soak a washcloth in room temperature tap water, wring out the excess water and then sponge the armpits, feet, hands and groin to reduce their temperature.
- Another option is to place a cold, damp washcloth on your baby’s forehead and change it every few minutes.
- Older children can take a cool bath or shower.
Note: Avoid using very cold water, which may cause the internal body temperature to rise.
Lemon is another good home remedy. Being rich in vitamin C, lemon helps boost the immune system and assists the body in fighting colds and flu.
Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties also help reduce symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose and coughing.
- Put the juice and peels from 4 lemons and 1 tablespoon of ginger slices in a pan.
- Add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients.
- Cover and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain off the liquid.
- Dilute this liquid with an equal amount of warm water and add raw honey for taste.
- Give your child this hot lemonade to drink, a few times a day.
Note: For babies younger than 1 year, add sugar instead of honey for taste.
Honey is a safe remedy for children age 1 and older who are suffering from the common cold or a cough. It has high antibacterial, antioxidant and immune-boosting properties that help ease coughing, soothe a sore throat and kill the bacteria causing the infection.
- Mix 2 teaspoons of raw honey and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Give it to your child every few hours for symptom relief.
- You can also have your child swallow a spoonful of buckwheat honey several times a day.
- A glass of warm milk with honey can relieve a dry cough and reduce chest pain.
Note: Never give honey to babies younger than 1 year, as it contains bacteria that can cause infantile botulism.
4. Warm Chicken Soup
For children older than 1 year, warm chicken soup is a great option when suffering from a cold or cough. It is light and nutritious and can help relieve congestion. The antioxidants in it speed up the healing process.
In addition, chicken soup improves the function of protective cilia in the nasal cavity that prevent contagions from entering the body.
A 2000 study published in the Chest journal suggests that chicken soup contains a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity for upper respiratory tract infections.
Serve your children homemade chicken soup using organic chicken and vegetables, such as carrots, beet root and spinach. You can feed babies chicken soup 2 or 3 times a day.
The vitamin C in oranges helps increase the production of white blood cells that fight off the cold-causing germs. It also boosts the immune system to alleviate symptoms, such as coughing, sore throat and runny nose.
- For children age 2 years or older, give them 1 to 2 glasses of orange juice daily. For younger babies, dilute orange juice with an equal amount of warm water and give it to them to drink at regular intervals.
- Older children can be given oranges to eat to increase their vitamin C intake.
Ginger is another very popular natural cure for colds and coughs due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antitussive (cough suppressant) properties.
It is also effective at inducing sweating and expelling heat, which in turn relieves mild fever. In addition, it boosts the immune system to help speed up recovery.
- Put 6 cups of water, ½ cup thinly sliced ginger and 2 cinnamon sticks in a pan.
- Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, then strain it.
- Add raw honey or sugar and give it to your child to drink several times a day. For babies younger than 1 year, you can dilute the liquid in warm water before giving it to them.
Older children can also be given ginger slices or ginger candies to chew.
7. Bishop’s Weed
Bishop’s weed, also called carom seeds, is another useful remedy for treating babies suffering from colds and coughs.
Its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties help cure common cold symptoms, such as nasal congestion, fever and sore throat. It also helps loosen mucus so that it is more easily expelled from the body.
- Boil ½ teaspoon of carom seeds in a cup of water for 5 minutes, then strain it. Give it to your child to drink several times a day.
- Alternatively, mix together 1 teaspoon each of dry roasted carom seeds and jaggery. Give this mixture to your child twice daily.
- Another option is to dry roast 2 garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of carom seeds in a pan. Put the ingredients in a clean muslin cloth and tie it with a rubber band. Place it in your baby’s cot or cradle to aid easy breathing while sleeping.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
To reduce a child’s fever, apple cider vinegar is a highly effective remedy. Its acidic nature helps draw heat out of the body through the skin.
- Soak 2 washcloths in a mixture of 1 part raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 2 parts cool water. Wring out the excess solution and place one washcloth on the forehead and one on the tummy. Replace them with freshly soaked cloths after 10 minutes. Repeat until the fever has dropped.
- For children older than 2 years, add ½ cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bathwater. Have your child sit in the bath for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat if the body’s temperature rises again.
9. Breast Milk
Breast milk is important for children, especially when they are sick. It provides a unique balance of nutrients to help their bodies fight infection and recover faster.
Babies younger than 6 months should be given breast milk to fight off the virus causing the cold or cough. If your baby refuses to nurse when sick, try different nursing positions, preferably keeping the baby upright.
Be sure to give your child plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, which can worsen the condition. Staying well hydrated also helps thin the body’s secretions, making it easier for your child to expel the germs and reduce congestion.
- Give oral rehydration solutions (readily available in the market) to small babies to help replenish fluids and electrolytes.
- Offer lukewarm water to older children at regular intervals.
- You can even give decaffeinated tea mixed with raw honey to children age 1 year or older.
- Fruit juice, vegetable soup and clear broths should also be given to sick children.
- Place a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom to reduce labored breathing.
- To keep your baby’s nasal passages clear, use a rubber-bulb syringe.
- Have your child sit in a steamy bathroom or give him or her a warm shower to keep the airways lubricated.
- Give children age 4 and older cough lozenges or sugar-free hard candies to suck on.
- Plan a diet for your child that provides nutrition from food, not vitamin supplements.
- Be sure your child gets adequate sleep and rest for faster recovery.
- Elevate your child’s head with an extra pillow at night so that mucus can drain.
- Ban your pet from your child’s room while he or she is sick.
- Remove stuffed animals and other irritants from your child’s room.
- Use a saline nose spray or drops to loosen up dried mucus.
- Take care of your child’s clothing to protect against cold. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are good options.
- Make your sick child wash his or her hands more frequently to prevent spreading infectious germs.
- Keep your home clean to help your child recover quickly and to prevent yourself from getting sick.
- Keep school-age children at home until symptoms substantially improve.