In today’s world of advanced medical science, is there a place for home remedies of the past? While nothing can take the place of your child’s primary care provider’s advice and expertise, there are a few simple home remedies worth trying.
- Cold medicines are not recommended at any age because they are not helpful and they can't remove dried mucus from the nose. Antihistamines are not helpful, unless your child also has nasal allergies.
- If your child has a stuffy nose, you can use nasal washes with over-the-counter saline solution, or you can make your own homemade nasal wash by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt with 8 ounces of water. Instill three drops into each nostril, then blow or suction each nostril with a bulb syringe and repeat the process until the nose is clear. For infants, only use one drop at a time.
- If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier or vaporizer in the bedroom because dry air makes the cough worse. Avoid using menthol-containing products as this can irritate the airway and make coughs worse. Cool-mist devices are recommended for safety reasons.
- If your child has a cough and is 3 months to 1 year of age, give 1 to 3 teaspoons of warm, clear fluids such as water or apple juice four times a day. For children 1 year and older, you can give 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey as needed as a homemade cough remedy. For ages 6 and older, you can use cough drops or hard candy to coat the irritated throat.
- Remember: Good hand washing is the best defense we have against spreading germs.
- Most children with croup just have a barky cough, but some develop tight breathing called stridor. You can treat most croup at home. Remember that coughing up mucus is very important for protecting the lungs from pneumonia. Use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in the bedroom if the air is dry.
- If your child develops coughing spasms, expose him or her to warm mist by going into a steamy bathroom for 20 minutes. If that does not work, let your child breath in cold air by going outside if the temperature is cold enough, or stand in front of the open freezer and let him or her breathe in the cold air for about 10 minutes.
- Give your child warm fluids to drink such as warm water or apple juice. For children 3 months to 1 year of age, give warm fluids in a dosage of 1 to 3 teaspoons (5 to 15 ml) four times per day when coughing. If your child is older than 1 year of age, use unlimited amounts of fluids as needed to help relax the airway and loosen up the phlegm.
- It may be helpful to sleep in the same room with your child for a few nights as stridor can suddenly develop at night.
This article was written by Lisa Kessels, RN, a nurse on the Answer Line at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.