7 Home Remedies to Soothe Cold and Flu Symptoms

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by: Lindsay Hutton
According to the National Institutes of Health, children get an average of 6 to 10 colds per year. Add that to flu season, and it can seem your child is always sick! Most cold and flu illnesses are viruses, meaning they can't be treated with anitbiotics. So, what's a concerned mom to do? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under 4, so helping your child feel better naturally can be the best course of action. Read about some home remedies that might help, and comment with your own tips.
Bowl of chicken noodle soup
Chicken Soup
Your mom was right — chicken soup really is good for you when you are sick! According to the Mayo Clinic, chicken soup relieves cold symptoms, like aches, fatigue, and congestion, in two ways — it acts as an anti-inflammatory, and it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucous, helping to relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time the virus is in contact with the nose lining.

Other warm liquids, like lemon water or warmed apple juice, can also help relieve congestion and can be soothing to your child. A small amount of weak, lukewarm chamomile tea can also be given to children over 6 months.

Jar of honey
Honey
Honey coats and soothes sore throats and helps relieve coughing. The AAP recommends giving half a teaspoon to children ages 2 to 5, one teaspoon to children ages 6 to 11, and two teaspoons to children ages 12 and up. Do not give honey to babies younger than 12 months.

Other soft foods like pudding, gelatin, ice cream, and popsicles are also good for relieving sore and scratchy throats, and good options to offer your child if he doesn't have an appetite for his regular diet.

Little girl with towel on head using steam bath
Steam
Cold, dry air is where cold viruses thrive, which is why they are more common during the colder months of the year. Dry air also dries out your mucous membranes, which can cause a stuffy nose and scratchy throat.

Warm, humid air, such as the steam from a hot bath, can help loosen mucous in the nasal passages, making it easier for your child to breathe. A hot bath can also be relaxing and comforting to a sick child. For infants, sitting in a steamy bathroom before bedtime can help him breathe a little easier.

If you choose to use a humidifier, remember to change the water daily and clean it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Humidifiers can accumulate mold, bacteria, and fungi if they aren't cleaned properly, which is then sprayed in the air and can make your family sick.

Little boy using nasal spray
Saline Drops and Sprays
Over-the-counter or homemade nasal drops and sprays are safe for children and can help relieve congestion and stuffy noses. They do not have a rebound effect (a worsening of symptoms when you stop using them) like nasal decongestants. If you have an infant, a stuffy nose can interfere with breastfeeding and bottle feeding, so it's best to use saline drops about 15 minutes before a feeding.

To make your own saline drops, boil 8 ounces of tap or distilled water to eliminate any bacterial impurities and dissolve about half a teaspoon of salt in it. Let it cool, store in an airtight container, and make a new batch every day.

To use, tilt your child's head back, put a few drops in one nostril, and leave for about 30 seconds. For babies, use a bulb syringe to suction out the liquid.

Sea salt in wooden spoon
Salt Water
Gargling a mixture of a salt (about a quarter to a half teaspoon) and 8 ounces of warm water can help temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat and loosen mucous. Aim to have your child gargle 3 to 4 times per day when she is sick.

This treatment is best for children 4 years or older, since gargling can be tricky and unpleasant for young kids. Have your child practice with plain water, and teach her to spit it out instead of swallowing it when she is done.

Little girl drinking glass of water
Extra Fluids
Excessive coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause your child to lose fluids and become dehydrated, so it's important to make sure your child is getting enough liquids. Staying hydrated can also help loosen mucous and reduce congestion.

Water, clear broth, 100% fruit juice, smoothies, and other healthy beverages are all good options for your child. If your child is less than 6 months old, continue feeding him breastmilk or formula unless otherwise directed by his doctor.

Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as soda, as these can make dehydration worse. Contact your child's doctor if he isn't drinking fluids or you feel his dehydration isn't improving or becoming worse.

Little boy sleeping on back in bed
Plenty of Rest
Fighting an illness takes a lot of energy, so it's important that your child stays rested as she recovers. Quiet activities, such as coloring, reading, puzzles, and even a little television, are all good ways to keep your sick child occupied without overexerting her.