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Colds and cough are the most common reasons for kids missing classes at school. They are contagious throughout the year. When it comes to the common cold, there is no one-stop cure for it – no antibiotics, no syrups, and no pills. However, there are several remedies that can offer your child some relief when he’s sneezing and wheezing all day long, thanks to an irritating cold or cough. It is better to provide such remedies to your infant from your kitchen than a medical shop. Also, there are so many different remedies for this ailment that you’re sure to find at least a few of the below items sitting right now in your kitchen!
Natural Remedies for Cold and Cough in Babies
When it comes to a cough, there are two kinds:
A wet cough is the existence of phlegm in the throat and nasal area. A dry cough, on the other hand, is marked by the absence of phlegm. The remedies for both sometimes differ. It is necessary to diagnose the cold and cough before providing a remedy for it.
A person does not catch a cold or cough through food items, nor does cold weather create infections in babies, although it does provide a good breeding environment for germs. Children can be infected when they come into contact with germs that spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes, or when they come into direct contact with an infected person. So, the first and foremost thing to do is to maintain hygiene and sanitise your child’s hands regularly.
In spite of taking precautions, if your child does catch a cold and cough, the following are some effective remedies you can try to offer him relief.
Note: As children grow, their immune system, digestive system and respiratory system also develop. Therefore, remedies meant for a newborn will not suffice for a one-year-old. However, some remedies aren’t restricted to any specific age bracket and can be tried for a person of any age, be it for a young baby or a fully-grown adult.
Home Remedies Suitable for Newborn Babies
1. Breast Milk
There is no remedy or cure that is greater than the only natural food for a newborn human – the breast milk. It works as a remedy for any infections in babies who are six months of age or even older. Regular feeds also help calm a cranky baby who does not understand anything and gains comfort only from his mother’s touch.
2. Homemade Nasal Drops
This is very good for babies who have a blocked nose. Your paediatrician can prescribe locally available over-the-counter nasal drops. But you could also make saline drops at home, in case of an emergency. Using a sterilised spoon, mix ½ tsp salt and 8 tsp of warm filtered water in a sterilised bowl.
NOTE: Keep the baby’s head tilted as you drop the prescribed amount into his nostrils. This is done so that the saline does not ooze out. Also, use homemade saline drops in case of an emergency only since it is prone to bacteria.
Turmeric or haldi has been lauded for its healing properties for centuries now, so it isn’t surprising that it’s a part of lots of home remedies in India. Mix a little turmeric with warm water to make a smooth paste, and apply this mixture on your baby’s chest, forehead, and the soles of his feet. Wash it away after some time. The heat from the turmeric will help in diluting the mucus and allow it to ooze out easier.
4. Warm Mustard Oil Massage
Warm a cup of mustard oil with two cloves of garlic and a few kalonji seeds (Nigella sativa). Massage this infused oil onto your baby’s feet, chest, back, and palms. Wipe away the excess oil with a muslin cloth.
Home Remedies Suitable for Babies of Ages 9 Months and Above
5. Jaggery, Cumin, Black Pepper, and Warm Water Concoction
This concoction can calm colds and a cough and sore throat.
You will need the following ingredients:
- Jaggery– 1 or 2 tsp.
- Black pepper – 1 to 2
- Cumin seeds – a pinch
- Water– 1 cup
Mix all the ingredients and bring the water to a boil. Cool and filter the water to be fed. Do not give the baby more than two teaspoons of this concoction as the jaggery and pepper contain heat, which is only good for young babies in small proportions.
6. Infused Coconut Oil Massage
You will need the following ingredients:
- 1/2 cup of coconut oil
- 1 pearl onion
- 2 to 3 tulsi leaves
- 1 betel stem
Heat the coconut oil and add the other ingredients to it. When the ingredients are warm enough, switch off the stove. Let it cool, and once the oil has reached a lukewarm temperature, apply it on the baby’s chest, back, the soles of his feet, and his palms.
Note: Though the common practice is to add a pinch of camphor to this oil, it is not advised to use camphor for children under two years of age. Research says that camphor is too strong and pungent, and will lead to the creation of more mucus. This is the body’s way of shielding itself from pungent smells.
Home Remedies Suitable for Babies of Ages 1 and Above
7. Honey Combinations
An important note – avoid honey for babies younger than a year. Honey cannot be given to children below the age of one as it is harmful to them. They do not have the digestive capacity to dissolve certain particles of raw honey. However, once they are above 12 months old, they develop enough digestion capacity to have honey. Honey is an excellent remedy to fight off germs that spread colds and cough. It can be combined with pepper, dry ginger, and lemon juice for excellent results.
- Honey and pepper: Add a pinch of powdered pepper to a spoon of honey and feed the baby at regular intervals. This is good for both cold and cough.
- Honey and dry ginger: A generous pinch of dry ginger powder with a tablespoon of honey is a great remedy for a cough.
- Lemon and honey: Squeeze some lemon juice into a glass of water and add some honey to it. This is a tasty remedy and kids wouldn’t really say no to this homemade medicine! It also relieves both a cough and cold.
Feed your baby a teaspoon of these solutions every morning, noon, and evening. They can even be fed to the child more than thrice a day. You will notice that your baby’s cough and cold clear out soon.
8. Turmeric Milk
Everyone has heard of the term ‘haldi doodh’. Turmeric milk is a must for a dry cough. Give the baby a glass of milk with a pinch of turmeric at night. You can even add jaggery for sweetness. More so, milk and turmeric make for a healthy and nutritious combination.
9. Khichdi and Soups
Khichdi and warm soup make for excellent supplement food for children. It is calming, comforting, and relieves all kinds of cold and cough.
10. Juice of Citrus Fruits
Give the baby regular sips of juice containing Vitamin C, such as lemon, orange or amla. Vitamin C fights germs that spread colds. However, avoid this if your child suffers from a sore throat.
11. ‘Chukku Coffee’ or Dry Ginger Coffee
No, there is no coffee involved with this remedy; not for babies, anyway! This is a traditional drink that has its origins in Kerala and has several anti-cold and anti-cough elements. Here is the recipe for a ‘chukku’ kaapi or dry ginger kaapi.
- Dry ginger (chukku) – 1-inch piece
- Tulsi leaves – 6 to 7 (torn)
- Peppercorn – Few
- Jaggery – 1 tablespoon (or more, if you prefer a sweet drink)
- Water – 1 cup
Coarsely crush together dry ginger and peppercorns. Boil water with jaggery and add dry ginger and peppercorns followed by the torn tulsi leaves. Let it boil and switch it off. Filter the mixture and feed the baby the lukewarm chukku kaapi.
Make your baby gargle plain warm water or salt water twice or thrice a day to provide him relief from a sore throat and cough. Regularly doing this will provide quick results.
The following are remedies for kids across different age groups.
This is a natural way to help babies become calm and relieve a blocked nose. Run the hot shower/tap in the bathroom and let the steam fill up the room. After turning off the tap, take your baby inside the room. The steam will be mild for you but it is perfect for a newborn. Steam inhalation can also be used for older babies or children. Avoid using boiled water in tumblers. This could prove to be dangerous if the tumbler gets knocked over. Also, consider investing in a steam inhalator.
14. Head Elevation
Elevating the baby’s head helps stabilise the flow of his breath, bypassing interruptions.
15. Infused Water
If your baby is above six months of age or has been introduced to drinking water, then make sure the baby drinks sips of ajwain, cumin or tulsi water at regular intervals. Boil filtered water with a spoon of ajwain/cumin seeds or tulsi leaves. Filter this water and bring it down to a lukewarm temperature before bottling it.
16. Appropriate Clothes
As mentioned earlier, a cold environment becomes a breeding ground for cold and cough. If the baby has only a slight cold and cough, it is advisable to keep him snug and warm. If he is running a temperature, then do the opposite. It is advisable not to add to the high temperature the baby already is suffering from, and loose thin clothes can help reduce his temperature to an extent.
17. Lots of Water
Keep your baby hydrated with a lot of warm water, breast milk, or any other fluids. The chances are that your baby will not be comfortable eating solid food when he has a cold or cough. Fluids will help provide his body with the necessary nutrients and will also help boost his immune system.
Do not add stress to your baby. Yes, as parents we end up doing that. If the baby does not want to do something, it’s best to try something else. The more stressed the baby becomes, the more time he will take to recover. So it’s best to give your little one some time to relax.
Other Remedies You Can Try
Apart from home remedies, certain devices and balms can also help your child recover from a cold and cough.
1. Nasal Aspirator
If your child is suffering from a heavily blocked nose, a regular affair every time a cold strikes, it would be best if you invest in a nasal aspirator. As the baby is too young to consciously sneeze, nasal aspirators will quickly suck out the mucus without irritating or causing harm to the baby.
2. Menthol Balms
It is important to not use menthol/eucalyptus balms for babies under the age of two. The ingredients of an ordinary balm will be too intense for babies, thus forcing the body to produce more mucus to shield itself from such intensity. However, for any baby above two years, one can use the regular balm.
Some Dos and Don’ts:
- Remember to give your baby an age-appropriate remedy for his cold and cough.
- Do not neglect the cold or cough; this may lead to something more serious such as pneumonia.
- Do not panic or get restless when the child does not stop crying.
- Do try and keep different remedies ready and within your reach, especially at night.
- Do consult a paediatrician if you notice something unusual, such as green mucus.
- Do not neglect high fever and consult the paediatrician immediately.
- Remember to use ingredients that the baby is not allergic to.
- Also, do not give any fluid colder than room temperature.
Tips to Prevent a Common Cold
As mentioned above, it’s not really possible to cure a common cold but there are certain precautions you can take to prevent it from infecting your child.
- Wash his hands thoroughly with soap so that he avoids picking up germs from different surfaces.
- Feed him foods that are rich in phytochemicals, such as dark green, yellow, and red fruits and vegetables.
- Teach him to sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of his elbow and not his hands. The germs will stick around on his hands unless he washes them, making him more susceptible to catching a cold or cough.
- Let him get enough exercise regularly to help boost his immunity.
Consistency is the key. Be watchful of how the methods you use are working and if something gives relief to the baby, continue with it. If something is triggering more mucus production and irritability in your baby, avoid it. If the cold and cough persist for more than a week, do see a paediatrician to confirm whether it’s a common cold and not a symptom of something else.
On a general note, remember that children are more prone to cold and cough due to the lack of a fully developed immune system and respiratory system. They are growing. They will catch a common cold at least 6 to 12 times per year. Prepare yourself for its unwelcome arrival in your child’s body with herbs, steamers (age-appropriate), and the first aid box of Indian home remedies for cold and cough in infants!