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Cold Comfort

Molly is sick.

She’s not very happy about it either.

What started out as a simple cold has morphed into bronchiolitis, and we ended up in the emergency room last night for a breathing treatment and a chest x-ray. It’s not RSV, thank goodness, but seeing her struggle to breath and feeling her baby heart race was certainly scary!

Even having a stuffy nose can be frightening for a baby. Infants are obligate nose-breathers, God’s design for allowing them to breathe and nurse at the same time. So when little noses get stuffed up, things can get very difficult very quickly!

Around here, we prefer to treat things naturally, which is a good thing since you can no longer buy over-the-counter medication for the under-two set. We don’t even really like to treat fevers, preferring to let the body fight its own infections unless the fever is above 103 or the child is in extreme discomfort. Because Molly’s fever was above 102 and because it’s important she not become dehydrated, we are actually treating her fever with dye-free acetaminophen as needed.

Here are some other comfort measures we like to take when we have sick little ones.

1. The Snot Sucker

We don’t go for anything fancy, just your plain old garden variety nasal aspirator that all babies are born to hate. We warm them up for the big event with a dose of nasal saline first. You can buy it if you want or it’s super easy to make your own– just bring one cup of water to a boil on the stovetop and add 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized (sea) salt and a pinch of baking soda. The baking soda helps buffer the solution. Stir until dissolved and LET COOL COMPLETELY before using. Be sure to use it within 24 hours and make it fresh each day.

Because the babies hate this so much, we try to make it a tag team operation as much as possible with one of us acting as a distraction decoy. Singing, playing peek-a-boo, or giving the baby a (clean) aspirator of her own to hold all help keep things relatively calm. It also helps if you stay calm. I’ve found my babies can catch my mood and if I’m nervous or anxious, so are they.

2. Run a Cool Mist Humidifier

Again, there are fancier ones out there, but this one does it for us. We’re “white noise” kind of people, so the whir of the fan just helps to lull us to sleep. You definitely want to get a humidifier with a filter and then check it often to be sure you aren’t circulating and breathing in mold. They do sell solutions you can add to your water, but then you are trading breathing in mold for breathing in bleach. I’ve also heard if you boil your water first that cuts down on filter usage, but that seems like a lot of work to me.

One thing I like to do is add sniffle-friendly essential oils to the water. I’m sure this isn’t recommended usage, but I’ve never had a problem. Which brings me to number three…

3. Use Essential Oils

My absolute favorite go-to aromatherapy for colds and coughs is Erbaviva’s Sniffle Bath Essence. It’s organic and has tea tree oil, lavender, and eucalyptus. As the name suggests, it’s meant to be used for tubby time– just run your water and then drop in 5 drops or so. Just wait until the water is done running. I’ve also been known to add a few drops of this or eucalyptus oil to my humidifier water. I’ve never had any issues with it affecting machine usage, and it makes the room smell lovely and our sleep restful.

4. The Steam Treatment

This is one of those remedies passed down from generation to generation. Just go into the bathroom, run the shower at the hottest setting,  close the shower curtain and the bathroom door, and settle in with your little one and a book. You probably want to strip them down to a diaper so they don’t get overheated.

The steam helps loosen up congestion so your little one can breathe. About 15 minutes should do it.

5. Water, Water, Everywhere… Have Lots of It to Drink!

Keeping your kiddo hydrated is especially important when they are congested. Lots of fluids will help thin out the mucous secretions and ease congestion. If they won’t drink water you could also try fruit with a high water content like watermelon or homemade juicecicles. I’ll be honest though, I don’t like to give sugar when my littles are sick, as I believe sugar suppresses the immune system. Warm broths and clear soups are another way to keep your child hydrated.

And if you’re breastfeeding, of course you should keep on doing that. If possible, you should offer the breast more than usual. Don’t let anyone feel you nonsense about your breastmilk being dairy and causing more mucous. Breastmilk counts as a clear fluid and contains natural antibiotics and other immunities to help your child fight his cold.

6.  The Exception to the Sugar Rule… Raw Honey

While not for babies under the age of one, raw honey is great for coughs and cold. Not only is it naturally anti-bacterial, but it also coats the throat so that uncomfortable raw feeling from coughing so much is lessened. And it tastes great! You can give half a teaspoon before bed to help lessen nighttime coughing. Be sure to brush teeth afterwards!

7. Homeopathy

This is a great, safe, natural way to treat coughs and colds. There are many different remedies that correspond with different types of symptoms, some of which you can read about here. There are also several over-the-counter *multisymptom formulas you can buy at your local drug store or natural food store, including Hyland’s “Sniffles and Sneezes 4 Kids” and Boiron’s “Children’s Chestal.”

8. Give Your Baby a Rubdown

We all remember our mamas putting Vicks Vapor Rub on our chests during a particularly nasty cold. I’m not a fan of the petroleum jelly and chemicals used in that particular formula, but there’s a lot of ancient wisdom to the practice of gently massaging a sick child. The action of gently rubbing the chest, starting from the middle and moving out towards the armpits helps to loosen congestion. If you use a carrier oil and add a little eucalyptus, lavender, or chamomile, you’re also introducing essential oils with cold-fighting properties. You could even make your own! By the way, this isn’t just for babies– big kids love it too!

9. Create a Peaceful and Restful Environment

There’s an old adage “Treat a cold and it lasts a week. Leave it alone and it lasts seven days.” The discomfort from a cold isn’t actually because of the virus itself, but from the various mechanisms your body uses to fight it. And since it is caused by a virus, there’s very little you can do besides ride it out and treat the symptom. Having lots of quiet snuggle time for storytelling and singing soft songs, keeping the lights low, serving up liberal doses of chamomile tea, and giving your child lots of love and prayer will all go a long way towards helping her to heal. Though you might be tempted to turn on the television, I personally would recommend against it, as this tends to overstimulate children.

As always, you know your child best! If your child develops an earache, has a fever for several days, is short of breath or otherwise seems overly out of sorts, you should of course consult your health care provider.

How do you treat coughs and colds?

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