As common as it may be, it is a big nuisance when you get it. Yes, I am talking about the common cold. Cold is usually caused by virus and hence antibiotics do not quite work and give relief. However, some of the infections may turn bacterial and that is when antibiotics come in handy. Unfortunately, the medicines do not just fight and destroy the bad bacteria but also kill good ones. Hence it is important to have probiotics after a course of antibiotics so good bacteria can be replenished. As it takes roughly about a week struggle before you can get near medication, it is quite important to get some relief. This is all the more important for infants and toddlers as they cannot blow their nose and get the phlegm out. I have listed below some of the home remedies that is commonly used in the place where I come from and in my household as well.
1. Kumkum is made with turmeric and is commonly used by Hindus as it has religious significance. It has wonderful decongesting properties. Get a good quality kumkum and add few drops of water to a teaspoon of kumkum. Add two pinches of saffron strands and heat it. Allow it to cool and once warm enough to touch, apply on baby/child’s forehead and nose.
2. Dry ginger powder has a similar application as well. Make a paste of a teaspoon of ginger powder and few drops water. Heat it and cool until it is warm enough to touch. Apply on forehead, nose and behind ears. This is more suitable for much older children and adults.
3. If you have no access to kumkum, try the same with turmeric powder.
4. Turmeric milk works great for adults and children. Warm some milk and add turmeric powder. Drink this milk, especially before bed.
5. Ingest garlic milk. As gross as it may sound, it is quite effective and can be given to infants and toddlers as well as adults. If giving to infants, make sure your child is not allergic to milk or garlic. Crush two cloves of garlic and add to few tablespoons of milk. Allow this to boil well. Once it is cool enough to consume, drink the milk.
6. One of the home remedies I have found quite effective is a mixture of betel leaves, ajwain seeds (called omam in tamil) and garlic. Take a couple of betel leaves, crush couple of cloves of garlic and add few pinches of crushed ajwain seeds. Add few tablespoons of water and boil well. Give just the liquid to the child. Betel is called ‘vetrilai’ in tamil and a partciular type called ‘kamara vetrilai’ is even better for this treatment.
7. Vaporub application. I was told and also read that doctors do not believe vaporubs are helpful at all. However, as a parent you would do anything to help your child sleep for atleast a few hours and clearing their nose is important for this. I found that my child is not happy to apply the vaporub. I apply vaporub on the chest and back when giving my kid a bath and dab some warm water on these areas. This releases the vapurs and clears the nose.
8. Keep the room humid. While commercial humidifiers are available we have noticed that when suffering from cold, a particularly high amount of humidity helps provide some relief and sleep. We keep the kitchen steamer and keep re-filling it. The humidity relieves congestion. Keeping the room at slightly elevated temperature helps retain humidity. One must however always ensure the child is not overheated.
9. Although I have never tried, I have heard that heating little coconut oil and adding camphor to it and applying to the chest helps relieve congestion
10. Applying eucalyptus oil, especially in the big toes is said to stimulate the sinuses and relieve congestion. The challenge is to make the infant or child offer their leg for this toe massage!
11. For adults, have several doses of ginger tea. You could either add half a teaspoon of dry ginger powder to a glass of hot water or crush some pieces of ginger, add it to water and boil well until the water begins to change colour.
12. Inhaling fumes from turmeric also helps relieve congestion especially in adults. I take a piece of dried turmeric and burn one end. The smoke provides great relief.
13. Have what we call ‘rasam’ or soup. It is basically essence of few things. Add a teaspoon each – crushed cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds and some black pepper powder to water and boil well. Add some tamarind puree or paste and some salt and drink like a soup. If you do not have or like tamarind, have the liquid like a decoction.
Have in mind that while adults manage to blow their nose or spit the phlegm, babies and infants cannot do so. Typically they either vomit the phlegm or pass it in their motion and hence have some loose stools. Having said that, it is always worth checking with your doctor if you are concerned.