If you have kids that attend school, daycare, or preschool, you’ve probably already seen a large drop in daily attendance in your child’s classroom thanks to cold and flu season. Even with a flu shot, many families have reported cases of the flu due to immunization-resistant strains of the virus. In fact, as of February 1, 2020, the Center for Disease Control reported 13 consecutive weeks of elevated flu cases in the United States. Then, of course, there’s the common cold with its congestion, sniffles, sore throats, and general discomfort. And while it’s always advised to seek professional medical care if you think your child might have the flu, is running a high fever, or shows symptoms that don’t go away, there are also a number of natural remedies that you can try at home to ease the pain and discomfort caused by common winter illnesses.
Today, we’re going to take a look at several natural remedies that can treat and prevent prevent cold and flu.
To choose our favorite natural remedies for cold and flu, we looked for items that:
- Are easy to get (i.e., items you probably already have in your home)
- Can be administered in a variety of ways
- Are affordable and easy-to-prepare
Of course, again, we want to stress that more serious conditions, such as sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, and strep throat often have symptoms similar to that of the common cold. If you or your children experience severe symptoms, or simply don’t seem to be getting better, be sure to contact your doctor or other medical professional.
In the meantime, here are some great natural remedies to try at home:
Honey has long been used as a natural cough suppressant and soothing agent for sore or scratchy throats. Healthline reports that giving children a dose (10 mg or about 2 teaspoons) of honey at bedtime can help ease coughing. Reduced coughing will also allow for better sleep, which might be the best natural remedy of all. Likewise, a number of recent studies, including one reported by the Mayo Clinic, shows that honey works as well as over-the-counter medications for soothing coughs.
Last but far from least, honey contains natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can help with a variety of ailments and lend to illness prevention. However, please remember, honey should not be given to children under the age of one because honey often contains botulinum spores, which can result in infant botulism in babies.
Ways to use honey as a treatment:
- Drinking honey in tea or warm water with lemon can ease sore throat pain.
- Honey can be taken directly by itself to ease coughs.
- Honey can be added to other foods as a topping or active ingredient.
2. Salt Water
When it comes to natural remedies, saline, or simply put, “salt water” can be a surprisingly effective. Salt water works by drawing water out of oral tissues, thus pulling out harmful pathogens and bacteria and creating a “salt block” that prevents them from re-entering. Likewise, gargling with a salt water solution or flushing it through nasal passages can help to reduce and loosen mucus, which also contains bacteria and allergens.
Salt water can be used for sore throats (the salt helps alleviate scratchiness and soreness), as well as for viral respiratory infections like colds, sinus infections, and even some allergy symptoms. While salt water will not cure an existing condition, by drawing out harmful toxins, it can certainly be helpful in reducing discomfort and preventing further illness.
Ways to use salt water as a treatment:
- Gargle a warm glass of salt water at the back of your throat one or two times a day to alleviate sore scratchy throat pain. Spit the water out when you’re done. To make the salt water solution, mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt in 8-ounces of warm water until the salt dissolves.
- To use salt water to clear nasal passages, start with one to two cups of warm water (boiled, distilled, and/or sterilized), then add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and a pinch of baking soda. Hold one nostril shut and squirt the saline solution into the open nostril using a bulb syringe or nasal irrigation kit (like a Neti pot), then let it drain. Repeat with the other nostril. Or if you’re using a pre-packaged irrigation kit, you can follow the instructions provided.
Ginger not only tastes great when used a flavoring (it can be a bit spicy on its own), it also offers incredible anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it an ideal natural remedy. In fact, ginger has been proven to help with a variety of conditions including congestion, nausea, colds, and even fevers.
Ginger helps lower the risk of infections thanks to gingerol, the bioactive substance found in fresh ginger that inhibits the growth of many types of bacteria. Everyday Health reports that ginger also inhibits rhinovirus, which can cause the common cold. Likewise, thanks to its anti-nausea properties, ginger is great for those already suffering an upset stomach due to post-nasal drip or other effects of a cold or flu.
Ways to use ginger as a treatment:
- Ginger comes in many forms, including fresh, dried, powdered, or as a juice or oil and can be taken in whichever form appeals to you. Some common ways to take ginger for illness are teas (pre-packaged or infused with fresh ginger at home), in capsules, or as a juice shot. To do a juice shot, you can either juice fresh ginger at home or find ginger juice at your local health food store.
Garlic does more than just keep vampires away! These pungent bulbs contain powerful antioxidants, as well as antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiotic properties. Plus, garlic packs a punch of minerals, enzymes, vitamin C, sulphur, and selenium, all of which help in the prevention and treatment of colds and flu. In fact, garlic is one of the earliest known natural remedies for fighting illness and infection, dating back as far as 2000 B.C.
Taking a garlic supplement or simply adding tons of fresh garlic to your diet can help reduce the severity of cold symptoms. And some studies suggest that a daily dose may even help prevent you from getting sick in the first place.
Ways to use garlic as a treatment:
- The most effective use of garlic (although not the most pleasant) is to consume it raw. This means adding raw garlic to foods or swallowing a bulb of raw garlic. It is not recommended to chew a fresh bulb of garlic because the taste can be overpowering.
- Garlic supplements or capsules.
- Garlic concentrate or extract. You can usually find these at your local health food stores or make your own by soaking garlic cloves in olive oil.
5. Last but not least, good old Vitamin C!
When it comes to fighting colds and flu, a strong immune system is where it all starts. However, even the best of us fall victim to the occasional infection, which depletes our body’s natural Vitamin C-generating abilities. And while studies have varied about the role Vitamin C plays in actually preventing or reducing cold and flu symptoms and duration, taking the right amounts of Vitamin C can help our body rebuild its natural infection-fighting mechanisms.
The best part about Vitamin C is that it is a naturally occurring ingredient in many of the fruits and vegetables we consume on a daily basis. Citrus fruits, leafy greens, broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, papaya, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes are all foods found to be rich in Vitamin C.
Ways to use Vitamin C as a treatment:
- Consume Vitamin C rich foods like the ones listed above
- Take Vitamin C supplements
- Drink juices rich in Vitamin C or add fresh-squeezed lemons, oranges, etc. to drinks like hot tea or water.
We hope our entire Richmond Mom community is staying happy and healthy this cold and flu season. But if you find yourself fighting the many ailments common this time of year, we hope a few of our favorite natural remedies will help! In the meantime, if you’re looking for more natural ways to ward off infection and illness, be sure to see our Best Soups for Fighting Cold and Flu, along with our Homeopathic Resource Guide for Common Childhood Ailments for more great natural remedies.