As common as it is, it is a huge annoyance when you get it. Yes, I mean the common cold. The cold is usually caused by a virus, and therefore antibiotics do not fully work or provide relief. However, some of the infections can turn bacterial and that is when antibiotics are helpful. Unfortunately, the drugs not only fight and destroy the bad bacteria, but they also kill the good ones. Therefore, it is important to take probiotics after a course of antibiotics so that the good bacteria can replenish themselves. Since it takes about a week of fighting before you can get anywhere near the medication, getting some relief is very important. This is the most important thing for babies and young children, as they cannot blow their nose and remove phlegm. I have listed below some of the home remedies that are commonly used where I come from and in my home as well.
1. Kumkum is made with turmeric and is commonly used by Hindus because it has a religious significance. It has wonderful decongestant properties. Get a good quality kumkum and add a few drops of water to a teaspoon of kumkum. Add two pinches of saffron threads and heat it up. Let it cool and once it is warm enough to touch, apply it to the baby / child’s forehead and nose.
2. Dried ginger powder also has a similar application. Make a paste with a teaspoon of powdered ginger and a few drops of water. Heat and chill until warm enough to touch. Apply to the forehead, nose and behind the ears. This is more suitable for much older children and adults.
3. If you don’t have access to kumkum, try the same with turmeric powder.
4. Turmeric milk works great for adults and children. Heat some milk and add the turmeric powder. Drink this milk, especially before bedtime.
5. Drink garlic milk. As gross as it sounds, it is quite effective and can be given to babies and young children, as well as adults. If you give it to babies, make sure your child is not allergic to milk or garlic. Crush two cloves of garlic and add a few tablespoons of milk. Let it boil well. Once cool enough to consume, drink the milk.
6. One of the home remedies that 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 a couple of garlic cloves, and add a few pinches of crushed ajwain seeds. Add a few tablespoons of water and bring to a boil well. Give only the liquid to the child. Bethel is called ‘vetrilai’ in Tamil and a particular type called ‘kamara vetrilai’ is even better for this treatment.
7. Vaporub application. I was told and also read that doctors don’t think vaporubs are helpful at all. However, as a parent, you would do anything to help your child sleep for at least a few hours and it is important to clear your nose. I discovered that my son does not like to apply vaporub. I apply vaporub to my son’s chest and back when I give my son a bath and apply some lukewarm water to these areas. This releases the fumes and clears the nose.
8. Keep the room humid. While commercial humidifiers are available, we have found that when suffering from the cold, a particularly high amount of humidity helps provide some relief and sleep. We keep the kitchen steamer and keep filling it. Moisture relieves congestion. Keeping the room at a slightly elevated temperature helps retain moisture. However, you always have to make sure that the child does not overheat.
9. Although I have never tried it, I have heard that warming up some coconut oil, adding camphor to it, and applying it to the chest helps relieve congestion.
10. The application of eucalyptus oil, especially on the big toes, is said to stimulate the sinuses and relieve congestion. The challenge is to get the baby or child to offer their leg for this finger massage!
11. For adults, take several doses of ginger tea. You can add half a teaspoon of dried powdered ginger to a glass of hot water or crush some pieces of ginger, add it to the water and boil well until the water starts to change color.
12. Inhaling turmeric fumes also helps relieve congestion, especially in adults. I take a piece of dried turmeric and burn one end. The smoke provides great relief.
13. Eat what we call ‘rasam’ or soup. Basically it is the essence of few things. Add a teaspoon of each: crushed cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds and a little black pepper powder to the water and bring to a boil. Add some tamarind puree or paste and a little salt and drink like a soup. If you don’t have or don’t like tamarind, drink the liquid as a decoction.
Keep in mind that while adults manage to blow their noses or spit out phlegm, infants and toddlers cannot. They usually throw up the phlegm or expel it on their movement and thus have some loose stools. With that being said, it’s always worth checking with your doctor if you’re concerned.