Congestion. Sore throats. Tummy aches. Anyone who cares for children has had to face these common ailments at one time or another. Fortunately, you don’t always have to turn to the medicine cabinet to help a child feel better. There are plenty of time-tested home remedies that use ingredients you already have on hand or can easily pick up at the grocery store, are easy to prepare, and are gentle and non-invasive. Here are a few home remedies to keep in mind the next time a child in your care gets sick.

Children’s Cough Home Remedies

Because children under six are no longer permitted to use over-the-counter cough medications, a persistent cough can be a challenge to treat. And there’s no doubt that you’ll be facing it, as bronchitis one of the most common diagnoses by pediatricians. Some cough remedies to consider:

Honey. According to recent research, a tablespoon of buckwheat honey (the darker honey) can reduce a cough. Don’t give honey to children under one year, though — there is a risk that botulism spores can grow in their gastro-intestinal tract.

Green tea. This tea is full of catechins, which are known to boost immunity to viral and bacterial diseases and reduce excess inflammation. According to a Harvard research study, catechins are better than vitamins C and E at stopping cell damage and have other great disease-fighting properties. It’s a great gentle way to fight the virus that’s causing your little one’s cough.

Children’s Sore Throat Home Remedies

A sore throat causes great discomfort for little ones, and because it’s usually virus-based it’s difficult to treat. Try this: 

Honey and lemon. Just like it can help a cough, a bit of honey can coat and soothe a sore throat. Combine a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of honey, mix it and warm it, and have your child drink it slowly. Lemon is also a good home remedy for congestion, in addition to the remedies mentioned below.

Children’s Congestion Home Remedies

A congested child usually also means a child who is not sleeping comfortably, and that makes everyone unhappy. Keeping a child’s head elevated at night helps, but since infants can’t use pillows here are some other ideas:

Rose hips. A common cough remedy in Europe, rose hips have a high concentration of flavonoids, a chemical compound in plants that are known to loosen mucus. Look for decaffeinated tea that includes rose hips and add honey or sugar for sweetness.

Steam. Keeping children’s sinuses and lungs from drying out is incredibly important for getting rid of runny or stuffed-up noses. Make sure the cool-mist humidifiers in the nursery are on. Spend some time in a steamed-up bathroom together, breathing in the air and gently thumping the child’s upper back to loosen the mucus. See more on this in the saline mist section below.

Saline mist. Saline inhalation solutions have been used to improve lung function in children, and a persistent cough means your little one’s lungs probably need some TLC. Put two tablespoons of salt in the bathtub, run a hot shower and close the bathroom door. Then sit next to the shower with your little one. As the hot water hits the salt a salt water mist will develop; hang out for a little while and let your little one breathe it in.

Other Children’s Home Remedies

Home remedies are not just for sick kids. There are plenty of home remedies for other common childhood ailments as well.

Chamomile tea for colic. It’s known to calm the stomach and relax the intestinal tract. First, sure to buy a tea that only has chamomile in it and not other ingredients, After you brew some, let it cool down to room temperature, then put a one or two ounces in a bottle between feedings. Be sure not to give them more than a couple of bottles a day — otherwise the tea will take up too much space in the baby’s belly and lessen their daily milk intake.

Baking soda for bug bites. Mix just enough water into it to make a paste, then apply it to the bites and let it dry out. The acidic swelling of the bites gets reduced by the alkaline in the baking soda.

Ice packs for nosebleeds. First and most importantly, check that there are no objects in the child’s nose. Once that’s ruled out, gently pinch the soft part of the nose (if the child will tolerate it and can breath through their mouth) and apply ice packs to the nose and cheeks, which will constrict the blood vessels. If the child is crying, be sure to calm them down before you start, as crying makes nosebleeds worse.

A quick reminder: Home remedies are great alternatives for kids with common illnesses, but if you don’t see improvement (or the child’s symptoms become more severe) it’s definitely time to call the pediatrician. Here’s to a speedy recovery for your little one!

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