On Monday morning, I heard it before I saw it.
Snot. Sneezing. Running nose.
Ella had that darn winter cold. Again.
Since October, everywhere we go I see sick kids. Snot and boogers and cough and croup and congestion.
And while I understand how hard it is to truly isolate a child through what can be a very long incubation period during the bleak winter months, I also inwardly groan. Because no sooner does a mother at the library's story-time say, "She had a fever and a cold last week. But I think she's over it now," does that one in the same child lick her hand and then pat my child's mouth with it.
And just like that, my perfectly healthy child bites the dust.
Now, to be fair, my kid really hasn't gotten sick sick.
She has had one fever in the last six months, and it lasted a few hours one evening while she cut her molars.
She's just had a runny-nose cold-thingie three times now.
No fever. Just snot.
And we've been lucky. In less than 48 hours each time, the cold has completely disappeared. It never developed to a cough. Or an ear infection. Or bronchitis. Thank God.
But still, it's annoying. Especially if you do try and quarantine your little germ-carrier during the snotty phase.
Now, being that I am not comfortable with most mainstream medicine, it took me a little practice to come up with a regimen I felt worked in fighting off the cold-induced sniffles.
But find it I did, thanks to the women who work at various health food stores I frequent, as well as several reference books I've amassed.
And then, a few of my friends - who had done some of the same reading I had about why you want to avoid fever reducers, decongestants and antibiotics - tried it out.
With great success, too.
It was then that I realized that, novice hippie mama that I am, I might be onto something.
So, I figured I'd share. It's by no means perfect, but this winter, it has worked stupendously for us.
Note: I am no health-care practitioner. Every child has different needs. This works for my child, but you have to decide what's best for yours. Also, this doesn't touch on how to treat the fever aspect of the common cold. While I know fevers can accompany the common cold, Ella hasn't had that happen this winter. In addition, how I view fevers is pretty non-traditional and extreme. How I treat them may make a few of you laugh. It doesn't work for most other families, and that's OK. I'm not saying it has to. I'd just rather not debate the purpose of a fever here today. We're just sticking to the common cold for now.
So, first up...
1. Stock up on the stinky stuff
Garlic is a very old and effective way at fighting the common cold. In concentrated form, it's downright potent, literally and figuratively.
Getting your toddler to ingest just a bit of garlic oil once or twice a day will do wonders.
Now, be prepared for a fight. The stuff is strong and smelly. I have to almost put Ella in a headlock and squirt it down her throat. And I only give her about a quarter teaspoon a day. I go for it first thing in the morning. Get it over with, you see.
My favorite brand is this one (which contains additional ingredients, but plain garlic oil works great, too.)
Next, turn to apple cider vinegar, which is the master at breaking up phlegm. I squirt this in her with the garlic oil and get it over with, mostly because my kid won't drink juice. (Don't ask.) I shoot for about a teaspoon. It really doesn't take much.
But in general, I've been told the best way to get a kid to drink the stuff is to add it to apple juice or add it to water and sweeten it with raw honey, which is also good at soothing and helping the sinuses and throat heal from cold symptoms.
Which leads me to my next tip...
2. Push certain liquids
Liquids, in general, are good for a cold. They also help break up phlegm and keep the snot moving. Which, as annoying as a constantly runny nose is, is actually a good thing. Running, clear, thin snot means the body isn't infected and that the snot is leaving the body instead of staying and stagnating in the chest, sinuses, lungs, etc.
So push liquids as much as you can. However, there are three things I make sure Ella drinks a full cup of when she's got a cold.
First, an elderberry smoothie. Using elderberry syrup, I mix up a smoothie from it, bananas, blueberries and spinach (along with some fat and protein sources, like coconut milk and chia seeds). It tastes delicious, and the elderberry syrup gives her immune system a boost and helps it fight off the cold virus.
Next up, garlic lemonade. You heard that right. Garlic lemonade. Steep three or four sliced garlic cloves in a quart of hot water. Mix with the juice of one lemon, and sweeten with raw honey. Strain and serve chilled. It's actually not bad, and it's an amazing mucus-fighter, plus a good dose of Vitamin C.
Lastly, herbal teas. Warm liquids are even better at breaking up mucus than cold ones. Ella loves lavender and chamomile tea. She drinks it unsweetened no problem, and I can get two or three cups in her a day when she's sick. Chamomile or peppermint are soothing and good for little ones. If you need to sweeten it, use raw honey.
Which now brings us to what to eat...
3. Keep certain foods and avoid the old
I always try and feed Ella foods that have high amounts of Vitamin C and/or A - sweet potatoes, fruits, carrots,veggies. That's basically what she lives on when sick. They help her immune system rise to the occasion.
You also should eliminate foods that aid congestion - dairy, gluten, heavy fats - or that depress the immune system - sugar, mainly.
I know it seems stringent, to cut dairy out of a kid's diet. But milk-allergy or no, dairy aids congestion in everybody. So does gluten. And when you thicken mucus, you are at a greater risk for complications associated with the common cold, like croup or bronchitis.
The one source of fats I do feed Ella? Bone broth. It sounds gross, but it's not. It's quite tasty, and you'd never know you're eating it.
Bone broth is basically chicken broth/stock made from the carcass of a bird (I add veggies like carrots, celery, onions, garlic, etc.); the carcass is cooked for so long that the bones are soft. You've literally leached out all the vitamins and minerals from the bones and kept them in the stock. You strain out the remaining chicken parts and veggies and voila! Bone broth.
You make a chicken vegetable soup with that stuff? That mucus won't stick around long. (It also tastes pretty darn good; we use bone broth in place of chicken broth for everything here.)
Turns out, there is quite a bit of truth to the "chicken soup treats a cold" old wive's tale.
I keep bone broth frozen in our freezer after I make big batches of it. We always have bone broth.
Now, on what to give your toddler during the day...
4. Come to an alternative cure for the common cold
One of my huge frustrations with pharmacies and health-food stores alike is that so many cough and cold remedies - natural or otherwise - come with an age range; "2+ only."
Well, bad news. One year olds get colds, too.
So what's why I found these cold tablets. While a bit labor intensive (you have to give a dose every hour), they work. I literally watched her nose start pouring after I gave her the first dose. This homeopathic remedy - designed for babies - literally drives the snot out.
Look around, though. Hylands and Kid's Relief are both brands that offer cough-cold remedies, which are also homeopathic, and can be given to children under age 2. Ask at your local health-food store. The stuff is out there.
5. Get ready for one smelly, smelly night
Colds are the worst at night, when the toddler lays down and all the snot mills about her head, making it hard to breathe calmly and steadily, etc.
So we use several methods to help keep her airways clear.
Before bed, we take a steamy shower with her, to help clear out some of that snot.
Then, we use a carrier oil (almond, olive, coconut, etc.) and add a few drops of tea tree oil We then rub the mixture on her back, neck, chest, and ears. Think of it as a homemade Vicks VapoRub.
Then, we take eucalyptus oil and apply it to the soles of her feet.
We also use a cool-mist humidier. She sleeps with it right next to her bed.
And lastly, we cut up an onion and place it on her bed-side table.
Odd, right? Well, listen. There is some debate about onions, as of late. Health-nuts actually say they absorb bacteria and can help fight off the flu by basically absorbing flu cells in the air. Others say this is baloney.
I, for one, am not taking sides. Onions do clear the sinuses, though. That we know. So one by the bedside helps ease breathing. And, man, it works. I slept with one a few months back; I didn't have a cold, but I had Ella in our bed at the time, and she did. And me, with perfectly clear nostrils, woke up positively cleansed. My nose has never felt that open. In fact, when I walk by a room containing said cut-up onion, my nostrils tingle. It's that effective at opening the airways.
(I have also read putting onion slices on the soles of your little one's feet, in their socks, can help, as well as sauteeing a bunch of onion slices till mushy, allowing them to cool, and applying them as a poultice to a child's chest - especially if that's where the cold has moved. I haven't tried any of these techniques, though. I have to think they'd do pretty well, considering. Though, whew! Your child would stink to high heaven after those techniques, let's be honest.)
So, who knows if onions actually suck the germs out of the air. Frankly, I'd love to think that, but I don't know. I do know, however, that it helps a baby with a cold breathe easier, and that works for me.
But, be warned: After you use all those oils and onions, your house will reek for days. Your child might, too. Be prepared to open the window.
In addition to these smelly techniques, we also try and keep her head elevated while she sleeps - on pillows or on us, and we keep her body warm.
Warm bodies don't make as hospitable environment for mucus.
Another secret to all this? The second you think your baby has a cold? Hit it. And hit it hard.
As soon as I hear about snot, we start the garlic oil and elderberry syrup. I attack it full-on. Which is the big reason I think Ella's colds have been so minor and lasted for such a short period of time.
I also fastidiously watch her if I hear suspicious breathing or sneezing, and I make sure the techniques I'm using are bringing out thin, clear, running mucus when I implement them.
We want that cold leaving the body. In fact, you can tell when I've started her on the cold tablets. Because the running gets worse. It's called a "healing crisis," and it's the point when many parents give into the mainstream meds they hoped to avoid becauase the cold or bug gets so bad. But it's a necessity, the healing crisis. It's the point where the body hits rock bottom so it can, essentially, fix itself as it heads up the up-and-up.
So far, the healing crisis has been kind to us. And hippie meds aside, for that, I am grateful.
As usual, check everything over with your pediatrician, too. We are immensely lucky to have such a pro-natural, non-alarmist doctor here, who encourages treatments like this and discourages the routine use of over-the-counter stuff and things like Tylenol. If I need to call him, I know he won't be shocked that I gave my child garlic oil in lieu of other things. But every doctor is different, so as always, consult yours.
If you've got any questions, please feel free to leave them below. Thanks, everyone!