Natural Remedies for Infant Colds
By Holly Brewer
The definition of “desperate” is the parent of an infant with a cold. Every parent will tell you that from the time you hear that first sniffle you know you are doomed to weeks of screaming, aspirating, temperature checking, nose wiping, and absolutely no sleeping. Cold medications are not suitable for infants and have even been found to have fatal side effects. Because of this, parents are given a sympathetic look and told to just do the best they can. Doctors then make a beeline for the door as they inform parents that infant colds are known to last from two to three weeks.
As a parent, nothing is worse than having your runny-nosed, tear-stained, chubby-cheeked little one looking at you to make things better and not being able to do anything. While there is no magic spell or drug that can make your baby instantly better, there are a few natural remedies that are definitely worth a try.
Humidifiers and Vaporizers
Living in an especially dry climate can aggravate stuffy noses and make congestion much worse. Heaters and furnaces in homes also contribute by making the air incredibly dry. You can counteract this and help baby breathe easier by investing in a good humidifier or vaporizer. While you do not have to buy the most expensive unit you can find, it is definitely a good idea to buy a quality one, since the fact that babies get up to 8 colds a year will have you using it quite frequently.
During winter months and for severe colds, a warm mist humidifier is often recommended. These not only add much needed moisture to the air that baby breathes, but the warmth has a soothing effect that often helps babies to sleep better. Some models even have vapor pads that can be inserted and release a calming and decongesting aroma into the air. Keep in mind that adding liquids such as Vicks to a baby’s humidifier is not recommended. Also be sure to keep the humidifier well out of baby’s reach since warm mist humidifiers pose a burn risk.
Cool mist humidifiers and vaporizers are essentially the same thing. They add moisture to the air, but the water is vaporized rather than heated and then emitted. These pose little burn risk, are considered to release less bacteria, and are easier to keep clean. Cool mist humidifiers and vaporizers are a great option for summer months when the last thing you want in the room is more heat. They also work well when paired with a waterless vaporizer that releases a decongesting menthol aroma.
Always follow manufacturers’ directions when using a humidifier and vaporizer, keep them out of the reach of children, and clean them on a regular basis. When used correctly, these can do wonders for stuffy little noses.
Saline and Aspiration
While it’s about the worst job in the world and your baby may hate you for it, aspirating their noses is one of the best things you can do. Since you can’t offer baby a decongestant, saline and sucking are the next best options.
If your baby’s nose is really dry, use saline drops or a spray to soften everything up. Your baby will start to fuss and cry (because who really likes anything sprayed up their nose?), then his nose will start to run. Once that happens, have the aspirator at the ready so that you can suck the mucous out and clear his nasal passages. This is especially important for avoiding any worsening symptoms. If mucous is not cleared out, it will often begin draining down the throat which can then cause a sore throat and cough.
Keeping your baby slightly propped up, especially when sleeping will also help with congestion. Use crib safe wedges or an inclined baby sleeper to keep your baby from lying completely flat.
We’ve all heard our own mothers say that we need rest and plenty of fluids when we are sick. The same still stands true for your little one. While you definitely do not want to fill your baby up on water or juice, the added fluids are definitely a good idea.
While you should always contact your pediatrician before giving your baby juice, the general consensus is that an ounce of juice mixed with an ounce or two of water is perfectly fine for babies over four months. Juice also has antioxidants and vitamin C that will help baby’s tiny immune system to fight the cold and start feeling better. If you are not comfortable offering juice, or if your doctor has advised against it, keep trying to give your baby an ounce or two of water between feedings.
This is another thing that you would want to speak with your pediatrician about, but many people believe in the healing abilities of essential oils. Keep in mind that essential oils are not recommended for babies under three months. These oils are collected from natural sources and are extremely potent so be sure to do your research before using them, since some are not safe at all for babies.
Only 100% pure essential oils should be used, and diffusing them is usually best for infants. If you choose to use them directly on the skin, they should be diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut oil. This means that you would add a drop of two of the oil to at least a teaspoon of the carrier oil. Baby’s skin is so sensitive that direct contact may have adverse effects.
Here are some of the most common oils for babies and their uses:
Peppermint: Peppermint oil is incredible at decreasing a fever. A drop on the bottom of baby’s feet will bring down a fever within minutes. Why the bottom of the feet? That area allows the oils to get into the bloodstream faster than any other area.
Lavender: Lavender oil is calming and is known as nature’s sedative. Diluting a few drops in distilled water and spraying on your baby’s bed will help him sleep better. You can also put the oil on the bottom of your baby’s feet.
Melaleuca: Also known as “tea tree,” this oil, mixed with a carrier oil and rubbed on your baby’s chest and back will help with colds by working as a decongestant. Diffusing this into the air along with your humidifier or vaporizer (it is not recommended to put oils directly into the units because they can cause damage) also has significant effects and may even work better than Vicks or other menthol products.