Common cold and cough in babies make them cranky and drive us crazy. Stuffy nose, sore throat, clogged ears, nagging cough, aching body, disturbing sleep, disinterest in food – oh my poor lil baby !! It would take 3 to 7 days for the symptoms to vanish. Here, Pediatricians in USA do not recommend cold or cough syrup for kids, especially for babies below 2 years. They do prescribe Tylenol(Paracetamol syrup) if the temperature is high or if the baby is completely restless. Else, they just advice some home remedies to calm down the baby by lessening the severity of the symptoms. In this post, I have consolidated all the home remedies that worked well for my baby.
First and foremost helper is a Nasal aspirator aka Nasal bulb. As babies do not know to blow out the phlegm, these bulbs are so helpful in removing the annoying phlegm from their tiny nostrils and help them breathe better. Do not opt for opaque bulbs(that cannot be dismantled to clean) as they have a high contamination risk. Opt for bulbs that can be easily dismantled and sterilized.
The Pigeon Nasal Aspirator seen on first thumbnail would be useful for infants(0 to 4 months) as the tiny tip perfectly fits an infant’s tiny nose tip. But as they grow old, I personally felt it wasn’t much effective as the tip is too tiny. NoseFrida Snotsucker kit(second thumbnail pic) is useful in gently sucking out the snot/mucus from baby’s nose, at any age. This was actually easy to use, very gentle & effective in sucking out the snot. But, we have to change the filter after every use to avoid mucus or bacterial transfer. Only ten filters come with the kit and so we might have to buy the additional filters separately. NeilMed Nasal bulb seen on the last thumbnail is the best one that I have used. This could be used at any age. See below steps & pics to know how to use and clean it. These brands are just suggestions as I have used them for my baby. You shall opt for any available brands with similar features.
1.Before using any Nasal aspirator, first spray some Pediatric saline nasal spray in each nostril to help loosen thick mucus or dried boogies to allow for seamless snot-sucking. While spraying the saline, baby head should be upright(no lying position). Once sprayed, let the baby lie down for a minute, giving some time for the saline to thin down the mucus.
2.Take sterilized, dried & rightly assembled, intact nasal bulb and squeeze it using fingers to expel the air present inside the bulb, as shown in the last thumbnail pic below..
3.Gently place the tip of the nasal bulb into the baby’s nose, while the bulb is still squeezed. Do not insert deeply. Just insert in the tip of the nose to create a seal.
4.Gently release pressure on the bulb to remove the mucus. Squeeze the mucus out of the bulb onto a tissue. Repeat as required.
5.Dismantle the Nasal bulb and wash well with soapy water. Finally, wash well with clear water and add it to boiling water for 5 mins to sterilize. Leave it in the hot water(off the stove) until it becomes warm. Then take out and air dry. Store it in a clean place until next use.
Cautions in using Nasal bulb:
- We should be cautious in being very gentle while releasing the bulb, when letting it to suck the mucus from baby’s nose. Abrupt/fast release might damage the tiny mucus membranes.
- Do not suction more than 3 to 4 times a day as it might irritate the nose linings..
- Suction before feeding(milk or food) as food in the stomach might provoke vomiting in some babies. Prefer suctioning before feeding and before sleeping as it will also aid in breathing better to eat/drink/sleep well.
- Do not use saline solution or nasal bulb more than 3 to 4 days in a stretch.
The next effective remedy is Steam inhalation aka Steam bath. Steam helps in loosening up the mucus/phlegm clogged in baby’s chest, throat and nose. A steam bath effectively opens up the blocked passages for the babies to breathe better, immediately. If you have hot water shower in your bathroom, then it is easy to convert your bathroom into a steam room in just 10 minutes. Follow the below steps..
- If your toilet is inside your bathroom, first close the lid of the toilet bowl.
- Put a chair inside the bathroom. Need not be very close to the shower(to avoid hot water spraying). But nor far away, as well.
- Open your shower in full hot mode. Let the shower curtain/shower door be open, but make sure that the water doesn’t spray out of the bathtub/shower room. You can slightly tweak the angle of the shower to attain this, if required.
- Do not be tempted to just open the hot water tap avoiding the shower. Tap is in low level and it couldn’t generate so much steam in short time. As hot water flows from higher level from shower, it produces more steam in short time.
- Do not close the outlet of the bathtub as the tub might over-flow with hot water.
- Do not turn on the exhaust fan as it removes moisture out of the bathroom and discourages steam.
- Once you turn on the shower, just come out of the bathroom with the bathroom door closed tightly. Do not forget this to keep the steam inside.
- Then take your baby & a book/toy in hand and get inside the bathroom. Again, don’t forget to close the bathroom door.
- Sit with the baby in the chair. Read the book or play with the toy or watch the shower to keep the baby engaged. You can even show the fogged up mirror and write/draw something in the mirror with your finger to entertain the baby. Hope infants do not need such entertainments other than hand-rocking or sh-sh-ing.
- Stay in the room for a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 20 minutes.
- Do not let the baby/kid unattended as the hot shower could cause scalding/hot burns or even much serious hazards.
- Once you are done, switch on the exhaust fan and come out of the bathroom with the baby. Do not turn off the hot shower with the baby in hand to avoid any accidents. You can get someone else to off the shower or come back, leaving the baby in safe place.
- Once you are out of the bathroom, pat dry baby’s face and body with a soft towel to dry out water particles, if any. You shall gently wipe off baby’s nose, if there is any mucus draining out.
And that’s it. Steam bath is done. Steam helps loosen congestion and I am sure the baby will breathe much better and feel relaxed after the steam bath. You shall give this steam bath twice in a day for 3 to 5 days or whenever your baby is congested. As steam bath melts down the phlegm, baby’s cold and cough will vanish sooner. Put a fast end to baby’s cold & cough episode with effective steaming. Do not opt for store-bought steamers for babies and kids as I personally know about a bursting accident of such steamer over a kid’s face causing serious facial injury. If you don’t have hot shower facility, you shall opt for our traditional steam inhalation method, but safe inside the kitchen sink.
Indian steam inhalation method is more effective than bathroom steaming as the steam room is compact inside a blanket, letting effective steaming. But this blanket method involves intense steam and also much prone for accidents and is not at all safe with babies and kids. Alternately, you shall place the steaming vessel inside the kitchen sink and stand near it with baby in hand. In this way, baby is in your safe hands and at the same time, baby could inhale some steam. Read the below steps and cautions:
- Fill 3/4th of a vessel with water and close with a lid. Switch on the stove and let it come to a rolling boil. Once it starts to rolling boil, open and add 1/4 tsp(under 1 year) to 1/2 tsp Omam/Ajwain seeds and close the lid, immediately. Switch off the stove.
- Place this vessel with the lid inside the kitchen sink. Open the lid and then lift the baby to your arm. Don’t open the lid with the baby as initial steam might be too hot. Hold the baby very safely in your arms.
- Do not let the baby’s hands or legs touch the water or the hot vessel. Just stand near the sink with the baby. Don’t try to show baby’s face very near to the vessel.
- Do not let the baby(or you) carry any toy/object as accidental dropping might cause hot water splash.
- Make sure there is no object near the sink that might fall inside the water and cause hot water splash.
- Before placing the vessel inside the sink, tightly close the sink tap and make sure no water drips down to make a hot splash.
- For older kids, who can strictly follow the rules, you shall make them to stand in a step stool and inhale the steam. But enlighten them that any play or touching the water/vessel will be risky. Do not leave the kid, unattended. You shall hug and hold the arms of the kid for more safety.
- Though this steam bath is not very effective compared to the closed steam bath, this mild ajwain steam also helps in thinning down the mucus and gives a good relief from congestion.
Next to steam, Pediatrician recommended home remedy for congestion and cough is humidifier. Humidifier humidifies(adds moisture to) the air, thus helping in reducing discomforts such as dry throat or nose and the much annoying, sleep-disturbing cough. It also helps in reducing nasal stuffiness and helps the baby breathe better and in turn sleep better. Warm-mist(Vaporizer) and cool-mist humidifiers are equally effective but warm-mist humidifiers are not safe to use when a baby/kid is at home as the hot water in it might lead to a burn, in case of accidental spills. So, Pediatricians always recommend cool-mist humidifiers. Be it warm or cool mist, it travels in air and by the time it reaches baby’s nostrils, it will be in the room temperature. So, don’t question if a cool-mist might increase the cold. The only concern with cool-mist humidifier is that it encourages molds and bacterial growth, if not maintained properly. Clean the humidifier daily and change the water regularly as stagnant water invites bacteria/fungi. Daily pour out the water, not only from the water tank, but also from the water reservoir that is placed below the tank. Get a small humidifier like the one in the picture below as you will be forced to clean and change water daily. If there are more mineral buildups/scale deposits in your humidifier, despite of regular cleaning, you shall opt for distilled water(not mineral water) as tap water might have more minerals & impurities. Once your baby’s cold is cured, wash the humidifier well and then dry it well before storing it.
Can I bath my baby with cold and cough ?
You can give a warm(when there is no fever) or a lukewarm(when there is fever) bath for babies with congestion. Maintain the temperature of the water and make sure the water doesn’t turn cold as it might cause shivering and worsen the scenario. A warm or lukewarm bath actually helps in thinning down and mobilizing the mucus, especially in the chest. A gentle nose wash will not only melt down the mucus from nose, but also helps to clean the messy, mucousy nose that helps the baby to get rid of sticky feeling around the nose. Sick babies can nap better after a warm bath.
Some pointers in baby care during congestion:
- Avoid tissues to wipe baby’s nose as they might cause skin irritations. Always use soft cotton cloth(preferably dipped in lukewarm water) to gently wipe(or just pat) baby’s nose to get rid off the draining mucus. Again dry the water in the nose by patting with a soft cotton cloth.
- A raised head could make them breathe easier. Rocker, Car seat, Baby wearing, lying in couch in sitting position or resting the head in armrest, pillow or rolled blanket in the bed/crib/cradle – any of these positions will make them comfortable.
- Baby/Kid needs more rest. Avoid travels and let them nap as much as possible. There will be a change in their sleep routine but just go ease with their comfort. They will get back to their regular routine, once they bounce back from the illness.
What food to feed baby with congestion ?
You shall feed any easily digestible food. It is very common for sick babies to show disinterest in food. Do not force the baby to eat. Let the baby have 1 or 2 spoons and have the freedom to say no to food. Try to offer small frequent meals/snacks rather than just 3 main meals as they can’t eat more in one go during sick days. But, do not compromise in fluids intake. They need to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and to battle better against the illness. If you are breastfeeding, breastmilk is the most nutritional fluid that can give strength as well as soothe the cranky baby. So, breastfeed more often than usual. Same applies to formula-fed babies as well. As per the age, try other liquids like lukewarm water, watery fruit juices, thin soups and cow’s milk. Watch for the diaper blue lines or count on the number of urinations to see if the baby is hydrated well. Below is the list of food suggestions :
- Rice with Tomato rasam(link) or Pineapple rasam
- Rice/Idli with lamb rib bone soup(link)
- Rice/Idli with chicken soup(link)
- Fruit juices – Orange(link), Pineapple(link), Watermelon(link).
- Fruits – Berries, Guava, Kiwi.
- Milk can be given. Milk doesn’t increase the phlegm but it coats the phlegm and gives the feel of thick mucus in the throat. You shall give lil diluted milk to avoid this sensation. You can even add honey(for babies above 1 year) to lukewarm milk to avoid this sensation.
- Avoid banana when baby has cold, as it is said to increase phlegm. But pls note that eating banana doesn’t cause cold in babies.
Concoctions/Medicines for Cold/Cough:
Scientifically, there is no medicine to cure cold/cough. We shall just aid in reducing the severity of the symptoms, thereby trying to shorten the length of the illness. The below home remedies are my tried & tested ones from our ancestral recommendations ..
- Tulsi tonic(link) without any sweetener for babies below one year.
- Ajwain/Oma water(link) without any sweetener for babies below one year.
- Oregano tonic(link), Betel tonic(link), Leaves concoction(link) for babies above 2 years.
- Honey for babies above 1 year. You shall mix 1 or 2 tsp each of lemon juice and honey and give it 3 times a day for 3 days.
- Honey with pepper for older babies(link).
- Oregano Chest Rub(link) – Safe & natural chestrub.
- Camphor Chest Rub(link) – Read the cautions before use. Do not exceed camphor concentration than specified.
- Ajwain Potli – natural homemade inhaler(link)
- My Pediatrician recommended Zarbee’s Natural cough formula, which just have honey/agave and Ivy leaf extracts. They also sell Petroleum & Menthol free, natural chestrub made using Eucalyptus, Lavender and Beeswax. Discuss with your Paed about these for your baby.
Always consult your pediatrician, when your baby is sick. My pediatrician in USA haven’t prescribed cold or cough syrup for my baby and for my elder kid, at any congestion. She always insists on natural remedies. I gained most of this information(excluding homemade chestrubs & concoctions) from her. As a mom, hope I have covered all possible questions of a mom. Use these tips in the next episode of your baby’s cold and feel proud that you could handle your baby’s cold/cough more efficiently by lessening the severity of the symptoms and making the baby feel cozy & comfortable. With these home remedies, we shall very well shorten the span of our baby’s cold. During this entire phase of illness, we shall make them breathe better and sleep better.. Happy parenting… Click here to see the whole view of Congestion relieving food collections for all ages.