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Once upon a time, or actually twice upon a time now, we’ve met up with several families for a week of vacation. With 20+ kids in one house for a week, what could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, lots of things, but one in particular:
All the kids getting sick. In a row. All week long.
It was super fun… or not so much.
Easy Natural Cold and Flu Remedies
The incident not-so-lovingly-known as “the great minor cold pandemic of family vacation” was not serious and passed pretty quickly, but we had a rough couple of days.
Thankfully, many of the moms were well-versed in natural remedies and collectively pulled out the herbs, spices, raw honey, garlic, essential oils, and supplements to get the kids through it pretty quickly.
Of course, it’s important to see a medical professional for any major or serious illness. Back then I didn’t have a doctor I could text, and in most cases would end up taking the kids in and paying a co-pay just to have a doctor tell me to give my kids water and soup!
Over time I learned and started turning to natural remedies. (And we do go to the doctor for anything major or serious or that lasts longer than a few days.)
For viral illnesses that conventional medicine can’t do much for anyway, I turn to these natural remedies. They won’t knock out all symptoms or provide the same pain relief of over-the-counter drugs, but they help ease the crappish feeling of a cold (super scientific term, eh?).
Kitchen Remedies to Ease Discomfort
Even if I don’t have access to my whole natural medicine cabinet, some simple grocery store remedies can make a big difference! These are my go-to kitchen remedies:
Lots of Water
I find that we all feel better when we stay well hydrated, but especially during illness. Doctors often recommend rest and hydration for minor illness and the advice is sound. At first sign of illness, we make sure to sip water all day to support the body’s natural healing process. This remedy is mostly free but super important.
One of nature’s most potent remedies is also one of the easiest to find in any grocery store. It has been extensively researched in over 5,000 studies for its natural ability to help the body recover. Raw garlic is available in many stores and relatively inexpensive. To take it, I mince it and drink with a small amount of water. For my kids, I’ll also mix with honey or maple syrup or add to food to tone down the taste.
I love this incredibly soothing remedy that is easily made with kitchen herbs. What I do:
- Boil 1-2 cups of water in a large pot and remove from the heat.
- Add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
- Cover the pan for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and let the sick person lean over the pot (careful not to touch it). The person covers his or her head with a towel to hold in the steam and breathes the steam to help ease discomfort.
We try to breathe in the steam as long as we can, or for about 15 minutes. This seems to help loosen congestion and soothe the throat and sinuses.
See the full recipe and method here.
Herbal teas can also be very soothing during illness. I keep my ten favorite herbal teas on hand all the time, but we drink them often during illness. Many herbal teas are now available in regular grocery stores. I personally like chamomile and peppermint for easing discomfort during colds and flu.
Bone Broth and Soup
Chicken soup is the age-old remedy for illness, and we also turn to broth and soups when we don’t feel well. These can be made with ingredients from a regular grocery store. Homemade bone broth and homemade chicken soup are soothing remedies during illness and a source of protein and minerals.
When I don’t have homemade, I buy this brand that is long simmered from grass-fed bones for the gelatin many other store-bought brands don’t have. I order online for the best price, but it is now easily found in most grocery stores.
Lemon Juice or Ginger
I find fresh lemon juice and fresh ginger in water especially soothing for illnesses involving respiratory issues or sore throat. During illness, I’ll squeeze an entire lemon and slice a piece of ginger into hot or cold water for a soothing drink. Lemon juice is beneficial in other ways too and many people drink it each morning. Again, this is something you can pick up quickly when needed.
When my kids really don’t feel well and don’t feel like drinking, I sneak some remedies in by making a natural electrolyte drink. They like the flavor and I’m able to get some vitamin C and minerals in. We also take our favorite electrolytes whenever we travel in case we don’t have the ingredients for homemade.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Certainly not a favorite remedy for many due to the strong taste, but apple cider vinegar can really soothe a sore throat and has many benefits. I’ll drink a teaspoon (or up to a tablespoon) in water during illness. Adding honey makes the taste more palatable.
Other Natural Remedies
A few of my other favorite natural remedies are not readily available in all stores, but I always keep them on hand:
Elderberry is a great natural remedy with a long history of use. I keep dried elderberries on hand at all times to make several different remedies.
Homemade elderberry syrup is my go-to during any illness. The homemade version is very similar to Sambucol, which is available nationwide in many places.
Many studies show that vitamin C can really help battle cold and flu. We always have it on hand and take it every few hours during illness.
A detox bath may not really speed recovery during an illness, but it certainly seems to help ease discomfort. I often turn to these detox baths during minor illnesses to help ease symptoms.
Herbs to Help Remedy Cold and Flu
There are many herbs that support the body when healing from an illness. I always keep these around just in case:
- Nettle Leaf: It contains large amounts of vitamins and trace minerals and helps the body stay hydrated and remove toxins. In a tea with red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and peppermint, nettle makes a powerful immune supporting and illness preventing remedy.
- Elderberry: Well-known for supporting the immune system. You can find conventionally made elderberry syrups at many stores now, or to save money, make your own. Here is the recipe.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger root can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea that is very effective against sinus symptoms and congestion. Ginger baths are a soothing way to stop some of the discomfort of body aches.
- Yarrow: This is a common herb for children. Many children’s remedies include yarrow for its soothing properties. It is naturally bitter, so it is often good to include peppermint and stevia leaf (or raw honey) when making a tea. It is great for the liver and kidneys and supports the endocrine system.
- Chamomile: An absolute staple for our kids. Chamomile is calming and seems to help children sleep. It tastes great and is easy to get kids to take. We use it in tea and tincture form. My kids always ask for chamomile tea with raw honey when sick.
- Peppermint: Great for all digestive disturbances and for calming a fever. It can be used as a tea or tincture or rubbed on the skin to bring a high fever down. It is antimicrobial and antiviral and kids usually love the taste. Take as a hot tea or cold tea during illness in any amounts.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
How do you keep from getting sick or remedy it naturally when you do? Share your tips below!
Discussion (186 Comments)
can you tell me what age your kids are before you start them on supplements such as cod liver oil? also, what age you start the flu treatments? i have a 2 year old who has been under the weather and am wondering if any of these treatments are not good for his age.
I start FCLO at 3-4 months while still nursing and I give my 2 year old all of the above.
Wondering how you give FCLO to a 3-4 month old? Through breast milk? My son will be 4 months on Feb. 1st.
I am looking for your information of not giving your children vaccines….but I can’t seem to find it….can you please direct me….
Thank you !
Suzanne Humphries MD. Google it, she has 2 books and YouTube videos.
One thing I’ve done for the last year is organic whole juicing (putting the produce in my blendtec instead of using a juicer. I’ve tried both ways and like the whole juicing much better. I’m still getting micronutrients) every day for breakfast. All of those raw nutrients really boost my body! I also include ginger in every juice. Just a little chub. I’m not a huge ginger fan, but it is a natural germ fighter. I also include chia seeds and coconut oil in all my juices. It just makes sense that a strong healthy body being fed all the nutrients it needs is harder to attack than one that is surviving on processed garbage. I’ve continued juicing and at 8 weeks pregnant I’m still not nauseous and I have more energy than I typically do when I’m pregnant. I feel a little run down instead of like sitting on the couch is more effort than I can handle. This is baby #6. Aside from the oregano oil, are any of these others not for pregnant women? I’m going to order that vitamin c you recommend.
High doses of Vitamin C (over 2000 mg), turmeric, cinnamon, and some other spices aren’t recommended while pregnant, and definitely check any essential oil to make sure it is safe.
I’ve heard that pennyroyal is an abortifacient, so definitely not that from the mint family.
Rochelle Leigh Wall
I also gargle with warm salt water, and rinse my sinuses with saline solution, which help clean out anything that might get me sick, or cause seasonal allergies.
These are great tips – I’m going to bookmark this for the future. Currently, the boyfriend and I use a “tonic” I made of garlic, white onions, jalapeno peppers (or hotter), horseradish root, and apple cider vinegar. I mince the food in a processor, pour ACV on top, and let it steep for two weeks. You’re supposed to drain it and just use the liquid, but I also use the bits of food as relish or in a soup. Works really well, just smells and tastes awful.
Great info, thanks! I do some of this and also we take extra vitamin d, swallow garlic cloves and take grapefruit seed extract.
That’s what I did yesterday when I woke up with a sore throat–but I took extra Vit C rather than D. I fermented a bunch of garlic (big bag from Costco) in Apple Cider Vinegar so it’s really mild and easy to much on. Mostly though I took 15 drops of Grapefruit Seed Oil and lots and lots of Vitamin C. I feel fine today–but, I want a nap…oh! look at the time.
Thanks for the great summary!
I take echinacea tablets twice a day when I start to feel a cold or a fever coming on, and sip hot tea…usually it stops a cold onset dead in its tracks and reduces an oncoming fever as well!
thanks for this!
I was trying to find your information on not taking the flu shot and why you disagree with them. Is there an article you can link me to? Thanks!
There are so many articles that dispel
the myth of the flu vaccination. Go to NVIC.org for all of the info you could ever want on vaccinations, and why they are often a much bigger problem than disease. I think someone sent a link to you already, but I wanted to chime in. Flu shots don’t work! They cannot be effective, as each year, the flu morphs into a different strain from the past year, but the vaccinations were created on the old version. We do not have the technology to create an effective flu shot at this point. The flu is ahead of our game. Flu shots will however, cause inflammation, and damage your immune system, which sets up your body for a host of other issues and infections. This is one of those things, that makes you wonder how, and why, we buy into anything we are told by traditional medicine, and mainstream media. Luckily, the flu, like any virus, is both preventable and treatable. Natural Health advocates, and professionals NEVER get flu shots! This is just part of rejecting what doesn’t work, and that which does harm, and finding a better solution to an old problem. I love this site…
I have gotten a flu shot every year since 2007 and never got the flu. The past two years i did not, and have gotten the flu. Another friend treated her daughter for a “cold” naturally while the kids fever spiked between 101-103 for days before she took her to find out she had a double ear infection, double sinus infection and pnemonia. Careful with your worldly advice.
None of those things are influenza. The flu shot would not have helped your friend’s daughter. It’s important to understand that illness is going to happen. A flu shot is not a plastic bubble. No matter how many inoculations they develop, humans will forever have to occasionally stop to take care of ourselves and our children from time to time. Sites like this help us to do just that.
your immune system has been compromised by the previous flu shots.
My two months old is suffering from the flu and his nose is not running …which tea I can gave him for the cold? Need your help please
You did not conform it was the flu with the simple flu test any medical arena would have provided. While I agree with natural remedies listed that can relieve symptoms and shorten the flu duration .. If it lasted only a day you all did NOT have the flu!
Karen RN BSN
It’s not the case the if you had flu for a day it’s not flu. The flu virus affects one cell in your body and if your body finds that cell in 5 minutes, one hour, 24 hours or 2 weeks and killed it off its still the flu.
You need to be very careful with infants/small children. Your child should be seen by his pediatrician and they will advise you on the best remedies that are safe. Saline drops can help with congestion but herbal teas are not for small children. The main thing is fluids and controlling the fever. You must be extremely careful when giving very small children any types of medicine, prescription or over the counter. I hope your little one is feeling better.
I’ve never had a flu shot and never got the flu.
I haven’t been sick in 20 years and I’ve never had any medications or FLU SHOTS. This year it was mandatory I get a flu shot now I’ve been sick as dog for ten days. Flu shot is crap and false sense of security.
Christian Nicole Harris
Perhaps it is coincidence that you’ve gotten the flu 2 years in a row. I personally have never had a flu shot and guess what, I have the flu right now! I still don’t believe in the shot. I have only ever had the flu twice now and this second bout is not as bad as the first. Double ear, double sinus infection and pneumonia? It sounds as though she maybe COULD have used some advice then.
I do say, it seems as though you’ve come here to argue the logic of natural healing and home wellness techniques. But perhaps you’ve come to blame someone for yours and your friends daughters unfortunate ailments? My best advice. Do what works for you. If you would like to work with something less natural than some good old fashioned orange juice, echinacea tea, lemon and honey… Let us know how it goes!
Just keep on taking the flu shot and you will be alright .
you cannot prevent the flu with a vaccine which is a cocktail of heavy metals some of which are very poisoness !! vaccines suppress the immune system and cause damage to the brain !!! the problem is the media do not report the horror stories of vaccine damage…and they promote vaccines cause of the power that big pharma has in the world !!!! im 57 years old and have never had one vaccine in my life !!!!!! God has given man the best defense and that is our immune system with herbs and good nutrition to keep us healthy.
That’s the truth!
Absolutely!!!! My daughter has had a flu shot her whole life until this year and now she has the flu. Makes me so mad bc reading things like this over the years and hearing people’s thoughts on the subject is why she didn’t get one and now she has it right now with a high fever and miserable. a mother should always trust her gut instinct and not others who think they know all!!!!
A double ear infection is not the flu lol… You may have just been lucky because the shot creates more problems
I have never had a flu shot and every year everyone around me gets sick and I don’t, I have had the flu maybe once or twice in my 20years of adulthood. I also think she was sharing some home remedies to smooth symptoms and did say if it’s serious to seek medical help.
This sounds great! I’m sick right now and I have been doing some of the things you listed. I think I will try some of your ways today. Thanks
It seems that traditional western medicine only treats the symptoms, not the actual illness, so I’m giving this a shot in hopes that I can kick this flu pretty soon! Thank you for all the helpful information! 🙂
I have followed all of this religiously and I am still very sick on day three. I eat a very healthy 100% organic non processed diet and take supplements. I am miserable. Any further advice? 🙁
Hello Olivia are you still alive. If so, what happened.How did you get rid of it & how long did it take?
The virus you have simply has to run it’s course. Just know that your body is eliminating it’s weakest cells throughout your suffering. I don’t think I saw gargling warm salt water in the post. I would suggest doing it a few times a day as well. Really gargle vigorously, so it can get to all the books and crannies in your tonsils.
Lyoos pheric vitamin c every 2 hrs
Google New Zeland men cured swine flu with vitamin c. A video everybody should watch
Eat normal food.
I wonder if this mom would be available to attend a funeral of a little one because the parents delayed getting medical attention. You don’t mention your children’s age but a child with a 103 degree temperature should be seen at an urgent care facility especially if they have diarrhea and/or vomiting. Please be careful using all “home remedies”. You don’t know if a child is sick enough to be in a hospital – dehydrated, etc. and any wasted time could mean the difference between life and death. The time delay is more critical the smaller the child. Even a delay of a few hours could be fatal. Please, if you have a small child do not delay seeking medical attention. Especially not 24 hours HOPEING a remedy will work. These remedies might be useful for a cold, etc. for an older child but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, do not try to self-diagnosis. The flu this season is the deadliest on record and it is not even half way over the typical flu season. Sorry, just trying to help.
What Ive learned the past couple of years with my daughter getting the flu,she would be playing then down by an all the sudden fever over 101.I took her in to be tested,last year she had strep at the same time.Didnt give her tamaflu,that stuff is harsh on their tummies.But I did use motrin to keep it at bay,and lots of fluids,hot tea,apple cider with apple cider vinegar,yogurt,orange juice.this year she was down for a day.A fever to me is a cue to a problem.
bernedettes reply is not based upon any evidence. There is no guideline that states a temp of 103 requires urgen care. It feeds into the hysteria of parents who rush their children to the pediatrician with every cough or sniffle. This behavior crowds the pediatrician office or urgent care facilities and spreads germs unnecessarily.
Also, we as moms should know if our kids are really sick. If they aren’t drinking and aren’t peeing, they are dehydrated.
The flu, while it does have the potential to be devastating, requires good nursing care at home. A nose swap doesn’t change this. Treating with rest, fluids and some other home remedies is generally best. If there is a fever of unknown origin, evaluating the situation to determine the child’s need. Usually it is a virus.
Please see American Academy of Pediatics guideline for fever. They no longer recommend treating the fever. Treat the child…if your child is too restless to sleep, perhaps Advil (my choice) or Tylenol are useful.
Further, despite common belief, there is no evidence to suggest high fevers alone cause complication. A child that is lethargic and dehydrated may need antipyretics.
I have found that steeped parsley tea and apple cider vinegar every hour on the hour does wonders if you ever have an infection throughout your body. Did this once for an infection in my bladder and within three days, was totally gone. Didn’t have to wait around for antibiotics to take effect and felt better with in the first 3 hours. Also cut the cost of seeing a doctor to tell me what I already knew I had. Very inexpensive for the remedy as well. Just thought I’d share with others.
Thank you for sharing your remedy.
“We as moms?” Are you forgetting “Dads?” This is 2015 not Leave it to Beaver days.
My audience is 90+% moms and women. Certainly dads are important too, but most of my readers are moms and I write to them.
It’s sometimes debilitating to continue writing to the public when one gets negative feedback but the majority do welcome, appreciate and hope you continue on strong!
I’m on my road to recover I got my apple cider vinegar and vitamin c and broth . I hope I’m better for work tomorrow .
You equate a fever of 103 with a being nothing more than a “cough or sniffle”? Are you insane? A small child with a fever of 103 is seriously ill.
Not necessarily so. My then 4 year old daughter had a fever of 105.6. As a former medic and paramedic, I tried to not freak as the thermometer registered higher and higher and higher. I called the pediatrician on call for her dr an he asked me 2 questions.
1) had she just gotten up from a nap? Yes.
2) Was that her yelling in the background about not wanting a bath? Yes.
The fever was not a problem. She had been under the covers and it allowed her temp to get that high. His advice: let her run around and play and her temp would come down. He commented that if she was really that sick, she would NOT be yelling and complaining as she was! I did and it did. Without a trip to the dr. or ER.
So a high fever alone is not necessarily cause for panic and a rush to the dr,, urgent care nor ER. If the child is moving around, playing, fussing/complaining or in general just acting like a kid, it’s not cause for immediate concern. Just keep watching the child and keep them hydrated. However, if the child is laying still, lethargic, or indicating pain, even with “just” a 100-101 fever, call the dr, go to urgent care or go to the ER and have the child checked out as it could be any one of several very serious illnesses. (my first thought is meningitis a very serious illness that, despite never having left the hospital NICU, I still lost a 6 week old grandson to it.)
Not all serious illnesses manifest in high fevers and some high fevers are not dangerous. What the child is doing, how they are acting is much more important than a number on a thermometer. You have to know YOUR child to know how sick they are. You have to OBSERVE not only the thermometer, but how the child is behaving and your “gut” feeling (Yeah, we’re the kind of parents that listen to that still, small voice).
And now on to the grandkids. “Home” and “homeopathic” remedies DO work. And without a lot of side effects. 22 month old grandson had been sick with the viral bronchitis that has been going around town . Then his nose stopped running and his fever went up to 103 (a sure sign in his aunts and dad that a sinus/ear infection was going on) as well as a cough that started to worry me (he also has “cough specific” asthma and having a respiratory illness kicked it in to high gear).
I was sure he had a sinus infection and I was also getting very concerned he was going into pneumonia. I called the dr office and they didn’t call back until after hours. Office was closed the next day. Told to give him some Musinex and come in the day after when the office was open or go to the ER if I was worried or he got worse before the office opened again.
Both his dad and I have had bad experience with Musinex (OTC med much recommended for sinus/cold/allergy problems). I got to looking around as I just didn’t feel good about the advice. Found some homeopathic cough/sinus med called “Chesty”. It cost as much as the Musinex, but after about 20 minutes of debating, I got it.
I brought him home and gave it to him. His sinuses opened up and started draining about 30 SECONDS after I gave it to him. He also started to cough a productive cough. Long story short, overnight, his fever was down to 101, he was breathing easier and his sinuses kept running. He stopped fussing and pulling at his ears and acting “sick”. The nasal drainage went back to clear (from being dark yellow and green). It took another week to get over this viral illness that had been going around. So instead of giving him Musinex, then antibiotics and then probiotics to “fix” what the antibiotics had done (and not addressed the lack of nasal drainage), I just kept using the “Chesty” as directed on the bottle. (I didn’t awaken him to give it to him, but I did give it to him the rest of the time). I also had to alternate it with giving him nebulizer treatments to back the asthma off.
Everybody and their dog, including me, his older brother and dad, had this and it took everyone I know a month to completely get over it. Same with him. The virus had to run it’s course. The asthma needed to be treated with the nebulizer and his Duo-vent, but the sinuses needed to be reopened and his cough become productive to get rid of the sinus/ear problems and keep pneumonia from developing. And at the end of a month he was just fine. 3 months later, he’s still fine – no cough, no runny nose, no asthma. And had I known about the “Chesty” remedy and given it to him at the first sign of respiratory trouble, I probably could have kept the asthma from being triggered as it was triggered by the congestion in his lungs.
Now if his fever hadn’t come down, his ears had kept hurting or the rattle in his chest and gotten any worse, I’d have taken him to the Dr or ER.
That’s the point that most of us here are trying to make. We’re not just “hoping” natural remedies will work and if they don’t…..oops. We DO take kids to the dr when they really need a Dr’s intervention. But there’s a long way between using homeopathic, or other alternative medicines and running a kid to the dr for an antibiotic Rx for every sniffle. Medical abuse isn’t just not getting a child to the Dr. It’s ALSO giving them meds they don’t need or that an alternative will work to relieve the symptoms of illness instead. ALL meds have side effects, some more long-term damaging than others. Most alternative medicines have very gentle side effects, IF USED PROPERLY. Most commercial medicines have serious side effects – Tylenol and Motrin type meds cause kidney and/or liver damage, antibiotics cause intestinal problems, and because of the “if they’re running a fever, they NEED antibiotics”, if we’re sick we MUST have a pill to fix it mindset, we now have a great many illnesses that no longer respond AT ALL to antibiotics or other meds that used to cure illness (think MRSA, TB and other “super bugs”).
I’ve been incapacitatingly sick for 3 days (sick overall for 5 day’s), and I found out I was positive for influenza B yesterday. Mind you, this is my second bout with the flu this season. Anyways, I was done feeling miserable, and stumbled upon this little gem last night. I started the super hydration, vitamin C, apple cider vinegar in tea Q3HR. I stared feeling better within a few hours. I’m going to continue following this regimen until I feel better. Thank you for your health wisdom. I think it would be prudent to add a disclaimer to only use these remedies for adults and children ages 10+. As mentioned the flu puts small children as well as the elderly at greater risk for death. Any moron who’s set on treating their small child with self diagnostic self remedies is endangering abs neglecting their child in addition to putting their child at risk for death. Please seek professional medical attention and speak to your doctor about incorporating these home remedies. Thanks again for this valuable info!
Does anyone know if coconut oil actually kills bacteria and viruses? I have the flu, and have coconut oil at home, please let me know if I should use it. I also take vitamin d, and an all natural general vitamin.
Coconut oil is naturally anti viral and antibacterial but it’s probably not the best first choice to use as a flu remedy. It can be taken on its own in very small quantities (~ 1 tsp) but it’s best to take it with food, as on an empty stomach any more than this can cause surprisingly severe indigestion.
Suzanne Humphries MD has YouTube videos and 2 books about vaccines, flu shots etc.