Cough, cough, sneeze, sniffle. Are you there yet? If you aren't, chances are that someone in your family or workplace is. For most people, getting a cold is not a big deal, and in fact is great for the immune system. For others though, getting sick is serious business and can result in some pretty scary situations. For our family, it was the dreaded croup. As a child, I had croup at least 3 times a year and was promptly treated with antibiotics. Little did we know then, how devastating antibiotics are to the gut microbiome and that for every one round of them, it takes the gut approximately one year to replenish itself. Think about that for just a minute. One round of antibiotics requires one year of healing. Is it any wonder that most of us and our children have gut related issues? With that in mind, I am sharing with you what is in our immune boosting toolbox to use when our children (or us) get sick; most pointedly when they get croup.
What is croup? According to WebMD, "Croup is a common respiratory problem in young children. It tends to occur in the fall and winter. Its main symptom is a harsh, barking cough. Croup causes swelling and narrowing in the voice box, windpipe, and breathing tubes that lead to the lungs. This can make it hard for your child to breathe.
An attack of croup can be scary, but it is rarely serious. Children usually get better in several days with rest and care at home."
Left untreated and unchecked, this can escalate very quickly, so it is nothing to mess around with. Knowing that our child was prone to this, we have on hand a nebulizer with albuterol. If this is your child's pattern, please talk with your doctor. What I am sharing with you now, are things we have used to successfully get through the tough colds, croup, and general nastiness that winter can bring. However I am not a doctor and you should never substitute my opinion for that of a medical professional.
Now that we have the scary stuff out of the way, let's talk about why we have never needed to use the nebulizer. Simply stated, we have found, through research and real life experience, certain things that boost the body's ability to fight off infection, open airways, and support the immune system. These are not alternatives to medical treatment. In fact, there is nothing alternative about them. These methods work with the body's innate ability to heal if given the correct tools. Some may resonate with you, some won't. That is okay. I am a true believer that the energy that we put out there when dealing with our body's or those of ones we love is just as important as the tool we are using. That all being said, here is my own toolkit when dealing with coughs, colds, and croup;
Homeopathy is based on the principal of Like treating Like. We have a homeopathic croup kit in our medicine cabinet, in a baggie with directions. We have been using homeopathy in our family for many years and this makes sense for us. A common remedy for croup is Aconitum 30c, one dose, with one more dose given after an hour if croup persists. This remedy has worked for us several times. If there is still a barking cough the next day, we follow up with a dose of Spongia Tosta 30c. This is our first go-to with croup. We also have a professional homeopath who has helped us out on many occasions.
2. Steam Followed by Cold
So simple, but in the urgency of the moment, it's easy to forget. We turn the shower on as hot as we can, close the bathroom door, and sit on the floor with our child with a book or toy (to distract) and breathe steam until the cough subsides. We immediately follow up with very cold air from outside or the freezer. Fresh air is very important when dealing with croup as mentioned by Dr Cowan in an article by The Healthy Home Economist. Following homeopathy, this is always our second course of treatment.
3. Mustard Pack
This is an old remedy that I was reminded of by a friend. It makes an appearance in the book The Fourfold Path to Healing by Dr Tom Cowan (highly recommended). For my son, one of the biggest issues was the ability to clear phlegm from his lungs. Mustard is reported to work by increasing heat and circulation in the chest area, and in so doing, loosens the phlegm. This has become one of my favorite remedies for any cough. Here is how to do it; grind 2 TB of mustard seed in a coffee grinder or use already ground mustard seed (not prepared mustard). Mix with water to create a paste. Use as is or dilute with 1TB flour. Apply paste to warm, damp cloth and place over the chest. Cover the cloth with another cloth to keep warm. Set a timer for 15 minutes, checking every 3 minutes to be sure mustard is not burning the skin. The skin will be pink, but should not be allowed to blister. After 15 minutes or the desired duration, wipe skin clean. This can be repeated as often as desired. This is useful for any cough, not just croup. So simple and so effective.
4. Onion Poultice
Onions are known for their healing qualities and have been used throughout generations as such. We make sure to stock up during the cold months to use in soups and externally as described here. Slice an onion and place in steamer. Allow to steam until onion is translucent. Wrap onions in a cotton cloth and, when cool enough not to burn the skin, place on the chest until completely cool. Onions can be reused for the same purpose again. Now, if you are dealing with children, as I typically am, I use these opportunity to allow them a coveted 20 minutes on the ipad or watching a short show on television. Complete bribery, but when you need them still for any length of time, it works!
5. Mullein Tea
An old remedy from the herb world, Mullein tea (or tincture) is always fully stocked at my house. This is an all around great herb for a tight, wheezy cough and congestion without the ability to expectorate. We buy this by the pound here. You can read more about this amazing herb here. An important note about using this tea is that it will stir things up in the lungs. This is not a cough suppressant, but an expectorant. It helps to loosen phlegm so that it can be expectorated. For that reason, we use this in the early in the day so that the clearing of mucus does not interrupt sleep (especially for children).
Broth is invaluable for nearly any ailment. In the case of illness, when appetite is poor, it provides the body with much needed calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, trace minerals, sulfur, collagen and chondroitin. With the addition of a little added celtic sea salt, broth is both delicious and healing. There are entire books written about this amazing liquid; my favorite being Nourishing Broth; An Old Fashioned Recipe for the Modern World. You can also read more about its amazing abilities to heal and nourish here.
Its preparation couldn't be more simple; place poultry, beef, or fish bones in a large stock pot with herbs and vegetable scraps (optional); add a splash of apple cider vinegar; allow to rest for an hour; simmer on low on the stove top or crock pot, or place in oven at 200F for 12-24 hours (longer for beef bones). When finished simmering, strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer and store in the fridge or freezer.
GOOT is an acronym for Garlic Oil Oil Treatment. In short, it is the combination of garlic, coconut oil, and olive oil spread on the feet, chest, and back. Garlic is well known for its medicinal properties; particularly the role of allicin. The method is simple; finely chop up a few cloves of garlic and let rest for 10 minutes. According to Jo Robinson in Eating on the Wild Side, allowing the garlic to rest before heating, helps it to retain all of its medicinal properties. Place the chopped garlic in 1 TB each of the oils and allow to cook on low heat until garlic is soft. Strain the garlic, allow the mixture to cool slightly and rub on feet, chest and back. Not only is this effective, but your house will smell like an Italian Eatery. Yum!
8. Chiropractic care
We have used chiropractic care since my children were babies and have experienced firsthand the positive effects of having the body in complete alignment. In particular my children respond well to Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST) which involves very gentle and slight shifts in the cranial regions and other areas of the body. I highly recommend finding a trusted practitioner in your area. If you are able, try to find one who is also well versed in nutrition beyond just recommending supplements.
Although fairly obvious, rest is vital when healing. Even after a rough night, my children want to play and exert themselves. Knowing what I do now, I don't allow for exertion until we've had 24 hours of wellness. Sometimes this means we are in pajamas and relaxing for a few days. If that is a possibility for you, I highly recommend it. We've made the mistake of allowing our routine to go uninterrupted only to be held back for an even a longer period of time because the body was not allowed proper rest time.
10. Consider gut health and triggers
It took us 2 years, but we finally figured out that our oldest is sensitive to fructose, dairy, chicken eggs, and grains. When we removed those things from his diet and began a gut healing protocol, a typical cold remained typical and did not escalate to croup. Presumably the extra inflammation that these foods caused, rendered his body unable to deal with extra stress.
Although you might not share the same triggers, we all know that the winter season is packed with holidays and delicious sugary foods. In combination with the decrease in sunlight and fresh air, this can be hard on the immune system. After dessert time, invite the friends and family outside for a game of Fox and Goose or a quick walk around the block!
Finally, if you are indeed dealing with croup, please keep a watchful eye. Do you have podcasts or movies to catch up on? Maybe you have a few books that are sitting half read on the nightstand? When your child has croup, you must keep an eye on their breathing. Things can go from bad to worse very quickly. When my son had croup, his dad and I took turns keeping awake to keep an eye on him throughout the night. If he began to cough, we immediately got him into the steam and then followed up with #3 or #4. This is not the time to put a child into their room alone and hope they sleep it off.
So there you go, 10 simple ways to help the body deal with colds, coughs, and croup. Are there other things that you do to support your immune system?