By Sister Lilian 2016 ©
Winter is when coughs and colds rear their heads, throats burn, noses run and ears ache! This does not always signal a health crisis. In the early years of life, children are the most prone to airway and related infections.
The winter ailments very often have two common starting points though – mucus build-up in the upper airways (nose, sinuses, throat and ears) and a sore throat. Deal with these promptly and more serious respiratory disease is likely to be kept at bay this winter.
All mucus membranes are coated with a light layer of mucus to keep them moist and healthy. Excess mucus production is however an excellent medium for growth of organisms that may cause disease. This can occur due to poor resistance in winter but even more commonly, due to certain hearty winter foods and irritation by cold, dry air. Children generally ‘catch germs’ from others when their resistance is poor and the self-help measures suggested below will help prevent many of the coughs and colds being passed around. The foods that are considered winter warmers like breads, pastas, pizzas and other grain products as well as dairy based dishes promote mucus production in many children. Foods with preservatives, colourants and flavour enhancers can also cause excess mucus and they are included in many typical winter treats. Rather prepare satisfying homemade soups, sweet potato, butternut, carrot and rice dishes in cold weather. Increase winter fruits considerably and offer warm herbal teas in moderate quantities for thirst quenching. If anyone in the family comes down with blocked nose or sinus congestion, give a homeopathic remedy to nip it in the bud.
Parents will mostly recognise the symptoms of sore throat by a change in the voice of their babies or children, loss of appetite and clearing of the throat. Excess mucus dripping down the throat often leads to inflammation.
Home treatment of sore throat
• Give a homeopathic remedy for sore throat 3-5 times each day to relieve the burning pain, clear postnasal drip and help treat all types of sore throat, no matter the cause.
• Alternatively, give the tissue salt remedies Ferrum phos and Calc sulph each hour when your child starts with symptoms of burning sore throat to relieve pain, promote drainage and help reduce swelling.
• Keep up cool (preferably not icy cold) fluid intake, which will be able to be swallowed more easily.
• Don’t insist that food be eaten until your little one’s throat feels a lot better; offer thin soups or liquidise food.
• If the air is cold and dry, run a warm-air humidifier.
• Offer older toddlers and children a drink of hot water with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of honey. Take care that the water is not hot enough to burn them, but the warmer the better.
• Many older children like to suck a throat lozenger to relieve pain – keep an eye open for choking.
• Preferably keep your child at home for a day or two initially as they will feel miserable. You will also notice if the infection is more serious and needs medical attention.
A cough is a symptom, not a disease in itself, and so is associated with various causes, not all of which are serious. Coughs often follow or are part of persistent mucus discharges from the airway membranes and this can usually be treated very rapidly with lifestyle changes. They can be classified in many ways and this one is a practical guide to understanding common terminology. A cough could have characteristics of more than one of these.
• Loose or productive cough
This is when one can hear mucus in the airways when baby breathes or see it because baby has a runny nose or coughs or vomits up mucus. This mucus will mostly be profuse and although any colour is possible, it is not so thick or sticky that it cannot be expelled.
• Dry or non-productive cough
No mucus or very little is expelled from the airways with a dry cough and so baby does not cough it up, there is seldom a freely running nose, nor does one readily here it in the airways as baby breathes, although the voice might be very nasal and different from normal.
• Tight cough
This is related to a dry cough although productive mucus is possible. A tight cough is recognised by the child’s chest pulling inwards during the coughing episode, which sounds painful and is often accompanied by dry retching and debilitating tiredness.
• Irritation cough
This cough is mostly due to a postnasal drip and originates from a constant clearing of the throat.
• Spasmodic cough
Cough that comes in spasms and then is absent for some time can be called spasmodic. There will mostly be a chest infection or lower airway condition like croup or bronchitis and coughing seems painful.
During a bout of cough, always remain calm, comfort your child, preferably prop him up to ease breathing and ensure good ventilation. Try these tips according to your child’s symptoms:
• Run a humidifier at night, with a little Eucalyptus oil added. This helps disinfect and soothe dry, inflamed membranes. Clean and dry the humidifier after each use.
• A few drops of Eucalyptus oil under the hot water tap when running baby’s bath may also help open the airways for the night.
• If allergies to environmental factors trigger an attack, you will have to try and exclude them.
• Steam treat with Friar’s balsam – add a capful to a basin of boiling water, drape a towel over your child’s head and encourage to breathe these vapours in but take care to avoid burning. This helps for tight, dry cough as well as in most cases of croup and persistent coughing.
• In acute attacks of croup at night, close windows and doors and boil a kettle (which does not automatically switch off) to make breathing easier.
• Apply a layer of vaporising gel to baby’s chest and throat or onto a vest if the skin reacts with a rash, to help relieve a tight or croup–like cough at night.
• Cut an onion into rings. Cover with pure honey and leave for 4 hours. Remove the rings. Give 1 teaspoon of the frothy liquid 3 times a day for coughing from postnasal drip.
• Do make dietary adjustments and if all this does not help, consider allergies to other things too, like pets or house dust mite.
If your little one does not improve soon with self-help tips or the cough develops into something more serious, see your doctor as soon as possible. The following symptoms must immediately be reported to the doctor:
• Going blue or very pale around the lips or the lips themselves
• Blue fingernails
• Difficult breathing with abdomen sucked in with the effort
• Terror or distress on child’s face with breathing or coughing
• If you suspect a serious allergy reaction to a dietary or environmental factor
• If your child has choked and you cannot dislodge any occluding object
• If baby or child vomits with or after coughing