Help for that Cold or Flu {Home remedies and common sense}

Good grief you all are a bunch of sickies! I mean really! The flu season is early and it is brutal.

For the past 3 years we have managed to avoid the really nasty flu that levels a person for a three or more days. We’ve had a few minor colds and sinus infections and there have been coughs and some minor fevers but for the most part, we have been pretty healthy in spite of working and going to school with people who are clearly not well.

After 20 years of mothering four kids through school, church activities, sports, brutally cold winters and running my own dayhome, I have figured out a few tricks to combat illness.  You’ve probably heard of many of them but some may surprise you. I’m not a doctor or a health professional; I’m a mom. And this is common sense and few of “Grandma’s” remedies thrown in.

1. Don’t sanitize everything!  I do not clean my house like a crazy lady with OCD. Sorry, but germs are everywhere and I’m not going to kill myself trying to purge the house of every form of bacteria. In fact, I am almost exclusively opposed to the use of disinfecting wipes and anti-bacterial hand cleaners and soaps. They are actually making the transmission of germs worse(in my opinion).  Have you noticed how kids and families are getting sicker and for a longer period of time? I blame the over-sanitization of everything around us. Our immune systems simply cannot fight every little germ that comes along if we have been kept from building immunity to them. Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t clean up after a sick person or do preventative measures if you have a revolving door of little ones in your house…but temper that with common sense. Remember, some of us grew up eating dirt, dog food and the occasional helping of yellow snow. There was a time when “getting dirty” was considered healthy.

2. I use onions. A lot. Even if you don’t like onions, buy some. They’re cheap like borscht! There is much information on the internet which you can research but this is what I do: cut an onion, leave half on the kitchen counter at all times. Leave half or quarter onions on a glass plate or in a glass tumbler by the bedside of anyone who may be getting sick. Do this early~don’t wait till someone is so congested and feverish that they’re in it for the long haul. Change your onions out every 2-3 days during flu season. Yes, there is a bit of an odour at first but the onions do absorb bacteria and germs preventing them from being absorbed into your respiratory system. Also, boil some onions and inhale the steam for sinus infections. Drink onion broth when you have a cold and you can even try putting vicks on the bottom of your feet, add some slices of onion and put socks on to relieve sinus congestion.

3.Lemons/Honey:  My GO-TO remedy for coughs, colds and congestion is hot water with lemon juice and honey. I will swear by this till my dying day. Don’t just drink one cup, drink multiple~all day every day when you feel a cold coming on or even to prevent it. Lemons kill the bacteria in your respiratory system and honey is a natural healer and anti-inflammatory. Use raw honey if you can get it. Make it stronger if you are very congested or if you have a sore throat.

4. Cayenne pepper~ I don’t like really spicy foods and I certainly don’t like “hot” drinks but cayenne pepper is one of THE best remedies for congestion. Sprinkle a little into your lemon/honey drink. You will be amazed how quickly you feel better.

5. For sore throats and persistent hacking coughs, try this: (as seen on Pinterest) :¼ teaspoon Cayenne, ¼ teaspoon Ginger, 1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar (organic, like Bragg’s is preferred), 2 Tablespoon Water, 1 Tablespoon Honey (locally produced raw honey if possible.) Dissolve cayenne and ginger in cider vinegar and water. Add honey and shake well. Take 1 Tablespoon as needed for cough.  Note: this doesn’t dissolve perfectly. Always shake well before using.

6. Fever. You know, a fever is not a bad thing. And sometimes making a person comfortable with rest and fluids and a cool cloth is a much better method than masking the fever with Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen .  Fever is the body’s way of killing off infection.  It’s a burning process and if you medicate the fever away, you’ve taken away the process of cleansing the body of those nasty infections critters~which may just tick them off and make them come back with a vengeance  Check out this article on fevers in children~enlightening! Fever Benefits 


8. Vicks vapour rub or some other comparable product.  Do not ignore what generations before us have learned: the use of menthol and eucalyptus rubbed on chests, throats, backs and feet for congestion, coughing and upper respiratory infections like bronchitis and strep throat.  Wrap the area with cotton or wool to keep the heat in and help it penetrate. Rubbing vicks on your feet and wearing socks to bed helps to relieve congestion as you sleep and is also a really great way to help little kids out without fear of them getting their hands into in and then rubbing eyes. OUCH!  And moms,here’s a trick: Vicks is pretty strong for babies and toddlers. If you want to *dilute* it a bit, mix it 50/50 (or less) with petroleum jelly OR a lanolin based scent-free lotion. Way cheaper and more effective than buying “baby safe” products.

9. Mustard Plaster~oh, I have bad memories of these. Nasty,foul smelling and burning hot. HOWEVER, they work! There are precautions though. If you are using one on a child, be aware of how hot it gets. Check it often and and protect skin with a layer or two of cotton. (something that you will throw out like an old sheet or pillow case works best).  Don’t know what a mustard plaster is? You obviously didn’t have my mother as your bedside nurse~we endured them with every illness. Works best for chest congestions like pneumonia or bronchitis.  Simply, a mustard plaster is a paste made with flour and no…NOT hot dog mustard! Dry powdered mustard. “Since mustard seed is a stimulant it will warm the circulatory system. This can result in dilated blood vessels, plus a warmed system can help burn and metabolize fat in the body. As a warming herb, mustard seed will encourage perspiration that can lower fevers and cleanse the body of toxins. This will help the body fight colds and flu.”

Click on this link for more info but here’s the basics:

A mustard plaster is made by using 4 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons dry mustard, and lukewarm water. A paste is made that is easily spread but not too watery.

The most effective way to apply any poultice is to use 100 percent flannel and spread the mixture over on half of the flannel and fold the other half to make a package. Apply the poultice to the chest, cover with a heavy blanket to encourage sweating. Do not apply the mustard plaster directly to the skin as it will burn.

The mustard plaster should be left on for up to 20 minutes. If the skin turns red remove the plaster immediately.

10. Fluids. You’ve heard it, but do you do it? Clear fluids when you’re sick. No milk, no chocolate milk, (actually, dairy products are just bad when you have a cold or respiratory infection as they promote bacteria and mucous).  Hot herbal teas, clear juice(but really, keep it to a minimum on the sugary drinks), chicken soup broth(more coming on that), hot water with lemon and honey.  And water. WATER. Room temperature water is sometimes easier to ingest for kids and even when you’re feeling really poorly. The shock of cold water can chill a feverish body.

11. Cook a chicken. You know those cheaper utility chickens in the frozen food section that you often ignore? Well, when they’re cheap, buy a few. It’s very easy to make homemade chicken soup and it’s so healing and therapeutic(this is also great for new moms who are healing and nursing).   Boil your chicken in a large pot for a couple hours. You’ll need to keep adding water as it boils down. Add an entire chopped onion.  In the last 45 minutes you can add some grated carrots and  diced celery. Then add about a dozen whole peppercorns(you won’t be eating these but they’re great for flavour), sea salt(to taste), 1 whole Star of Anise(found in your whole foods/bulk/spice section), 1 bay leaf.

Boil and then simmer for 1/2 hour. Serve over cooked egg noodles or simply drink the broth. So good and it really does contribute to a faster recovery. Grandma was right!

12. Vapourizer. Every home should have at least one. When you feel that scratchy feeling in your throat, it’s time to humidify. If you don’t have one, put a pot of water on your stove to simmer. You’ll know your house is getting steamy when you can’t see out your windows! This is very important during the dry winter months. A dry throat is a hot-bed for new germs and bacteria to collect.

13.Rest. I know this shouldn’t even be a necessary point but most people don’t take enough time to rest and recover. If your kids are sick, they need to sleep, lay down, and NOT go to school or sports. That perpetuates the cycle of infection and is the number 1 reason why so many young families get hammered with illness.

ooops….almost forgot!! Ventilation! This is a biggie. If you live in a house with sealed doors and windows in the winter , you are essentially living in a microbe-infested petri dish. Ick. Open windows. Go out for a walk. Get fresh air. This is essential every day no matter how sick you are. Stale air will be the reason you get sick(likely) and the reason you stay sick. That’s why so many people get sick when it’s super cold and over the holidays~hanging around in houses with poor ventilation and then not getting enough fresh air once they’re sick to clear the lungs and cobwebs out of their system.

Finally, this is not an exhaustive list. I’m sure you all have other ideas. The most important thing to remember is that a cold and flu are NOT reasons to go the ER or your doctors’ offices unless a temperature over 103*F lasts longer than 24 hours in children or longer than 48 hours for adults. That can indicate a bacterial infection which must be treated.

Common sense dictates that when your body is run down, you are more susceptible to infections so slow down, take it easy, get enough sleep at night and don’t be the hero who has to be involved in every committee and every activity. It’s okay to say no.

I hope everyone stays healthy! This is a bad year for flus so stay strong and fight smart!

2 thoughts on “Help for that Cold or Flu {Home remedies and common sense}

  1. I complryrly agree with the germs one. We have become such a society freaked out by germs! Get a grip, they are good for you and it’s not as if I have an pigsty of a house but I do not go overboard with the disinfecting. I think this and the attitude that sickness is bad and must be avoided at all costs is what is perpetuating these viruses. We need to let our bodies fight off this things, it’s good for you; just like hard times in your life are good in the long run for it produces character.

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