Nothing scares a mom like the flu. Or a stomach bug. Or a virus causing widespread panic. Or, let’s get real – anytime our kids, husband, or other family members get ill – we become miserable, panicked shells of the people we are in our soul. Keeping yourself and your family healthy and well is always priority 1. And having a few tried and true natural cold and flu remedies on standby is never a bad idea.
This post was originally published on December 28, 2017, and updated on March 25, 2020.
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Last year Santa Claus brought all five of my family members the legit flu – at the same time. After we recovered, I promised myself I’d do whatever it took to prevent another illness from taking over my family’s health and my sanity.
If you’re looking for ways to keep your family well, ease the symptoms of the common cold or help someone you love through a nasty stomach bug – you’re in the right place. But before I get into the natural remedies, let’s take a look at the most effective way we know to prevent picking up an infection: Washing Your Hands.
Look, if you’re not spending 20 seconds every time you wash your hands, you’re doing it wrong.
Is it convenient to wash your hands every time you use the restroom, touch a doorknob, handle food, or push a grocery cart?
Is it worth your time?
Washing your hands lowers your risk of coming down with a cold, virus, or stomach bug by getting rid of the germs on your hands before you touch your eyes, mouth or nose and become infected.
Here’s the thing – you may not know it, but you touch your face something like 100 times a day.
When you touch your eyes – put on makeup, touch your nose, pull a nose hair, or casually wipe your mouth, you’re rolling out the red carpet for germs to enter your body and make you sick.
And you know what? It’s hard to stop touching your face – especially when you don’t realize you’re doing it – but it’s easy to wash your hands.
All The Nasty Things Washing Your Hands Prevents
Respiratory infections & Colds
Salmonella & Other Food-related illnesses
Norovirus & Other Gastrointestinal Upsets
How To Effectively Wash Your Hands
Use soap and water – It does not matter if it is hot or cold water – that’s more of a comfort thing than a scientific thing.
Make sure you cover the surface area of your hands, between your fingers and your fingernails.
For twenty seconds.
Don’t forget to dry your hands with a clean, bacteria-free towel or let them air dry. (Do not use that gross rag that happens to be sitting there on your counter:)
Now, twenty seconds seems like forever – especially if there’s a mob of angry women behind you at a public restroom.
We won’t even talk about the pressure that is on our kids at school to hurry up in the bathroom. (Spoiler alert: They don’t prioritize hand sanitation as much as they should.)
Here’s the thing – you don’t have to set a timer or count 1-Mississippi – 2 – Mississippi up to 20 every time you wash your hands. Unless, of course, you want to – then by all means go for it.
Here’s what works for us: Singing the Happy Birthday song – twice.
When repeated, that classic hit comes out to exactly 20 seconds. Singing helps the time go by, makes the process a little less cumbersome, and makes a mundane task kind of fun.
Ok. I’ll get off of my hand washing soap box now, and we can move onto the natural remedies you came here to find.
Natural Cold & Flu Remedies
Natural Remedies For A Runny Nose & Congestion
A saline rinse is a fantastic home remedy for a runny nose. It helps loosen mucus, making it easier and more comfortable to get it out.
You can DIY a saline rinse by mixing table salt and boiled water, but it’s important to note that tap water is not safe to use. (Tap water isn’t adequately filtered and could contain harmful bacteria.)
Your best bet is going to be a product like Boogie Wipes Saline Mist, which is 100% safe and pediatrician approved.
And SO much easier!
Natural Remedies for Congestion
Decongestants and nasal sprays are not recommended for kids, so saline is once again the way to go. Studies have shown that kids ages 6-10 who receive nasal saline drops recover faster from colds or flu.
If your child is unable to blow her nose, using a nasal bulb will help you help her clear out the nasal passageway.
Another way to loosen mucus and soothe a cough is to use a Cool Mist Humidifier.
Don’t have one handy? Use your crockpot as a humidifier:)
Elevating your child’s head may improve drainage and allow her to rest more comfortably.
DIY Congestion Relief
Get natural relief from congestion with a homemade Congestion-Relief Sinus Bomb
The OTC Homeopathic medication Coryzalia may ease help ease symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and rhinitis.
Natural Remedies for a Sore Throat
Honey is a natural cough suppressant, wound healer, and it may speed healing for sore throats.
Homemade Honey Cough Syrup Recipe
You’ll need one cup of local or organic honey, 3-4 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. In a medium saucepan, mix honey, fresh lemon juice, and cinnamon. Heat on low for around 30 seconds, then add 1/4 cup water. Bring this mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid (think: mason jar) and store the refrigerator.
Dosage: 1 Tablespoon Warmed As Needed
*Caution* Honey is not safe for babies under one year.
Gargling with salt water (isn’t fun at all) but it can kill bacteria in the throat while loosening mucus and helping with discomfort. Add a spoon of salt to a small glass of warm water – mix – gargle – repeat.
The menthol in peppermint helps thin mucous as well as soothe sore throats and coughs. While giving peppermint oil directly to a child is harmful, soothing peppermint tea is safe to use to relieve their symptoms.
Marshmallow root contains a substance that coats and soothes a sore throat. Sipping a tea made of a bit of dried marshmallow root and water a few times a day can help!
We all need to drink 8 eight ounce glasses of water per day. Hydration is critical to rebalancing electrolytes. Prefer something with flavor? Try one of these healthy infused water recipes.
Stay away from sugary juices and caffeinated drinks, which do more harm than good – causing dehydration.
Natural Remedies for Fever
When your child has a fever, your first instinct may be to reach for the medicine cabinet, but you may want to re-think that. Remember, a fever can help your body fight infection.
Reducing the temperature isn’t doing a thing to treat the underlying sickness or cause.
*Having Issues With Your Thermometer?
Yeah, I hate the old school temp taking thing. It gets old fast. If you’re in the market for a new way of taking temperatures – read this and check out this digital ear thermometer. It’s easy, fast, and accurate.
Ok. So you want to take action and help ease any discomfort that a fever brings, right? You have options.
A lukewarm bath may be soothing, but don’t fall for these fever reducing lies.
Lie #1: The Cold Water Bath Route
Contrary to old wives tales, a cold water bath does not lower body temperature, but it can cause a child to become so cold she shivers, which will trigger a rise in temperature.
Lie # 2: The Rubbing Alcohol Sponge Bath
Coating yourself or your child with rubbing alcohol will cause a cooling sensation, but it does nothing to lower fever. Using rubbing alcohol can actually cause temperature to rise – because your body gets that “cooling” message and thinks ok, we’re cold, let’s turn up the internal thermostat.
Bottom line: Skip the alcohol.
Nature’s best fever reliever. Keep the water intake high and consider hydration popsicles and hydrating fruits like watermelon and grapes to keep it as fun as possible.
Still Worried About Fever?
I understand. I have three kids – and high fevers make me a little nervous too. Click here to read what Dr. Sears says about when to worry about fever if you’re second guessing yourself.
Stomach Flu Remedies
Both vomiting and diarrhea cause dehydration. Once your child can hold anything down, slowly reintroduce clear fluids like water, tea, broth, and popsicles.
Avoid acidic beverages like lemonade and orange juice.
Oral Rehydration Solutions
What to Eat
Stick with the BRAT Diet which is strictly bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.
What to Avoid Eating
There are some categories of foods you should avoid feeding your family when the stomach flu has infiltrated your home. These include foods high in sugar, dairy, tomato products, caffeine, and greasy, salty, and spicy foods.
Ginger helps soothe the digestive system acting as an antiemetic to stop vomiting.
Ginger Tea for Nausea & Stomach Flu Symptoms
Ginger Tea Recipe
- 4 Cups of Water
- 1/4-1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Ginger Root
- 2 Tea Bags
- 2 Lemons
- 3 Tablespoons Honey
In a large saucepan, mix 4 cups water + 1/2 cup freshly grated ginger root + 1/4- 1/2 cup brown sugar & bring it to boil. Reduce heat and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes on low. Add two tea bags and steep until desired strength. Next, add lemon juice and honey to taste and stir.
Strain and serve hot or chilled.
Cinnamon is a natural remedy for the stomach flu. It is a powerful, fast-acting antibacterial.
Try cinnamon stick tea. To make it boil a couple of cups of water with a few cinnamon sticks and after it reaches a boil turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for about fifteen minutes.
I hope these natural remedies, recipes, and tips were enough to get you going in the right proactive, healthy direction. Remember, there is no substitute for proper hand washing when it comes to preventing colds, flus and bugs:) And when in doubt – call your doctor.