When I was 4 years old, I distinctly remember my great granny whipping up a black concoction that was thick like maple syrup with a taste that resembled a rubber tire. “You’ll be better in no time,” she assured. And she was right: Almost as soon as the spoon hit my mouth, I was as good as cured.
Although we’ve come to rely less on old- fashioned remedies and more on medications readily available at the local pharmacy, some parents are placing their trust back into the hands of all those years of wisdom.
There’s no denying that natural treatments are typically less expensive than their counterparts. Plus, they’re incredibly convenient; in fact, you likely have much of what you need already in your house. “Natural remedies work so well because they are aimed at addressing the underlying problem rather than just masking the symptoms,” says Sherry Torkos, holistic pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. “And they are typically safer and gentler on the body.”
Interested in incorporating non-medical techniques into your family’s health and wellness regimen? Follows Torkos’ tips on naturally healing these familiar ailments.
One oft-occurring infant condition: colic. It affects about 25 percent of babies and is defined as periods of intense, unexplained fussing or crying that lasts more than three hours a day, more than three days a week for more than three weeks. Recent research has found that colic is caused by an imbalance in microflora (normal gut bacteria), which leads to the gas, bloating, pain and crying that babies experience.
To treat, try supplementing with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis, which has been shown to significantly improve colic symptoms within as little as one week. This probiotic has also helped alleviate diarrhea caused by the rotavirus and antibiotics, as well as moderate chronic constipation in infants.
Cough and congestion
Keep the bedroom air moist with a cool mist vaporizer. Saline nasal drops and sprays are also safe for infants and young children. They can help thin mucus and reduce congestion. To protect the skin around the nostrils, which can become cracked or irritated from a runny nose, apply a little bit of a natural oil, such as almond, around the exterior of the nostrils.
Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants are generally not recommended for infants and children under 6 years of age due to risk of adverse effects and lack of efficacy data.
To treat this pesky and common condition, massage a small amount (1 to 2 teaspoons) of almond oil onto baby’s scalp, then use a very soft bristle brush to help slough off the dead skin cells. Finish by washing the scalp with a mild baby shampoo.
Allow the diaper area to get some air by letting your baby hang out in the buff when possible. Keep the area dry and protected using a thick cream that contains zinc oxide. Calendula and chamomile can also soothe irritated skin.
Let your baby gnaw on a cold (not frozen), soft teething ring. Camilia is a homeopathic liquid that is used to soothe painful gums and ease irritability in babies.
In most cases the pros of natural remedies outweigh the cons. But in some cases, the benefits may take longer to be noticed or the overall effects may be less pronounced, notes Torkos. For the best results, look for therapies that have been clinically researched for the health concern you are treating. “It is through science that we can validate the benefits and risks of treatments, whether natural or conventional. This is of utmost importance, especially when addressing infant health issues.” Torkos recommends moms always consult their care providers for advice on how to safely and appropriately use natural remedies.
If you try to use a natural remedy and your baby’s ailment isn’t responding, call your pediatrician or head to the emergency room if necessary. When it comes to your baby’s health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.