Being sick ourselves is a bummer, but when the little ones are sick, it can become stressful and distressing. For those who would rather not give over-the-counter meds to just palliate symptoms, there are easy natural alternatives to help the kids (and the adults) get over their infections faster.
This is a centuries-old set of methods where water in contrasting temperatures is applied to the body. There are multiple benefits:
- Safe, cheap, and non-invasive
- Invigorates the mind and body
- Boosts blood and lymph circulation, which delivers more immune cells to the infection, and helps clear the debris
- Stimulates the immune system
D.I.Y. Hydrotherapy: Make Magic Socks
One of my favourite ways to use hydrotherapy is by using “Magic socks”. I like to call them “magic” to emphasize how well they work, especially when there are first hints of a cold or flu coming on, rather than calling them by what they are – cold, wet socks! Now, bear with me here… It sounds unpleasant, and may be counter-intuitive at first, but it really works. You can use at any age.
Here’s what you do:
- Right before bed, grab a pair of simple, thin cotton socks
- Run them under cold tap water (the colder the better), and wring them out well so they’re not dripping
- Put them on! It will be cold and unpleasant for about a minute or two, but that’s where the “magic” starts
- Put on a pair of dry, thick, wool socks (wool is preferred, but I find fleece works well too)
- Go to sleep!
Having cold socks on your feet creates a driving force for your body to circulate blood to the feet to warm them up. The increased circulation stimulates the immune system in the blood, which improves its action in the sites of infection and clears it faster. The feet warm up quickly, and in fact so does the person wearing them. Don’t be surprised to find sock on the floor in the morning because it just got too warm!
Another great hydrotherapy technique is Steam inhalation. This one you’ve probably heard of. Steam is moisturizing and soothing to irritated noses, sinuses, and throats, and makes a great carrier for anti-microbial essential oils. This works for older kids, about 5 years and up.
Here’s how to take advantage of steam:
- Boil a kettle of water, and prepare a large bowl and a large towel on a tabletop.
- Pour the hot water into the bowl (leaving some in the kettle for replenishment), and sit in front of it
- Drop 2-4 drops of essential oils into the bowl. You can use eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary, thyme.
- Lean over the bowl and cover the head and bowl completely with a towel
- Take long, deep breaths, getting those essential oil vapors into the respiratory tract, where they help kill infections.
Supervise the kids while they’re doing the inhalations, and allow them to take breaks every few minutes. Replenish the hot water as the steam subsides.
Bath time, Anyone?
Last but not least, I want to mention Tepid baths for fevers. A fever can seem like a frightening thing, and our initial reaction tends to be to want to quench it. However, we need to remember that a fever is not necessarily an evil – it has a necessary function. Elevated body temperature within specific ranges optimized the function of the immune system, and makes it too hot for infections to grow. At about 39C/103F it’s considered a low-grade fever, and you can allow it to run its course. To help ease discomfort, you can run a tepid bath – not cold, not hot – just barely warm. Immersion in a tepid bath will help the body thermo-regulate easier and gently bring down a fever that is getting high and stabilize it. Keep hydrating with water and electrolytes, or breastfeeding. If the fever climbs closer to 41C, consult your doctor.
Read Part 2 of my tips for treating colds and flu’s at home: Botanicals and Supplements
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or try one of these hydrotherapy techniques, let me know how they work!