Common Home Remedies for Sick Kids

Try These Home Remedies for Sick Kids

Sick Child
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Pediatricians often get a bad rap for always wanting to pull out their prescription pad when kids come in for sick visits.

While some doctors may deserve that kind of reputation, especially if they always prescribe an antibiotic for every runny nose or cough a child might have, most pediatricians aren't like that.

Natural Remedies

Still, even if they don't prescribe an antibiotic or other drug at the drop of a hat, since they probably do encourage vaccines for kids, most pediatricians likely don't have a reputation for being into holistic or alternative medicines.

That doesn't mean that they don't encourage a lot of natural remedies for many common pediatric problems though.

High fiber diets for constipation, steamy showers for croup, and cool mist humidifiers for colds, are just a few of the more common natural remedies that most pediatricians 'prescribe' on a daily basis.

I remember one pediatrician that I visited during my residency who would commonly prescribe the three S's to his patients when they had a cold - suckers, showers, and soup. Lollipops or suckers might relieve their sore throat, while the steamy shower could help their congestion, and of course, chicken soup is a common home remedy for kids with a cold or the flu.

Home Remedies

Using home remedies isn't all about Old Wives Tale type home cures, such as putting Vicks or Vaseline on your child's feet when he has a night-time cough or rubbing a nickel on a wart to get rid of it. Common home remedies include many natural remedies that can relieve bothersome symptoms, but also include home treatments with over-the-counter medications for which you simply don't need a prescription.

As with prescriptions, herbal treatments, and vitamins, be sure to tell your pediatrician about all home remedies you have tried or are considering for your child.

Common home remedies that parents should be familiar with might include the use of a:

  • Chicken soup - making homemade chicken soup is a lot easier than most people think. Will it help your kids get better faster? A lot of people think it will, but even if it doesn't, a good bowl of chicken soup will likely make them feel better.
  • Neti pot - using a Neti pot is the latest way to do regular nasal irrigation for kids with chronic sinus infections or allergies.
  • Sitz bath - a sitz bath is basically a warm water bath that your child sits in for 10 or 15 minutes and can be a good home remedy for young girls with vaginitis or inflammation around their vaginal area, which can be caused by bubble baths, improper wiping, or wearing wet clothes too long after swimming.
  • Tincture of time - this is a complicated way of simply saying that you will wait it out until your child gets better on his own. The tincture of time works well for most viral infections, especially for things like the common cold, stomach flu, and even things like warts.

Home Remedies to Avoid

While some home remedies don't do anything, there are some dangerous home remedies that you should actually avoid because they could harm your child, including:

  • Some traditional herbal remedies and folk remedies, including Greta, Azarcon, Ghasard, and Ba-baw-san, which may contain lead, and can lead to lead poisoning.
  • Honey, which can be contaminated with spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, and can cause botulism should not be given to children under age twelve months old.
  • Using rubbing alcohol or cold water as fever reducers, since rubbing alcohol can be absorbed through your child's skin and cold water can cause shivering, which can actually raise your child's temperature..
  • Putting butter on burns.
  • Using gasoline, kerosene, rubbing alcohol, dog shampoo, or agricultural pesticides to kill head lice, since they can all be toxic.
  • Cleaning cuts and scrapes with hydrogen peroxide - use soap and water instead.
  • Trying to get out excessive ear wax with ear candles - use over-the-count ear wax removal drops or see your pediatrician for manual removal of the ear wax instead.
  • Restricting milk and milk products when your child has a cough or fever - milk won't build up extra mucus when he has a cold or curdle in your child's stomach because of the fever.
  • Giving your child soda, fruit juice, or tea when he has diarrhea or vomiting - use Pedialyte, an oral rehydration solution, or something like Gatorade for an older child.
  • Giving aspirin to children and teens, since it can be associated with Reye syndrome.

Home Remedies for Sick Kids

  • Bee Stings - after removing the stinger by scraping it out with a credit card (don't pull it out with tweezers), home remedies for bee stings might include applying a cool compress, meat tenderizer solution (soak a cotton ball in a mixture of one part meat tenderizer and 4 parts of water and apply it to the sting for 15 to 20 minutes), baking soda paste, or topical steroid to the bee sting.
     
  • Colds and Sinus Infections - basic home remedies for a cold or sinus infections can include rest, drinking lots of extra fluids, using a cool mist humidifier or steam vaporizer, and a Neti pot for chronic sinus infections. Remember that the use of over-the-counter cold and cough medicines is now discouraged for use in kids under the age of four years.
     
  • Constipation - home remedies for constipation mostly include increasing the amount of fiber in a child's diet, decreasing high-fat foods, which can be constipating, encouraging daily exercise, and when necessary, using a stool softener. Karo syrup is a common home remedy for constipation that some parents try.
     
  • Cradle Cap - cradle cap is usually a mild condition, but it can sometimes be more extensive and does distress some parents. Home remedies for cradle cap that are often tried, can include simply waiting for it to go away as the baby gets old, rubbing baby oil onto the scales and crust and then washing it out after about 10 or 15 minutes, applying a mild topical steroid to the affected areas, or washing your baby's hair with an antiseborrheic or antidandruff shampoo such as Selsun Blue a few times a week.
     
  • Croup - most parents are familiar with the home remedies for coughing from croup, which can include the use of a cool mist humidifier, taking the child into a steamy bathroom (close the door and turn on all of the hot water), or taking your child outside on a cool night. Keep in mind that steroids and/or breathing treatments might be needed for more severe cases though, especially if your child with croup is having trouble breathing.
     
  • Diarrhea - in addition to giving kids with diarrhea lots of extra fluids to prevent dehydration, extra probiotics are one home remedy that many parents try.
     
  • Earache - when a child wakes up with an earache, parents often resort to a number of home remedies, such as applying a warm or cold wash cloth on the outside of the ear, using a heating pad on the ear, or placing a few drops of olive oil in the ear. A pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, will likely provide more long term relief though. Prescription numbing ear drops are also available for more severe earaches.
     
  • Eczema - recommended home remedies to prevent and control eczema often include the regular use of moisturizers and mild soaps or soap substitutes. Topical steroids, typically prescription strength, are often needed for steroid flares though.
     
  • Fever - in addition to using age-appropriate doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), some home remedies when a child has a fever might include giving your child extra fluids, dressing him lightly without extra layers of clothing, and keeping his room cool. You can try giving him a sponge bath by sitting him in a few inches of lukewarm water, but only if the fever is making him uncomfortable, and don't let the bath cause shivering.
     
  • Head Lice - the most effective head lice home remedy that doesn't involve using any chemicals or even natural products simply involves removing the nits and live lice with a lice comb and/or tweezers. Most other home remedies involve using an over-the-counter lice shampoo or natural home remedies to 'smother' the head lice.
     
  • Jaundice - jaundice is common in babies and the only real home remedy you can do at home is to make sure that your baby is feeding well. Putting your baby in sunlight is not recommended as a safe way of treating jaundice at home.
     
  • Itching - home remedies for itching, like from poison ivy, can include soaking in an oatmeal bath, by adding a few cups of finely ground oatmeal or one packet of an over-the-counter colloidal oatmeal bath treatment to a warm bath, applying a non-steroidal topical cream or lotion to itchy areas, such as calamine lotion, aloe vera gel, or Sarna Ultra Anti-Itch Cream, or using wet dressings, compresses, or soaks with Domeboro powder packets (modified Burow's Solution). Oral antihistamines and topical steroid creams can also be helpful to treat itching, although steroids should be avoided if the itching is caused by a viral infection, like chicken pox.
     
  • Reflux - home remedies for acid reflux to treat infants usually begin with elevating the head of the baby's crib about 30 degrees, feeding babies smaller amounts more frequently, and keeping them upright after they eat. If a baby's reflux symptoms are bothersome, your pediatrician can help you with other treatments, which might include thickening your baby's formula, changing to a formula designed for baby's with reflux, or prescribing a medication for reflux.
     
  • Swimmers Ear - to prevent swimmers ear, especially if their kids get it a lot, after they swim, many parents place a few drops of rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol) in their ears, or they use a commercial product, like Swim-Ear. Treatment for swimmers ear usually includes the use of a prescription antibiotic ear drop, although an alternative home remedy might include drops made from white vinegar or equal parts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol).
     
  • UTIs - drinking cranberry juice is a common home remedy for urinary tract infections, but it is important to keep in mind that is not a natural cure and is for symptomatic relief only. An antibiotic will need to be prescribed also to treat your child's UTI.
     
  • Vomiting - home remedies for vomiting usually include giving kids frequent small amounts of an oral rehydration solution or electrolyte solution. Emetrol is an over-the-counter nausea home remedy that some parents try for kids who are at least two-years-old.
     
  • Warts - home remedies for warts range from the silly (selling your warts, or rubbing them with a variety of objects to get rid of them) to the downright painful (freezing or applying blistering agents). Although it may sound silly, applying duct tape to warts has actually been proven scientifically to be one of the better wart treatments available, although it can take up to two months for it to work. Keep in mind that newer research says that duct tape is not any more effective than other wart treatments though.

Sources:

Focht DR 3rd. The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart). Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med - 01-OCT-2002; 156(10): 971-4

Gibbs S - Cochrane Database Syst Rev - 01-JAN-2006; 3: CD001781

Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed.

Wenner R. Duct tape for the treatment of common warts in adults: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Arch Dermatol - 01-MAR-2007; 143(3): 309-13.

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