Left alone, our bodies have a remarkable ability to heal themselves. There are many things we can do to encourage a fast recovery from illness, but often the most important thing we can do is to rest and recover naturally.
We can hinder the recovery process by “curing” the annoying and sometimes painful symptoms of illness. This is very much true in the case of fever, and it is just as much true with a cough. The cough itself is not the illness;it is only a symptom of it and an immune response that helps us get over the illness.
When chest congestion sets in, our automatic response is to cough. Doing so helps to break up the congestion and move it out of the chest. If we trick our bodies into not feeling the urge to cough, the infection can settle in the chest and move into the bronchiol tubes or lungs, possible leading to bronchitis, bronchiolitis, or pnemonia. What starts out as a simple upper respiratory infection, a simple cold, could quickly turn into a very serious and sometimes life-threatening infection.
When we see our little ones in pain and discomfort from the annoyance of a cough, it’s hard to stand by and watch them suffer. There are many over-the-counter drugs that we could give to get rid of the cough. The problem with these drugs is that they interfere with the body’s recovery process, often resulting in a lengthy illness and sometimes more serious complications.
Generally, a cough should not be suppressed and time alone will heal, but there are times when we will want to be proactive in working with a cough and that will vary from situation to situation. When we are aware of cough’s role in healing and are familiar with the different types of coughs and know when the cough is beyond the care we can give at home, we become more comfortable in our role as a mother, the primary nurturer and nurse to our children.
We always want to take measures to prevent a cough from settling in the chest, especially in young ones. Resting and sleeping slightly elevated can help with this. Cool moist air can soothe a dry, irritating cough, and hot steam can help break up chest congestion.
In addition to steam, we can make onion/garlic poultices to help warm the chest muscles and loosen congestion. Essential oils can be very helpful when breathed in or rubbed on the chest (or under the nose as a nasal decongestant). There are also a variety of herbs that work as natural expectorants, helping to loosen and expel mucous without the dangerous side effects of over the counter drugs.
Plenty of fluids, warm broths, and honey help to soothe a dry cough and prevent dehydration. There are also herbs that help a dry, irritating cough and can be as effective as over the counter medicines, especially with combined with raw honey.
We can avoid making a cough worse and help our children get well faster by avoiding mucous-producing and immune-suppressing foods like dairy and refined carbohydrates and offering immune-boosting foods (and supplements when necessary) that are high in vitamin C, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D is especially important in immunity and is best produced through sun exposure. During months with little exposure to the sun, it can be obtained in lesser amounts through food or supplements, particularly cod liver oil. Garlic and onion can be very helpful in helping our children recovery quickly, and adding plenty to warm broths and soups helps our child receive these immune-supporting foods along with plenty of fluids.
There are so many things we can do without stepping foot in a pharmacy or medicine aisle at our local supermarket. I used over-the-counter medicines for a few years when my oldest children were young, but since I’ve completely given up these drugs, I’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the duration of my children’s illnesses when they do come down with a cough. Join me tomorrow at Keeper of the Home and throughout the week here as I share some of my favorite home remedies for a cough.