Being down with a cold yourself is one thing but seeing your tiny, precious little one struggle with cold and cough is very distressing for parents. The first reason is that they can’t communicate using words, so telling us what exactly hurts or irritates them is impossible. Second, unlike adults, not much can be done for babies, be it over-the-counter medicines or even blowing their nose. But, there are certain home remedies you can try out which are safe and effective for babies.
Cold in adults and children is caused not due to any foods consumed or chilly weather but due to contact with a virus. Children are easily susceptible to catch a common cold because of low immunity. Symptoms of cold are runny nose, congested nose, sneezing, coughing, difficulty sleeping, and trouble feeding due to nasal congestion. Indian home remedies for babies include lots of rest, steamy air through a humidifier or running hot water in the bathroom, saline drops, warm fluids for babies above 6 months, and honey for babies above 1 year of age. If your baby has a fever above 100 degrees or has trouble breathing, any physical discomfort, or unusual behavior, call up your baby’s pediatrician immediately.
How to know your infant has a cold
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), healthy children have 8 to 10 colds among other viral infections in the first two years of life. This is because their immunity is still developing and is not strong enough to fight off infections.
The common cold can be caused by contact with a sick person, especially older children. Not only at home, but a short trip to the pediatrician’s office or a shop can expose your little one to germs and viruses.
The common symptoms of a cold in babies include:
- Runny nose
- Mild fever
- Nasal congestion
- Trouble sleeping
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite or trouble feeding due to stuffy nose.
Some Indian Home Remedies for Cold in Your Baby
Winter brings in with it lots of aachoo and khichkhich in many households. It was only recently when my 9-month old son had a viral infection and had a stuffy nose, cough, and sneezing. I can understand your concern or distress to see your little one suffering because I felt terrible as this tiny, little creature would cough, have a runny nose, and cry at night.
Moreover, relatives or your neighbors never leave a chance of giving unsolicited advice, but what’s worse is that majority of the advice are bad and not at all recommended by a doctor, like giving honey to babies less than 1-year-old or giving warm fluids like water and soup to babies less than 6 months of age. So, before you experiment with anything, research thoroughly and make an informed decision.
There are many Indian home remedies or nani ke nushke available, but the safest and effective remedies are listed below.
Please Note: Don’t test out all the remedies in one go as it can have an adverse effect on your baby. Try and test at regular intervals, and don’t overdo anything.
Consult your doctor immediately if you have concerns.
Steam (0+ months)
Unlike adults, babies cannot place their face in front of a steamer and take direct steam. So the best solution is to buy a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporizer and let the humidity in the air loosen up your baby’s stuffy nose.
If you’re planning to buy a humidifier then make sure to keep it clean always and away from your baby’s reach. You can buy a humidifier online or from a specialized store. Switch the humidifier on in your baby’s room when she’s sleeping, playing, or resting, and as the air gets humid, your baby will be able to breathe properly. You can also use eucalyptus or pine essential oil to the humidifier.
But, if you don’t wish to buy a humidifier, then I have another remedy for you. Please turn on the piping hot water and let it run; sit in the steamy bathroom for 15 minutes along with your child and let her breathe there. Close all the gaps through which the steam could escape. Make sure to change your baby’s damp clothes immediately to prevent her from feeling cold.
You can also try giving her a warm bath in the steamy bathroom. If she can sit on her own, then let her play a little while in the tub under your supervision, but don’t let her head stay wet for too long.
Mustard oil massage (3+ months)
Warm a little mustard oil (sarson ka tel) with 2 cloves of garlic and kalonji (Nigella seeds). Strain the oil and massage it on your baby’s feet, chest, back, and palm. Ensure that you wipe away all excess oil, so it doesn’t get in the baby’s mouth.
Warm fluids (6+ months)
You can try a concoction of cumin, pepper, jaggery, and warm water.
- Cumin – a pinch
- Pepper – 1 tsp
- Jaggery – 1 tsp
- Water – 1 cup
Boil the water with all the above-mentioned ingredients. Strain the water after it is cooled down and feed not more than 2 teaspoons of this water to your baby as pepper and jaggery contain heat and is not recommended in bigger proportions for infants.
Another concoction you can try is turmeric and milk (this is for babies above 1 year). You must have surely heard the term ‘haldi doodh,’ or even perhaps have drunk too. I wasn’t too fond of haldi doodh while growing up, but my granny made sure I had the last drop of turmeric milk whenever I had a cold.
You can give your baby (1 year old and up) milk with a pinch of turmeric at night. You can also add jaggery for a bit of sweetness. Turmeric milk will help with congestion and as well as a goodnight’s sleep.
When my little one was down with a cold, our family doctor recommended khichdi and soups to the baby. The fluid’s warmth will help calm, comfort, and relieve congestion in the baby.
You can make tomato rasam or tomato soup with 2-3 cloves of garlic and offer the lukewarm concoction to your baby.
My mum’s favorite thing to make, and Kerala’s famous drink for cold, is chukku kaapi dry ginger coffee). No, don’t worry, there’s no coffee involved here, especially for a baby. But, it will surely help with cold and cough in your baby. This is for babies above 1 year of age.
- Chukku (dry ginger) – 1-inch piece
- Tulsi leaves – 4-5 leaves
- Peppercorn – 2-3
- Jaggery – 1 tbsp
- Water – 1 cup
Crush ginger and peppercorns, and boil it in the water with all the above ingredients. Cool the water and strain the mixture, and feed the baby lukewarm water.
For babies above 9 months, ajwain water also works wonders.
- Ajwain – ½ tsp
- Water – 1 cup
Boil the water with ajwain, then cool it off and filter it. Feed the baby only ½ tsp of ajwain water 2-3 times a day.
Herbal smoke (4+ months)
Before modern science made its grand debut, Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old ancient old tradition has been practiced in India, and Ayurveda has solutions and remedies for all kinds of infections.
You can make herbal smoke by burning any 3 of the following ingredients like carom seeds (ajwain), licorice, cloves, Eucalyptus leaves, and garlic in a pan until it’s charcoal black. Keep this in the baby’s room and let the baby inhale the smoke. Make sure not to overdo or mix many ingredients, and keep it away from the baby’s reach.
Another nani ke nushke is making a potli, a hot bag, which is made by roasting garlic, cloves, and ajwain (carom seeds). Tie a cloth with all these hot herbs inside; make it like a potli or a pouch. Keep it near the baby’s bed, but out of reach, so that the baby can inhale the air from the pouch and help in cold and cough.
Now, though the next one is not amongst nani ke nushke, it sure does help with cold in babies, which is – breastfeeding and lots of rest.
Breast milk is ‘the’ solution for infections in babies. Breast milk has antigens that help your baby’s body fight off the infections, and nursing them often will help calm and soothe them.
Rest is essential, be it for adults or children. Without proper rest, babies can get irritated, cranky, and their suffering will elevate. If your baby doesn’t want to rest in her bed, then take her to a calm place like your balcony or verandah, if the weather is good. Sit with her and let her take in her surroundings and calm down. This trick surely works with my fussy baby (sick or not); it doesn’t reduce any symptoms but gives him relief and calm.
So, all in all, yes, it can be distressing to see your little one having a runny nose or stuffy nose, but there are several home remedies that you can try (but not all at once). A cold usually lasts from 7 to 10 days, and the 3rd day is considered the worst. But be patient; it will go away on its own.
But, if you see your little one has a fever above 100.4 degrees, or rapid breathing, swollen glands, or has symptoms that last post 10 days, and then consult your baby’s pediatrician immediately.
Meanwhile, tell us down in the comment section below if you have already tried any of the above nushkes or are going to try one for your baby.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid, you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.