About a week ago I came down with a terrible case of bronchitis. Every pregnant lady I know tells me that you get sicker when you’re pregnant. I concur. I haven’t been that miserable in a decade, at least. What’s worse is all the cold medicines you’ve been saving since your last bout with a cold are useless. Robitussin? According to the FDA: pregnant women should only take it if the benefits outweigh the risks… and by the way we have no idea what the risks are. Tylenol? Sure. In small doses and do not under any circumstances exceed the maximum dose. Which means if your fever starts coming back around hour 3.5, you are just going to have to suffer until hour six to eight before you can get some relief again. Nyquil? No. Sorry.
As I lay in misery on the couch, wrapped in ten blankets and wheezing, I researched home remedies (and called my mother)–natural ways to combat the cold symptoms that were leaving me in agony. Here’s what I came up with… what’s your favorite natural remedy?
1) Drink lots of fluids. Ice water seemed to calm the urge to cough, but when I needed some flavor I also drank Emergen-C, orange juice, and mint tea with honey (good for the throat and very soothing). I also made a concoction of lemon juice, honey, a little water, and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (heated). The pepper opened up my stuffed nose, the honey and lemon soothed my throat wonderfully. If it sounds disgusting, lemon and honey (I put in a couple tablespoons of honey for two cups of drink, but others use less) were surprisingly good together, and I couldn’t even taste the cayenne–even when I put in too much! Any hot herbal tea on your throat will likely feel very good.
2) Steamy showers. No hot baths because I’m pregnant and apparently this gift from the gods is now off limits… but the shower felt just as good. My voice sounded much better after standing in a steamy shower for awhile, and my cough would go away for a lengthy period of time. I also tried steam in a pot on the stove, and putting my face over it, with a towel over my head to make a tiny steam room… the effect wasn’t the same. I think the hot water on my chest while I was in the shower also helped.
3) Keep blowing your nose. Snuffling keeps the nasty stuff inside your body. Blow it out–gently! I made my ears sore for half a day by putting too much gusto behind one particular blow. Same with phlegm from your cough. Spit it out!
4) Sleep. I always felt best after a nap. This was good and bad as it also gave me the false impression that I was getting better. If you’re coughing horribly and your belly isn’t too big yet, try sleeping on your tummy. The cough reflex is in the back of your throat, and if you sleep on your tummy you can get some relief from that incessant need to cough. I couldn’t sleep on my belly, but I did manage to sleep half way over by using a large body pillow. This helped with the cough quite a bit.
5) Gargle with salt water. I did this just a couple of times, more out of sick-induced laziness than because it wasn’t effective. It definitely soothes the throat for an extended period of time. I used a teaspoon of salt for two cups of water. It was hard to dissolve the salt at first, so I stuck it in the microwave for ten seconds. Problem solved!
6) Chicken soup and Ramen noodles. Okay, the former is healthier, but those ramen noodles were the perfect comfort food for this sick old lady. Both are warm, mostly brothy foods that feel good going down. Apparently the chicken soup can even help boost your immune system. Though it hasn’t been tested, I am convinced that Ramen does the same.
7) I didn’t have a bad headache with my cold, though I know that many who get sick do. A great way to relieve the headache is to soak your feet in hot water, as hot as you can stand it… as the water cools or your feet adjust, dump out the cooling water and add more hot. Repeat for at least ten minutes. I think the idea is to draw the blood from your head, giving your throbbing veins some relief. This has worked great for me in the past.
8) Hot and Cold compresses. My mother swears by this technique. While it felt very good on my sore throat, it didn’t provide relief for as long as some of the other remedies I tried. Get a piece of cloth–a handkerchief or some other light cotton material. Soak it in cold/ice cold water and wring it out. Immediately place it on your neck, folded so that the throat area is covered by a couple of layers of cloth, but the back of your neck isn’t. Wrap your neck, and the cloth with something wool–all the way around your neck. Wool appears to work best, and I’m guessing this has to do with how much air can get through it. I used a giant wool sock. A scarf would be another easy option. Leave it on until the cloth against your skin is completely warmed. Repeat if you’d like. A variation on this is to alternate hot and cold compresses on your chest or throat. I did this hoping to relieve the congestion in my chest. It didn’t change my coughing, but it did feel very good.
The good part is, these same techniques are what I’ll be using on my child when she is very young and can’t take medicine. It’s good to practice up now!
How do you naturally combat cold symptoms while sick?