Ask Amma

What do I do for cough and cold?

In Recipes, What on 17 October 2012 at 8:05 pm
So many people ask about cough and cold, so here we go.
As a student I used to observe that I would typically come under the weather right after exams were over.  It was as if my body was saying, “now it is my turn.”    So be fair and give yourself some TLC (Tender Love and Care NOT Tomato Lettuce and Cheese but you can have some of that too. Minus the Cheese. Signed, Humor Consultant*) rather than insisting on business as usual.  My three point plan for recovery was:
1.  aggressive sleeping:  sleep until you can’t sleep any more
2. More gentle readers may wish to call the second point “continuous water sipping.”   For those young enough to breastfeed, they can nurse and sleep at the same time.  I nursed my daughter through several fevers this way.  

Apart from warm water, other soothing fluids are herbal tea, lemon-water, honey-water, lemon-and-honey water, molasses-water, tomato or carrot juice, warmed.  And of course, చారు (charu, aka rasam). How do you know whether your are drinking enough fluids?  Let me tell you what a pediatrician told my mother in the 70s, when I was sick:  “Keep her going to the bathroom.”  In other words – drink enough so that you have to go to the bathroom all the time.  Hence the second point, if you will pardon the expression, is called, “aggressive peeing.”   (Don’t quote me on this.)  There is such a thing as too much fluids, so use common sense and take sips rather than gulps.

3. The third point was any or all of the below:
– vitamin C:  There are loud voices both in favour of and dismissive of the healing properties of this vitamin.  I haven’t done a controlled study but I will say that I take Vitamin C at the very first sign that a cold is on the way and usually nip it it in the bud.  I have also found it effective even after the cold comes, though how can one say the cold wouldn’t have gone away on its own?  Chewable C is soothing, but note that it is sweetened and you don’t want to leave it on your teeth.  Same for most throat lozenges.  Brush or rinse well when you can – obviously if you are coughing all night and the lozenge soothes you enough to fall asleep, go for it.  But just keep it in mind while awake.
Tomato soup, charu, citrus fruits, amla, tamarind and other foods that deliver vitamin C get top billing during times of sniffles, sneezes, sore throat, cough and cold.   Some like to heat things up with garlic, ginger, black pepper or even hot chili peppers – the kind that “cure what ails you,” as evidenced through watery eyes and cleared out nasal passages.  On a milder note, warm water by itself or with a little honey, lemon or molasses is always a plus.
Of course kiddos who are nursing get the best deal of all – a warm nourishing fluid that they can sip while sleeping.  I remember spending days in bed nursing my daughter through illnesses that took away her appetite for anything else.
– garlic:   Raw garlic is more effective than cooked or roasted.  You can read all about it at garlic-central.  Garlic is my first-resort these days.   To soften the sting, add thinly sliced raw garlic to dal, sliced tomato, toast or pasta and chew them together.  My daughter consumed raw garlic this way until recently, when she started swallowing it with water so as to bypass the taste buds entirely.
– steam inhalation:  Boil a pot of water.  Add some turmeric (pasupu / haldi).  Get in a small closed space with it.  So far it is like plugging in a vaporizer.  What makes the difference is – at the last minute, add a blob of Vicks.  If you cover yourself with a big towel or blanket while inhaling, the effect will be more concentrated.  Usually you can start blowing your nose and mucus comes out.  If your child is too young to do this, just having steaming pot in the room will bring in a little humidity.
Here are some other little things I do.
gargle with salt water:  Just dissolve half a spoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle.  This is a must for sore throat.
–  lie face-down at a slight angle so that my throat is at a higher level than my nose.  Let the mucus flow out of my nose.  This is especially effective for clearing post-nasal drip, or whatever you call it when the mucus slides down and stings in your throat rather than running out via the nasal route.
drink echinacea, goldenseal and other immune-supporting teas and tinctures.  I read and also found that echinacea is less effective if overused, so save it for when you need it.
laughter is the best medicine!  Call someone on the phone or find something funny on the TV or radio.  Make funny faces in the mirror if necessary.
 fresh air and sunshine also help.  Keep the windows open if possible and let the germs get out.   Change the sheets too.  Sometimes a change of scene will do wonders.  So if you feel like going out, no need to remain housebound.  If you are contagious though, avoid closed spaces and if you are meeting friends, especially ones with kids, let them know so they can decide whether their immune system is prepared for the extra stimulation.
Not everything goes away without medical medicine, but the above measures do help more often than not.  Many of them pass through breastmilk so if your baby is nursing, you can eat a lot of garlic or Vitamin C or drink some herbal tea, and baby should get some benefit too.  Also remember, that when you nurse, you get exposed to baby’s germs and your body makes antibodies and passes them to your baby through your milk.  So when either you or baby is sick, your milk will strengthen baby’s immune system against whatever you are fighting.
What are your tried and true home remedies for cough, sore throat, cold and other common illnesses?  Share with the readers of Ask Amma.

*Humor Consultant = Khiyali (Papa)
See Also:
Aviva Romm: Own Your Health
(edited to add Charu recipe in March 2013)
[Disclaimer: I guess it would be a good time to include my disclaimer, as I understand that dispensers of free advice are also expected to say things like Nothing in this or any other post is medical or professionally qualified advice.  So what is it?  As a blog, Ask Amma is part of the commons, where common sense evolves through question, reflection, trial, error, rinse and repeat.]
  1. Thanks Aravinda, I would have been directionless, had I not known ask amma :). Today we practice home remedies and natural holistic methods of healing. Below are some home remedies, that I practice on my LO (17 months)
    – 1tsp of Honey and Ginger juice 2 times a day, curbs cold. I have noticed, most of the phlegm comes out in his dirty diaper. I have been giving him this juice almost every day, even when he has no cold and cough, to improve his immunity.
    – Honey and Onion juice works excellent for coughs. Apply honey in between sliced Red onion and stack them up with a toot pick. Let the onion sweat over night in a bowl. After 10-12 hours, you will some juice (approximately 1oz, for a medium sized onion found in US) gets collected. Have a tsp of this juice every hour. This has worked for my lo in case of both dry and wet coughs. This juice must be used with in a day. Also, this juice is effective when made with Red Onions.
    – I have also religiously used the vicks vaporizer when my kid gets colds and coughs
    Usually this product recommends the use of a chemical based vepo steam.. I use eucalyptus oil instead. I put 1-2 small caps of oil and place it in the bed room (door closed). This remedy works best during the nights.
    – A good message on kids chest and back with Ghee and Camphor also gives them a great relief.
    A combination of the above remedies and a good well balanced diet has done magic.

    Note: I would not do any of the above remedies for kids below one year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: