When it comes to treating minor illnesses and ailments, can natural remedies help?
Dealing with a sick child is never easy but while we’d all love to run to the closest specialist as soon as the first sneeze of a summer cold makes its appearance, it’s largely unnecessary because there is actually so much at home that we can use naturally and gently to help treat our children for common ailments.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies are safe to use from birth but should not be considered the same thing. Plants and herbs have a direct physiological effect on the body, whereas homeopathic remedies work slightly differently. They stimulate the body to heal itself and are very symptom-specific. The art of homeopathy is finding the right remedy; the closer the match, the more effective the remedy.
Diarrhoea & vomiting
For mild diarrhoea a home hydration solution can be made up using one litre of boiled and cooled drinking water, half a teaspoon of salt and six teaspoons brown sugar. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Homeopathic remedies such as Ars Alb, Podophyllum and China can be very effective, depending on the cause of the diarrhoea. Ars Alb, Nux Vomica and Ipecac are general homeopathic remedies helpful for vomiting.
When to call the doctor
- If your baby shows signs of dehydration (sunken fontanelle, dark rings under the eyes, listlessness, dark unrine or few wet nappies) take him to the doctor immediately.
Fevers are the body’s way of fighting infections but can be very scary. Homeopathic remedies such as Aconite and Belladonna are very effective but it’s best to administer a remedy at the onset of the fever. When a baby has a fever or infection it’s best to keep him at home to prevent further infections as the body is more vulnerable to germs.
As far as home remedies go, bath your baby in lukewarm (not cold) water and sponge him down, then let your baby rest and sleep as much as possible. Give him loads of fluids during the fever to prevent dehydration, so breastfeed often and give him water by teaspoon, cup or eyedropper every 15 to 30 minutes.
Stick to fruit, vegetables and soups if your baby is on solids and steer clear of heavy foods, dairy products and sugary foods and beverages. Should the temperature not decrease and become elevated to over 38.5 degrees Celcius you can give paracetamol.
When to call the doctor
- If a fever persists for more than 48 hours. It's best to diagnose the cause of the fever.
- If your baby is under three months and the fever is 38ºC or higher.
- If your baby is over three months old and the fever is higher than 39ºC or higher.
- If your baby appears to be lethargic with a loss off appetite or is refusing any liquids.
- Your baby appears to be dehydrated (sunken soft spot at the top of the head, fewer wet nappies than usual, rapid breathing, sunken eyes, drowsiness).
- There are other symptoms of illness or infection.
Cold and coughs
There are various homeopathic remedies that you can give depending on certain signs of the illness, so you’ll be treating this symptomatically. For example, the homeopathic remedy Allium cepa is recommended for a clear runny nose with lots of sneezing and watery eyes. There are many other remedies, each one specific to a certain pattern of disease the baby is reflecting.
Saline solution is also effective for stuffy noses. Mix half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to make a saline solution and run this through your baby’s nasal passages with a bulb solution.
Chamomile tea will help to relax the nervous system and allow the baby to rest. And for an added boost, add one drop of Echinacea per kilogram of your baby’s body weight to water or chamomile tea and give this to him every two hours to help improve immunity.
If your baby is older than three months, you can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a humidifier for coughs and congestion, or drop the eucalyptus on baby’s clothes or bedding. This most often relieves a mild night-time cough.
When to call the doctor
- If your baby takes a turn for the worse after five to seven days.
- If a cough lasts longer than 14 days and starts to worsen.
- If your baby has a fever as discussed above.
Cuts, scrapes and wounds
Wash minor cuts, scrapes and wounds under cold running water. Apply pressure with a clean damp towel to the area to stop the bleeding. Clean with a herbal antiseptic such as calendula tincture (mix one teaspoon of tincture, available at herbal stores, to a quarter glass of water to make this).
For deeper cuts run cold water over the wound, apply pressure with a clean, damp towel and seek medical attention (call for an ambulance or go to the doctor). If a dirty object made the cut, or if it occurred near animal enclosures (especially pastures or stables) or if a puncture wound has not bled a Tetanus shot is highly recommended should your baby not be immunised against it. Arnica is an effective homeopathic remedy indicated for any associated bruising or pain thereafter.
Cuts in the mouth often look far worse that they are and tend to bleed profusely. Dip a wet finger in sugar and allow your baby to suck the sugar. The sugar will temporarily stop the bleeding. Continue until the bleeding stops and once you’ve found the cut apply pressure to it with a wet, clean facecloth.