This has been a record month in our household for illness. Between viral stomach flu (gastroenteritis if we want to get technical), and The Cold From Hell, we have been sick more often in a one month period than I can ever recall. I blame the combo of travel and close-quarters/big-family living, but whatever the cause, it has been the pits.
The stomach flu went around in turns, starting with the Goober, making its way to Valerie and little Biscuit, before Sue and I caught it next. It was miserable, with full body aches, fever and nausea, but luckily short lived. Next Scott caught it on the Mudge’s 15th birthday, while the Mudge ended up laid up on Scott’s birthday a couple days later.
After we thought the illness had made the rounds, we started coming down with a cold, starting with the kids. They call it the common cold as if it is boringly commonplace, but the discomfort never feels like a routine event. Even so, I swear this one was something especially unpleasant. Symptoms kind of came and went in severity for a couple weeks and some of us were left with a bit of bronchitis afterward. Not a fan. No, not at all.
For some time before this last bought of illness, I’ve had it in mind to write a few tips for dealing with illness when traveling or even more generally about some nice natural remedies I prefer as a first line of defense. But this last month has convinced me that sometimes you just need a bit of symptom management and a brothy soup to ride it out. Here are a few things we did that made the whole ordeal a little easier:
For the Stomach Flu:
Lemon Ginger Tea
Ginger is excellent for nausea, and while I prefer the fresh-grated stuff for tea if you are up for it, we went through a couple packages of boxed tea getting through our stomach flu.
One of my favorite things for easy prep but fresh ginger tea was to juice a knot of ginger and mix the juice with honey to taste. The ratios vary depending on the intensity of your ginger, but all it takes after you create the ginger honey syrup is a spoonful and a mug of hot water for a satisfying tea.
Garlic and Ginger Broth
This is kind of my secret weapon for all things digestive, and it actually is helpful with a cold, as well. Broth is full of minerals and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Garlic has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It will be worth the garlic-breath.
Ginger is kind of obvious now, for the anti-nausea factor. Broth with both these ingredients simmered in it tastes a bit like a delicious asian soup. We were lucky, traveling, the grocery store near us had broth they prepare in-house. Don’t go with bullion. Bullion has none of the health benefits, and may even be less than healthful.
When all we could do was lay in bed with a nausea bucket, the last thing we wanted was food. But a bite of banana helped give our stomach something gentle to ease us back in to a regular meal. There is a reason they give bananas to babies. With any luck you can ease back into regular food before too long.
For a Cold:
Some people swear by their Neti Pot, but I am more of a fan of the saline rinse system by Niel Med, which had the benefit of being widely available in Ireland and the UK. My doctor recommended it to me originally for allergies, but it is a great help for a nasty cold as well. Just be sure you aren’t sharing germs. Everyone gets their own bottle.
Valerie has had great results with her littles during high congestion by diffusing a bit of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oils in a steamy shower or bath. Really, nothing not to love about this. Comfort, all the way. I’m no longer sick, but a nice minty bath sounds like just the thing…
Boogie Wipes or Water Wipes
Last Winter when I had a cold, Valerie turned me on to Boogie Wipes, made for wiping snotty noses gently and they were fantastic for when your softest tissues start to rub like sandpaper. I haven’t seen them available here in Ireland, but they make water-based baby wipes that are practically the same thing. Try it. Your nose will thank you.
Peppermint Throat Spray
Okay, so this was something I brought from the US. I have not found something similar yet here, but you can bet I will be tracking some of this stuff down. This helps with the extreme irritation you get in your throat thanks to post-nasal drip (ew) and the grapefruit seed extract in it helps prevent that irritation from turning into a secondary throat infection. (But don’t quote me on that, and ask your doctor).
Okay, so while I generally go the holistic route whenever possible, sometimes you just need to pull out the big guns and get through your day. We brought some from the States, and it is also available OTC in Ireland (though the Irish version is half the American’s strength). Use your own judgement on this one, but again, ask your doctor if you have any doubts.
Bonus: For Overall Immunity
Elderberry Extract and Manuka Honey
Both Elderberry and Manuka Honey have studies showing their efficacy for fighting various viral and bacterial unpleasantness. Elderberry is probably more effective if you take it sort of routinely throughout the cold and flu season, something I failed to do and regret. The Mudge and I have avoided illnesses before we comfortably attribute to Elderberry. I bought an extract here in Ireland, but by the time I thought to find it, we were already coming down with something.
Manuka Honey has its own great track record, particularly for things like wound care, and as a more gentle sore throat soother. Europe seems to have a particular appreciation for Manuka Honey. We’ve seen it in a variety of formulations. A spoonful in lieu of the peppermint spray I mentioned above would be awesome for kids, and is available at many grocery stores.