No matter what we do to keep our babies as germ-free as possible during flu season, from sanitizing everything in sight to getting everybody vaccinated, sometimes our little ones get sick. And unfortunately, when babies get the flu, there's no magic way to make them better; while certain infections can be cured with antibiotics, the flu is caused by a virus. The anti-viral medication Tamiflu (which helps to shorten the duration and decrease severity of symptoms) has been approved for infants as young as two weeks old, but are there any natural flu remedies for babies that work?
That's not to say, of course, that you shouldn't give your baby Tamiflu if your pediatrician recommends it (by all means, you do you!), but some parents prefer a more natural approach, and even with the meds, your child might still be feeling pretty awful a lot of the time. Luckily, there are some ways to help relieve some of her misery until that nasty bug is gone for good. Many of these tips are probably methods your grandmother (and her grandmother) relied on to get through those brutal winter months, but there's a reason why they've been used for generations... they work! As for the more "alternative" suggestions on our list, always make sure to check with your pediatrician before trying anything new. While these treatments are widely considered to be safe, you can never, ever be too careful when it comes to your baby's health.
Here's hoping you don't have to put any of these flu-fighters to the test this year — but if you do, fingers crossed that these natural flu remedies for babies will help.
Combat the dry, indoor heat that can make stuffy noses and coughs even worse with moist air, which can help to loosen mucus in nasal passages. Keep a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer going during the night and at naptime, but make sure you take precautions when using them. And for acute symptoms, try running a hot shower and sitting in the steamy bathroom with your baby.
2. Saline Drops & Nasal Aspirator
Since babies are too young to blow their own noses, and one of the most common symptoms of the flu is congestion, help them clear the way for easier breathing with a few drops of saline solution and a rubber bulb syringe (see instructions for use here). Not a fan of the bulb? Try a Nosefrida Snotsucker, which performs the same basic function without you actually having to insert anything in baby's nose.
3. Lots and Lots of Fluids
There's a reason why your doctor always tells you to "push the fluids" when you're ill: Drinking more prevents dehydration (a risk with fever) and helps to flush the bad stuff out of your system. A couple of caveats: If your baby is younger than 6 months, stick to breast milk or formula (infants don't need water and too much can actually be harmful, explained Baby Center). For older babies, water is best... but fruit smoothies or 100% fruit juice are okay under these circumstances, as hydration is the most important thing. Warm, clear broths (like chicken) are also a great option.
4. Homeopathic Medicines
While the jury is out as to whether or not homeopathic medicines are truly effective (and some experts worry about whether or not they're safe), some parents and doctors swear by them. So always ask your pediatrician before trying any homeopathic remedy, but if you get the go-ahead, preparations including Belladonna, Gelsemium and Arsenicum are sometimes recommended, said Healthy Child.
As with homeopathic remedies, the efficacy of echinacea isn't universally agreed upon by experts. But some experts (such as Dr. Sears) believe that the herb has the ability to safely boost the immune system, and some research has shown it to help cut down on the duration and severity of illnesses like the flu for babies as young as 6 months. As ever, check with your doctor first.
6. Vitamin C
It's why we reach for the fresh-squeezed O.J. when we're feeling under the weather: While there isn't an overabundance of evidence, research has shown that Vitamin C does work as a general immune-booster. Ask your pediatrician about supplements and encourage your baby to eat plenty of fruit if they're of age (lots of juices and snacks have added Vitamin C, too).
7. Elderberry Extract
While more research needs to be done, the results of preliminary studies on the efficacy of elderberry extract are pretty exciting: It's been shown to actually inactivate the flu virus if taken when symptoms first occur, noted WebMD. Another bonus? It actually tastes pretty good (without the addition of any weird artificial flavors).
We know what you're thinking: Hahaha, like I can force my baby to rest more? But it's still worth mentioning that getting as much rest as possible is crucial when it comes to helping the healing process along, so if your little one is nodding off in between regular nap times, for example, let him sleep (and don't stress about the schedule).
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