So it actually was the dreaded H1N1 (aka swine flu) that my husband had. We tracked it back to a couple guys in his office at work. Though my son and I were away in the mountains at my parents' house, I could still tell via telephone how completely miserable he was. I'm happy to report, though, that he is back at work today, feeling like himself again.
As he was battling the yucky virus, he turned to a variety of sources for relief. A little honey here, a little NyQuil there; some herbal tea here, some Mucinex there. Living in the 21st Century offers thousands of possibilities when it comes to our health. We can turn to some of the modern medicinal miracles, but we can also use some of the natural, time-tested remedies of our grandparents.
For reasons both personal and frugal, I like to turn to the natural remedies first. In so many aspects of my life, I think the more down-to-earth, the better. Don't get me wrong, though - I'll turn to modern medicines, vaccines, cures, and doctors' advice (of course, after a little research and thought on my own) also. But, sometimes, we are so eager for a quick fix in a bottle, we overlook many simple ways to soothe and nurture our bodies. Plus, these natural remedies cost so much less (hence the mention on this blog). Here are a few ideas and tips that I've learned over the years...
- Salt water is a great first line of defense. Whenever my throat starts to feel scratchy or sore, I gargle some warm, salty water. I remember as a kid I got strep throat a lot and one time, the doctor suggested gargling salt water twice a day for a while. It really made a difference. During this cold and flu season, I plan on gargling salt water at least once a day. From what I've read, this stops the proliferation of certain bugs in your throat. Start with a cup of warm water, add a spoonful or so of salt, and mix. Gargle and spit. Like I said, it worked for me.
- Another way salt water can help with illness and contribute to overall wellness is the use of a neti pot (it's the teapot thing in the picture above). Basically, you mix a saline solution (I do 1/4 teaspoon to about 3/4 cup of lukewarm water), stick the spout up one of your nostrils, and, if you tilt your head correctly, the water will come out the other nostril, thus cleaning your nasal passages. It sounds awful, but it doesn't hurt and it really...um...clears things out. It has helped me a lot with sinus inflammation and allergies. I've also used it when I've had a cold and it helps get all that gunk out of my nose. I definitely recommend it. If you're curious, there's a bunch of videos on YouTube that show how it works (people will put just about anything on YouTube). If you're still put off by the idea of sending water up your nose, I read recently that you can also use a cotton swab dipped in salt water and clean your nasal passage that way.
- I always have an aloe vera plant somewhere in my house - preferably the kitchen. Whenever I get a burn (it's usually me that's getting burned in the kitchen), I break off the tip of one of the large leaves and squeeze the goo out of it right onto the burn. You can buy burn creams and spray with aloe in it, but why not save the money and get the actual plant? It looks cool and you're growing first aid!
- This sounds totally weird, but the best thing for mosquito bites is deodorant. There's something about the aluminum in it that neutralizes the reaction. Whenever I get a mosquito bite, I go to the bathroom, grab some deodorant, give the bite a few swipes, and it's practically gone in minutes.
- Speaking of insect bites and such, baking soda is also a great remedy (ahhhh, baking soda. What can't it do?). Put a paste of baking soda and water on bug bites and bee stings. Apparently, the alkaline baking soda helps to counteract the acidic swelling (according the article I read). I used this when I got stung by a wasp a few months ago and it really did help.
- Look into different herbal teas. When I was suffering from a lot of sinus and ear inflammation a few months ago, a cup of peppermint tea did wonders for clearing my head. Chamomile is supposed to help with gastrointestinal problems and migraines. I even read once in Parents magazine that you can give a couple ounces of chamomile tea (at room temperature, of course) to a colicky baby. Raspberry leaf tea is supposed to help with...how to put this...feminine issues. A ginger tea (you can make your own by adding a teaspoon of shredded ginger to four ounces of boiling water) can help with nausea. Herbal teas can be found at any grocery store and they're fairly inexpensive. Plus, sometimes just drinking a hot cup of herbal tea settles my nerves and helps me relax. Double benefit!
- When my son had a double ear infection a couple years ago, we did a round of antibiotics and when he went back to the pediatrician, only one of his ears had shown sign of improvement. The doctor advised giving it a few days and if it wasn't better by then, he would give him a shot of another antibiotic. It was so hard to see my little guy suffer so and when I complained about it to my friend, she suggested putting garlic oil in his ears. She said that it worked wonders for her children. Desperate for any kind of relief for my son, I tried it. I bought a bottle of garlic oil made especially as ear drops (mixed with olive oil and lobelia) at the natural and health food store. I used the drops for a few days and when I took my son back to the doctor, he said his ears were completely better. Ever since, whenever I see him tugging at his ears or if he gets a cold, I put a few drops in each ear just in case. He hasn't had an ear infection since (knock on wood). I've also used them on myself when my ears feel stuffy. Not only does it clear it up, but it's a natural pain reliever.
- The thing my husband said was the worst about H1N1 was the super-sore throat and frequent coughing. The thing that gave him relief was honey and lemon juice. According to an article I read, lemon dries up congestion and honey coats the throat. I've even heard that some studies show that a spoonful of honey worked better than cough medicine for kids' coughs (it's important to remember, though, to never give honey to a child under one-year-old). Anyway, I just got a mug of warm water and mixed it with a tablespoon of lemon juice and tablespoon of honey. He said it worked wonders.
Do you have any time-tested remedies? Anything your mom (or you) swears by?