Natural ways to tackle a cold

Steam, sleep, vitamin C and drinks

Since cough and cold medicines bought from shops are not recommended for children under the age of six, natural remedies are ways to reduce the misery of the symptoms of the common cold. They also aim to help the body’s own immune system as it fights the good fight against viruses.


When the viruses get into the nose, they cause the dreaded runny nose, sneezing and sore eyes. Medically speaking, there is inflammation in the passages of the nose. A popular way to reduce this inflammation is to breathe in steam, which helps keep the passages clear.

For younger children, one of the easier techniques is for them to spend time in a really steamy bathroom. For example, you can let the hot shower run while they play boats in the bathroom sink. Or you can bring in a mirror and encourage them to draw pictures on its steamy surface.

For older children, they were traditionally encouraged to put their heads over a bowl of steaming water. But the World Health Organisation cautions that steam “carries the risk of burns”.

So a better way is to use specially-designed humidifiers that can help soothe dry noses and provide temporary relief from coughs and congestion. ‘Cool mist’ humidifiers are suitable for people of any age, while ‘warm mist’ ones are suitable for those aged two years and above.


Good quality sleep can help the immune system. So if your child has a cold and says that they want to sleep, encourage them to do so. They may benefit from a day or two in bed instead of dragging themselves round school.

If your child looks tired, they may need to be encouraged to have more shut-eye. The benefit for them is that the sooner they get better, the sooner they can enjoy life to the full again.

Vitamin C

Back in the 1970s, a man called Linus Pauling wrote a book called ‘Vitamin C and the Common Cold’. His claims were eye-catching but later researchers have shown no evidence that vitamin C can prevent colds. The most that can be said is that, once people have colds, vitamin C can make them last for less time, and be less severe.

If your child is feeling miserable with a cold, then even a small improvement in the recovery time may well seem a good idea. Real-juice drinks are an easy way for children to have more vitamin C.


The World Health Organisation says that "increased fluids should be recommended for a child with a cough or cold." To help your child drink more, one idea is to serve up some tasty chicken soup. Research in 2000 found evidence that "chicken soup might have an anti-inflammatory activity". Many people say that it helps with the symptoms of a cold.

Another idea is to add honey to a hot milk drink, or mix honey with lemon in hot water. Honey is a helpful way to soothe a sore throat. But it should never be given to children who are under one year old.