Battling a cold

As my grandmother used to say: “If you treat a cold, it lasts a week. If you do not, it lasts seven days.” I have since gave into the truth of it. However, with children around, it becomes a matter of managing symptoms so that I can be coherent and awake enough to tend to their needs (especially now that the baby is sick as well). So, here is what appears to be working for me:

Black tea with lemon, ginger, and cloves. It soothes the throat and cloves have a numbing effect. Drinking keeps the throat from getting too dry, which makes the soreness more manageable. Plus I love the comfort of hot fragrant tea.

Heated rice sock for the ears and back of the neck. I’ve had the sock with rice in it in my freezer since the preparation for my first birth – it is supposed to be great when heated up and applied to shoulders during labour. With my labours progressing as intensely as they did, however, we have rarely had time to reach for any remedy except the birthing pool. So the rice sock bides its time in my freezer for those times when I need a hot compress. Warmed up in the microwave for a minute and a half or so, wrapped in a folded towel (as it is extremely hot at first), lying on a pillow with it under your ear is pure bliss. As the sock cools, you can peel off the layers of the towel, getting more heat out of it. Switching it between the each ear and back of the neck let me get through my toughest night with the fever. Sore throat often comes with middle ear irritation, and this ear warming compress feels very comforting. In my childhood, we used a sock with salt if rice was not available. Of course, back then in Russia we had no microwaves, so when the sock cooled down, we had to empty the salt or rice into a frying pan, heat it up, refill and re-tie the sock, and only then be able to use it again. Certainly not the ordeal you want to go through in the middle of the night while in pain.

Steam inhalation tent with Eucaliptus essential oil (thanks to a friend who reminded me of it). I used a basin with hot water (and as our tap “hot” water just at that moment decided to be lukewarm, I had to boil two kettle’s worth to fill up the basin) and put two drops of the doTerra Eucaliptus essential oil into it. Turning the overhead light off in the bathroom, putting the basin on top of a little footstool, and sitting on the floor under a towel tent, in the soft glow of our Himalayan pink salt lamp, it felt like ten minutes at a spa. On day three, my sinus pressure was through the roof, and so the relief lasted for only about 2 minutes afterwards. On day four, I have repeated it three times, and each time I breathed easier for about 15 minutes afterwards.

Me being a frugal Russian, it did not feel right to waste the 2 drops of oil on only the inhalation tent. I have then reused the basin with the same water for the foot bath with Eucaliptus essential oil. Do be sure to let the water cool down a bit – the heat your feet can handle is quite a bit less than what you need for an inhalation bath to be effective. If you don’t have time to wait, just add some cold water. The temperature should be as hot as your feet can possibly bear. This reminded me of another remedy to try: back in Russia we used to do a hot foot bath with mustard powder. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any mustard powder around, so I haven’t given it a try. Yet I recall it being effective when I was a kid.

Water with apple cider vinegar and honey. Try sending your partner to a store to get some apple cider vinegar with “Mother” still in it. It makes for an entertaining conversation, especially if you can barely use your vocal chords. Thankfully we used to make kombucha, so a clarification on what a “mother” is was easy. It also helps if the manufacturer has it clearly marked on the bottle. I made myself a pitcher holding about 4 cups with 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of honey, to drink throughout the day (I didn’t want to overdo honey as I’m a bit sensitive to it and extra sugars are not great when fighting off a cold).

Peppermint essential oil (I diluted doTerra Peppermint with fractionated coconut oil as a carrier for a 2% concentration – 6 drops essential oil to a 15ml carrier oil) applied on the back of the neck, under nose, to the soles of feet frequently (every 20 minutes when I had a chance). Peppermint is good against fever, and it made it easier to breathe. To give you an idea of how congested I was by day three: I could not smell that oil when mixing it at all, and it is very potent.

On day four, I was alternating four doTerra essential oils, all diluted at 2%: Peppermint, Melaleuca, Breathe blend (Eucalyptus, Laurel leaf, Lemon, Melaleuca, Peppermint, and Ravensara) and On Guard blend (Cinnamon, Clove, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Wild Orange), applying them with a roller bottle to soles of feet, and Peppermint and Breathe to back of the neck. I’ve also used a drop of the Lemon essential oil in water a few times (do be sure that the oils you are using are safe for internal consumption). I did seem to breathe a bit easier, but I had to be diligent at the application which was not always possible with the baby needing attention. I’ve also been diffusing some oils, but the effectiveness of that is even harder to evaluate.

Most important remedy which I lack: if you have someone who can act as a doula-grandma-nanny-nurse – that is invaluable! I did not need help with cooking, as my weekly cooking session filled the fridge with meals for the week. However, cooking aside, what this person’s main job should be is keep you supplied with remedies, hot tea and food, entertain the baby, make you that steam inhalation tent or foot bath (and clean up afterwards), heat up the rice sock when it cools down, perhaps give you a massage, and let you rest while they take care of after-meal cleanup and other small chores that pile up.

I found that with a head feeling like a Tibetan singing bowl for its heaviness and ringing, it was challenging to even think of which remedy to try next to ease breathing and get me through the next half-hour, let alone attempting to execute the preparation steps for it. Add to it trying to figure out which food I can tolerate (day four I did not want to look at food at all) and attempting to keep the baby happy. With the lack of mental focus, all the remedies I know slip out of my head, and I tend to reach for whatever might be available. Even re-heating water and brewing more tea becomes a Sisyphean task when you have to traverse stairs to accomplish it every 20 minutes with a baby in your arms.

And when all else fails, hugs, chocolate truffles, and lots of love make things better.


  1. Pingback: Switch gears when needed - Fingering Zen

  2. simplyfiendish

    How was the apple cider concoction? Did it help at all?
    Shame the steam was limited in it’s imediate effectiveness, but it does help int long run. I grew up having to do this every time I had pneumonia or bronchitis, after I was in hospital for over 6 months with pneumonia. I still do it when I have a particularly bad cold, sinus problems or chest infections. Bonus, it’s said to help improve your skin. :)

    I wish I could give you a hand with the baby and such. However, my compromised immune system makes that a no go. :(

    I will keep in mind about the truffles, but I am afraid you will be over your cold by then. Although, I do not think you will complain too much about that, knowing there is truffles in the near future.

    • The apple cider potion was not bad – refreshing in a way, although I tried it without honey and figured honey is a must, even if in reduced quantities :) Whether it helped – hard to tell with me mixing all the possible remedies trying to stay afloat.

      Mmm, dark chocolate truffles… a shining beacon ahead :)

  3. simplyfiendish

    A friend of mine that owns a health food store posted this on FB:
    I thought you may be interested because I remembered you are on the look out for more natural remedies that may help with coughs and colds. :)

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