Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller
Sick and tired of sore throats and sickness? What can you do when you think you’re coming down with something? Load up on vitamin C, pop a pill, get some extra rest hoping for the best, or call the doctor for advice? Sometimes, medical conditions warrant a visit to the doctor, but often some simple home remedies can provide comfort and relief.
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Sore throats can occur due to allergies, dry air, mouth breathing, acid reflux, smoking, and throat abuse (such as singing, shouting, screaming, coughing, etc). The most common causes of sore throats, however, are viral infections (such as the common cold or the flu which usually clear within several days) or bacterial infections (such as strep throat which are usually more severe and usually treated with antibiotics).
As a singer and a teacher of middle school students, I have had my fair share of struggles with throat issues and have successfully used some of the strategies listed below for relief. Please note, however, that I am not a physician, nor am I trying to take the place of your doctor. I am writing this article for informational purposes only. If you are uncertain about your condition or your symptoms worsen or persist for several days, or you have a high fever with a sore throat, it is better to seek medical advice rather than trying to save some money.
1. Drink Extra Fluid
If you are not drinking enough water, you can become dehydrated which can make you feel more tired, too. Water can help flush away impurities from your system and keep you in better health overall.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide Drops
I don’t remember where I first learned this trick, but it works for me (and my family). At the first sign of a cold, use a medicine dropper to place a couple drops of three percent hydrogen peroxide in your ear. Keep your head tilted for a couple minutes while the peroxide “bubbles” in your ear. The peroxide is killing germs in the ear, nose, and mouth area. When the “tingling” stops, tilt your head the other direction to drain, and then repeat on the other side. The important thing with this is to catch the symptoms right away—before 24 hours. Even if it doesn’t completely kill your cold, it will lessen the duration and intensity.
3. Vitamin C and D
You may know that extra vitamin C is great for helping you stay healthy, but did you know that vitamin D is also essential for great health? Your body absorbs vitamin D from the sun, but in the winter especially, when daylight hours are few and you tend to be indoors more often, your body may be lacking vitamin D.
4. Try Garlic
My husband jokes that garlic keeps you healthy because everyone stays away from you. Seriously, if you can tolerate it, fresh garlic is great for sore throats. Cut a fresh, peeled clove in half, placing a piece in each cheek. Suck on it like a cough drop. You can also crush your teeth against it to release allicin, a chemical that can kill the bacteria that causes strep.
5. Sip on Warm Medicinal Teas
Health stores and most groceries stores carry organic medicinal teas, but you can also make your own. Traditional Medicinals® has an organic throat coat which is wonderful. I prefer to drink my teas plain, but you can add some honey to sweeten, if necessary.
a. Peel a tablespoon of fresh ginger and cook in two cups of water until boiling. After cooling, strain. Mix ¼ cup with juice, tea, or soda water. You can refrigerate remaining ginger for up to three days. This can also help with morning sickness, indigestion, and vomiting.
b. To make a soothing tea, use a spoonful of marjoram steeped in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain. If needed, sweeten to taste with honey.
c. Drink cider vinegar. Mix one tablespoon honey with one tablespoon vinegar, preferably apple-cider vinegar and one cup of hot water. Sip slowly, but don't let it get cold. Use as often as desired.
d. To make raspberry leaf tea pour one cup boiling water over two teaspoons dried raspberry leaves. Steep for ten minutes and then strain. You can gargle with this, if you prefer, but allow it to cool first. This tea also makes a great fever-reducing drink, but do not drink any liquid you have used as a gargle.
6. Try Gargling
In addition, to gargling with the raspberry leaf tea, try any one of these:
a. Gargle with salt water. This easy, inexpensive trick is very effective for killing germs and soothing sore or inflamed vocal cords. Add about half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and gargle. You can get about four or five mouthfuls to gargle in a cup of water. Try to gargle for at least five to ten seconds for each mouthful. This cuts phlegm and reduces inflammation. It can also help kill germs that have lodged in the back of your throat and take care of painful canker sores if you swish the water around in your mouth. Gargle every three to four hours.
(Editor's Note: Gargling with salt water is what I do, and it works! My sore throat is usually gone within a day or two.)
b. Gargle with sage. This herb makes a great sore-throat gargle. Mix one teaspoon in a cup of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes, then strain. You can add a teaspoon each cider vinegar and honey. Gargle four times a day.
c. Gargle with turmeric. Mix ½ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt with a cup of hot water. Gargle with the mixture twice a day. You can also mix ½ teaspoon turmeric in a cup of hot milk and drink.
d. Gargle with cider vinegar. Dissolve one teaspoon salt in ½ cup cider vinegar, and then mix in one cup warm water. Gargle every 15 minutes as necessary.
e. Gargle with Listerine.
7. Try Adding Lemon to Water
Mix a tablespoon of lemon juice (and a tablespoon of honey if you like) with one cup of warm water. You can also substitute lime juice for the lemons.
8. Olive Oil Extract
Olive oil extract boasts substantial medicinal benefits, including an energy booster, treatment of viral conditions such as herpes, flu and colds, fungal infections, chronic fatigue and allergies.
9. Use a Humidifier
Dry air can cause sore throats, and since the air is drier in the winter, you might want to try using a humidifier. Do clean it out regularly, however, as mold can grow in damp, moist places.
10. Use Steam
Shorten the duration of a throat infection with a steam tent. Sit with your face over a bowl of steaming hot water and cover your head with a towel to keep the steam in. Adding a drop or two of eucalyptus oil can be soothing.
11. Avoid Sugars and Scratchy Foods
Sodas and foods such as chips and pretzels can irritate your throat even more.
12. Avoid Stress
Not only can stress bring on sickness, but it also ages you and can prevent you from sleeping. As much as possible, try removing stressful situations or anything extra that you don’t need in your life. You can also try some relaxation breathing.
While I love to exercise, I realize that most people have difficulty exercising when they are feeling great. However, for a mild illness such a head cold or sore throat, moderate exercise can actually help boost your immunity and make you feel better.
One of the best cures for any sickness is to rest. How often do you push yourself and sacrifice sleep to get more done? If you are having trouble sleeping, try some chamomile tea or melatonin. Do something relaxing before going to bed, such as taking a warm bath, and avoid using the computer or watching television before bedtime.
No matter how often or how much you wash your hands, you cannot escape germs. They are on almost everything you touch. Boost your immunity by keeping your body as healthy as possible through rest, diet, and exercise. But when you find yourself with a scratchy throat or the sniffles, try one of these 14 suggestions to help ease the discomfort and aid in a speedy recovery.
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Copyright © 2013 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.