I am a huge fan of steam and salt therapy as a natural remedy for colds and congestion!
Salt basically pulls and binds mucus from the nasal passages and respiratory tract in order to drain more easily. Getting that mucus out of the body helps kids (and adults!) feel more comfortable, sleep better, feed better, and breathe better. Preventing mucus buildup also lowers the risk for sinus infection and ear infection.
Let’s learn how to drain the gunk using some time-tested and effective measures:
If we could all just live near a beach!
I know this isn’t applicable to everyone, but I have to mention it. The ocean is the most healing place in my opinion. If you or a child are struggling with congestion and you live near an ocean, simply go! Wade in the salt water and allow it to act as a natural magnet to bind mucus and allow for drainage.
Grounding on the sand in fresh air under the sun is just an added benefit to the healing properties of the ocean’s salt water.
A steamy shower can be an incredibly effective way to thin and drain mucus. Steamy showers are typically more effective if you have an enclosed shower, but it’s still possible to reap benefits if not. Here’s how I do mine:
Turn the water on as hot as it will go. When the water is completely heated, clog the drain with a washcloth and throw about 1 cup of sea salt on the ground. Shut the shower door and let it steam up for 5-7 minutes.
Then, it’s ready for you to get in! Step in the shower quickly and re-close the door. You can do a 10-minute steam shower twice a day. When I’m really fighting a lot of congestion, I’ll even do a 15-minute steam shower three times a day!
For young children – Move the shower head to the side when the child gets in the shower so the hot water is not falling directly on them. If this is not possible, simply turn the heat down to where it is comfortable for the child. I love to throw a few toys in the base of the shower and let my sons play in the salt water!
For babies – Steam showers are effective for babies, too! They will need to be held in the shower, and remember to turn the temperature of the water down to where it is safe.
Note: You can also throw some drops of a respiratory blend or eucalyptus essential oil on the walls for added respiratory support. This just creates an additional boost for opening up the passages and draining mucus.
My goal in making a salt water bath is to somewhat replicate the ocean! For a mucus-binding salt water bath, this is what I do:
Turn the water to as warm as you or your child can tolerate while still being comfortable. Throw in about 1 cup of sea salt to dissolve in the bath as it is being filled up. You may add a few drops of a respiratory blend or eucalyptus essential oil to the water for added respiratory support if you wish.
Enjoy your bath! I suggest staying in the bath for anywhere from 10-25 minutes. This can be done 2-3 times a day as needed to drain congestion.
Use the nebulizer for one full round, usually around 7 to 10 minutes, using one vial of saline. This can be done 2-4 times per day as needed to drain congestion.
For adults and older children, using a NeilMed Sinus Rinse bottle with saline packets mixed into the water can be done to either combat congestion or as a proactive measure during times when you might be more susceptible to sinus infections or irritation.
As with many of the other saline therapies, this can be done 2-3 times per day as needed to clear congestion. If using for preventative measures, I simply suggest 1 time per day.
For babies who cannot blow their nose or self-assist in draining mucus, I love using a saline mist (I’ve linked my favorite saline mist, which is super gentle!). You have the option to snot-suck as well if your baby has a lot of congestion that cannot be cleared.
Simply spray the saline mist up his or her nasal passages. Often you will find that spraying the mist alone is enough to thin the mucus and allow it to clear. If not, the snot-sucker is appropriate. You just want to be gentle with the snot-sucker so as not to further irritate the nasal passages. And never do the snot-sucker without first spraying saline.
Saline mist in the nasal passages can be done as often as needed, but I would use the snot-sucker a little more judiciously, as it can be more irritating to the nasal passages and stressful to baby.
I want to stress the importance of thinning out the mucus and keeping it from getting backed up, particularly for babies and young children, in order to avoid sinus and ear infections. Oftentimes ear infections occur on the back side of a cold because mucus builds up in the respiratory passages and becomes stagnant, thick and infected.
Similarly to the ocean, I realize that everyone might not have access to a salt room. But I have to mention it in case you do!
Some cities have actual salt rooms that you can go into and use for healing purposes. Some even have kid-friendly salt rooms where children might be able to sit in sand and play. It is essentially a Himalayan salt cave. If you have access to this type of therapy, it is an incredibly effective measure to take when fighting a cold and congestion!
While you might look at some of the therapies above and consider them as time-consuming and a real commitment, I feel it is one that is absolutely worth it. Most of the measures above are inexpensive and/or free. The relief they offer is hugely comforting, especially for children and babies. And finally, they can significantly decrease your odds of developing sinus and/or ear infections.
If you want to feel better faster and breathe easier despite fighting off a cold, pick a modality or two above and put it into practice! Experience the healing power of salt!
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