This time of year, for many kids, coming down with a sore throat is a matter of “when” and not “if.”
But prepared parents can use natural methods to help reduce the length and severity of the symptoms—which means everyone will be less miserable.
Most sore throats resolve on their own with rest and TLC. But if you suspect a bacterial infection such as strep throat, ask your child’s healthcare practitioner to perform a throat culture. Wait for the results before starting your child on antibiotics to help prevent antibiotic resistance.
Fortunately, there are many natural ways to soothe most childhood sore throats.
Start with the basics: Be sure your child gets plenty of rest and hydration. Serve comforting foods, like warm broth, herbal tea with honey, or cooling fruit juice pops. Then consider trying one or more of these remedies.
Go for the Throat
Deliver zinc and vitamin C directly to the scene of the inflammation via sugar-free lozenges that can be chewed or allowed to dissolve in the mouth.
A recent review of research on zinc, an essential mineral, found that—if taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms—it can shorten colds by a day or more in addition to lessening the severity of symptoms. Research shows that regular intake of vitamin C can also help shorten the duration of symptoms.
Because they can be a choking hazard for very young children, give lozenges only to kids age five and older.
Make sure that your child is getting enough vitamin D. A recent study shows that people with the lowest levels of this vitamin were 40 percent more likely to contract a cold or come down with the flu.
Dry air can irritate a scratchy throat. Use a humidifier to keep the air in your house moist and breathable.
For children who are able, gargling with a salt water solution (mix one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water) will soothe a raw throat and reduce inflammation.
A spoonful of elderberry syrup soothes on the way down and then works to restore health. The syrup, which is high in quercetin and vitamin C, boosts the immune system, inhibits viruses, reduces mucous secretions, and may reduce swelling in the throat.
Watch What Your Kids Eat
Children with sore throats should avoid foods that produce phlegm: citrus, dairy, and fried foods.
Have kids sip hot water mixed with cinnamon, honey, and lemon juice to help decrease mucous.
Herbal teas that may help relieve a sore throat include echinacea, eucalyptus, licorice, osha root, slippery elm bark, and thyme. Look for these herbs alone or blended with other botanicals in children’s teas.
Echinacea works best when taken at the first sign of a cold. It should not be used as an everyday herb.
For a sore throat remedy that’s tasty as well as healing, incorporate garlic into your child’s meals. Garlic contains a healing compound called allicin—considered one of nature’s most potent antibiotics. The herb’s antibacterial and antiviral qualities will help fight off sore throats as well as related colds and influenza. Add garlic toward the end of your cooking process so the herb’s antimicrobial compounds don’t get destroyed by the heat.
Over-the Counter Homeopathy
Homeopathic cold and cough syrups, which are safe for children, may help relieve sore throats. Look for ingredients such as Hydrastis, Natrum Muriaticum, and Allium Cepa to ease a dry, raw sore throat.