Updated: Apr 18, 2019

This winter my family has been hit hard with a yucky respiratory infection that has been making rounds visiting many of us living in the Bay Area. Watching your little one cough and feel sick and icky is such an awful and powerless feeling. When it comes to coughs and congestion over-the-counter medicine is pretty much off the table for children under 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the FDA have ruled that over-the-counter cough and cold medicine not be made available for children under the age of 4, and recommend children under the age of 6 not be given any.

The good news is that herbs, essential oils and other natural remedies can provide safe and effective relief for kids and adults. This latest cold season really put my skills as a tired, sick, pregnant herbalist to the test. I focused on simple and easy remedies that were safe for both my two and half year old and myself during pregnancy.


Honey helps soothe the throat, acts as a cough suppressant and fights against infection. Taking honey before bed has been found to calm night time coughs in children in this study. Children older than 1 years old can take ½ tsp of honey, twice a day. And sure you can lick it straight off the spoon, but by adding honey to hot water or tea you are getting in more liquids (tip #6). I recommend adding honey to tea in the morning and having some before bed.

Running a humidifier at night adds moisture back into the air and helps with stuffy noses. In the winter time when heaters are running and drying out the air a humidifier is extra helpful in preventing a dry cough. Keeping your sleeping space moist will help with congestion throughout the night.

Salt water or a saline spray helps thin mucus with stuffy nose and congestion. My little one wont let me near her when she spots a NoseFrida or some other snot sucking device. But even using just the salt water drops will help!

A neti pot helps to thin the mucus and clear up the nasal passages. This is my favorite tried and true remedy for sinus relief. When congestion is really bad I aim to use the neti pot 3-4 times a day. Again, not a option for little kiddos but great for adults and older children.

Steam helps open the nasal passages and soothe inflamed sinuses. For little ones spending time in a steamy bathroom can help ease cold, cough and congestion symptoms. Try the recipe below for an herbal facial steam!

Get in as much liquids as possible! Fluids help thin out the mucus and help with congestion. Juice is a nice option for kids who have little interest in eating while sick.


Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

When it comes to herbs for respiratory relief my favorite preparation is a facial steam. Steam helps to moisten the respiratory tract, break-up mucus and expectorate gunk out of the lungs. For congestion and sinus pressure there is nothing better than steam!