12. Vapor rubs
Vapor rubs are often the go-to remedy for parents when dealing with congestion from a cold. A study has suggested that applying a vapor rub to the neck, back and chest may help to ease coughing and allow a child to sleep more peacefully. It opens up the airways, helps to break down the mucus and has a cooling effect.
However, a rub should never be applied to the face of a child, such as rubbing it directly under the nose or on the cheeks. Vapor rubs should not be used at all on children under the age of two. You need to make sure that the rub you use is suitable for children. Some parents do not want to use vapor rubs that contain petroleum and it is possible to find natural options that do not contain harmful ingredients.
Your own vapor rub is also easy to make by using essential oils (just make sure they are ones that are age appropriate) and natural ingredients. The following recipe is recommended for children of two to five. It contains a drop of lavender, a drop of frankincense, two drops of sweet marjoram, two drops of lemon and two tablespoons of shea butter.
A thin layer of the rub should be massaged into the chest, neck, and back with bare hands. Some people suggest rubbing it onto the bottom of the feet and covering the feet with woolen or cotton socks. A vapor rub should not be applied if the skin is irritated or has a rash. The rub is likely to irritate it and make it worse.
13. Elevating the head
When suffering from a blocked nose, elevating the child’s head may help with breathing. Sleeping with the head elevated keeps the head above the heart which decreases blood flow to the nose. Lying flat allows the mucus to build in the sinuses, clogging up nasal passages and disrupting sleep.
Pillows or towels can be used to raise the head of the mattress. If a child sleeps in a crib, you can place a slim pillow or some towels underneath the head of the mattress on the springs of the crib. If a child sleeps in a big bed, an extra pillow under the head may help.
However, because many children squirm when they sleep, it is much safer to slide towels or a pillow underneath the mattress to avoid any possible risk of suffocation. This also creates a more comfortable, natural slope than using extra pillows. If you overdo the elevation, a young child may flip around while sleeping. With the feet being higher than the head, the whole purpose is defeated.
Some mothers even suggest letting a baby sleep in a car seat or a swing and others their small children in a recliner. They say it can make a world of difference when they are congested, allowing them to get more sleep. When using unusual methods to keep the head elevated, just make sure that the child is safe at all times. You may clear up their congestion and help them to sleep but put them at risk of injury from falling at the same time.
14. Inhaling steam
One the simplest and easy ways to deal with congestion in children is to create some steam inside a closed room. A child may not like the idea of inhaling steam coming from a bowl of hot water with a head covered in a towel. This method can even be dangerous for children because mild scalding may occur when the steam is too hot.
Create a steamy room instead by going into the bathroom and turning on the hot water in the shower. Close the door, seal up the gap under it with towels and wait a few minutes. Sit with the child inside the steamy room for about 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes before bed. The child will breathe in the steam, loosening up the mucus and relieving any congestion.
In a steamy room, the steam may not be inhaled as directly as when using the towel and bowl method but this is a safer method to use for children. You are there in the room and you can make sure that your child does not come into contact with the scalding water. While you are sitting in the bathroom, clap on your child’s back or chest to help dislodge mucus (see how to do this in point 15).
It is fine to use this method regularly while a child is battling with congestion. It can even be used a couple of times a day. Without access to any other remedies, this simple remedy may be all that you need to help clear up your child’s stuffy nose.
15. Clapping the chest
There is evidence that lightly clapping the back or the front of the chest can help to dislodge mucus plugs in the chest. The clapping motion you need to use is a bit firmer than what you would use to burp a baby. Generally, a baby or small child requires less clapping at a lighter force than an older child who is very congested and is coughing a lot.
If you have a baby or small child, you may sit with the child in your lap. The child should be leaning slightly forward. It may be difficult to attempt clapping with a wriggly toddler and you may have to put the child on its tummy across your knees.
Clap the child’s back or chest with a cupped hand. Clapping should be quick and rhythmic. It should loosen the mucus so that it can drain. The clapping should not be done directly onto the skin but with a cloth or thin clothing covering it. Your hand makes a cup shape by you bending it at the wrist.
When you clap, the sound you should hear is a ‘popping’ sound. If the sound is more of a ‘slapping’ sound, your hand is probably too not cupped enough. How much force used and how long you clap usually depends on the child. Smaller children require less force and time. Watch your child for any sign of pain or discomfort and you may have to reduce force. On the other hand, if the mucus is not coming up, you may need to apply a little more force.