Last week, as I was having the best day ever (because my piece was published on Scary Mommy), my little one got sick. My boys both have asthma and their symptoms seem to worsen anytime there’s an onset of even the slightest of colds. Short of keeping them in a bubble, I do everything I can to limit the number of colds as well as the duration. So while my phone was going crazy with texts, facebook notifications, tweets and what-not, I was sitting in the bathroom with a makeshift steam room so that my little one’s coughing fits could be soothed. As I was sitting on the damp bathroom floor, I felt comforted that at least I wasn’t the only one struggling through this disease.
In the US, asthma is the LEADING chronic disease amongst children, which translates to 6.2 million children affected. There aren’t really any chronic diseases that can be labeled as easy but as a mother of two boys who suffer from asthma, I can’t emphasize enough how excruciating it can be watching your child struggle to breathe. But after years and years of diligently giving my children albuterol, QVAR, and sometimes escalating to prednisone (and his scarier cousin dexamethasone) I decided to look outside of the box and explore if there were any other ways to help reduce my these turbulent flare-ups.
So here is the part where I do a disclaimer and tell you not to foolish and trust what your doctor tells you. If your child is in the middle of an asthmatic episode, get them their inhaler stat! If your kid has uncontrolled asthma, don’t start experimenting with holistic medicines and stick to the steroids and rescue meds your doctor has prescribed. Basically, just use your common sense and don’t be a moron, okay?
Since my boys are prone to getting asthmatic flare-ups after they get a cold, I work really hard to reduce their respiratory irritation and knock the shit out of all that mucus before it becomes a full-fledged beast. Here are my tried and trusted antidotes that have significantly helped my kids go from having to take 4-5 courses of steroids every year to just once or twice. I’m scared of jinxing myself here for even saying it but over the last twelve months, we’ve had exactly ZERO urgent care, middle of the night, panicked runs to see a doctor. Any parent raising kids with asthma know what a huge feat that is! Just remember, all kids are different so make sure you use common sense, check with your doctor first and don’t come sue me if it doesn’t work out for you!
- Neti-pot Nasal Rinses: I really should be getting paid from this company (but I don’t) because I recommend one to every single mom I know. The process requires your child to pour saline water (with your assistance) into one side of their nostril and let it come out the other side. This is great for flushing out mucus, allergens and relieving sinuses. If my irrational four year-old can handle this because it feels so damn good afterwards, I promise that with a little bit of practice, your kid can too. My boys do this daily and it has prevented many minor colds from becoming something more sinister and gargantuan. Plus the bonus is the joy your heart will pulsate with when your child’s nasty, thick, gooey mucus slides out one side. It’s enough to provide me with unequivocal happiness for a minute.
- Khichri: This is comfort food for my people and consists mostly of legumes, spices and rice. Most people living in the south Asian subcontinent use this as their go-to meal for any ailment and is believed to reduce inflammation and cultivate vitality of the respiratory system. It’s the dish my mom would make whenever I got sick and when I began researching potent herbs, I kept stumbling upon the spices used in khichdi: turmeric, ginger, tulsi, asafetida. These and the legumes and rice are cooked in ghee and onions and every one of these ingredients is a powerhouse for helping asthmatic and coughing symptoms.
- Elderberry syrup: The herb elderberry goes all the way back to Hippocrates (“the father of medicine”) who referred to it as his “medicine chest” because of it’s proven antidotal properties. Not only does elderberry increase immune system boosters in the body, but it’s antioxidant-laden syrups reduces inflammation and the symptoms of allergies. When the kids are in maintenance-mode, I try to stick to ½ tsp. at bedtime every day. Once a cold appears, we bump it up to twice daily.
- Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy/essential oils: I have found rubbing eucalyptus chest rub (I use the baby ones to keep things mild) on my kids to have a calming effect almost instantaneously. Diffusing peppermint, eucalyptus and laurel leaf oils at night also gives them some sensory comfort. Play around with this and see if your child finds it helpful or not. For my kids specifically, it activates an olfactory reaction of mental calmness and I’ll take whatever I can get.
- Juicing:It took us ages to perfect but my kids finally embraced a green juice recipe that we all could be happy with. There are thousands upon thousands of recipes out there but mine is very simple and contains spinach, cherries carrots and pineapples. Once again, these fruits and vegetables contain lots of anti-inflammatory properties and if I add a protein powder to our juice, just like that, I’ve got dinner made!
- Steam showers: This is another old remedy that has proved incredibly useful when the inhalers just can’t seem to stop a coughing asthmatic attack. I run the shower on hot and line up the bathroom doorway with a towel. Then we hang out for about 10 minutes in there (no electronics allowed, !) before walking out.
- Chiropractic adjustments: Spinal manipulative therapy (otherwise known as adjustments) has been found to be subjectively useful to patients. My children do really well with this and during the high-risk seasons, we try and do adjustments every other week. Studies suggest using chiropractic adjustments as a supplement (not replacement!) of remedies being used. Both my boys have done really well with bi-weekly adjustments and it helps to have a kid-friendly chiropractor!