Winter’s here and many of us are down with chronic flu and cough. With more people exposed to pollution, adulterated and modified food, emotional stressors and anxiety, it’s becoming very common to develop recurring, chronic flu and cough. To ward off the effects of colds, more and more people and especially children have to use strong antibiotics which reduce the body’s naturally healing immune system with prolonged use.

Sadly, we are moving away from our traditional remedies against colds which were based on natural ingredients which helped the immune system to fight off flu in harmless ways; till some time back these remedies formed a part of our culture. Here, some people share their family remedies for flu that have been very effective for them and can be helpful in warding off the cold this season:

Uzma Tariq, a psychiatrist, says that a commonly available medicinal syrup extracted from the flower of banafsha is really good for curing bronchial conditions like cough, wheezing, congestion and flu. It is being marketed by all the good local herbal manufacturers. “This syrup really helped me when I had bronchitis and wanted to avoid antibiotics,” she says.

Another old remedy is to make a broth of chicken feet and take a few spoonfuls with salt and black peppers. Applying heated sarsoan (mustard) or olive oil on the chest and ribs also really helps in relieving congestion.

Shama Sadaqat, a housewife, says that taking a brew of whole spices (1/2 cinnamon stick, one clove, one large cardamom and three to four black pepper) with ground ginger and honey twice a day relieves flu within two days.

Rabya Shah, a home-schooling mom, says, “I add a pinch of saffron to warm milk and give it to my daughter before the onset of the cold season and throughout winter. It is highly effective against colds and coughs”.

Ayub, a driver, says that “When we were kids, whenever we used to take a bath in winter, my mother would make us roti with gur. It would instantly make us feel warm and we hardly ever contracted chronic flu. The gur roti made us happy and we kept our mom happy!”

A personal favourite for treating congestion and flu has been to use honey and ajwain (carom/thymol/bishop’s weed). Roast ajwain on tawa (hot plate) and then crush it into powder. Heat a spoonful of pure honey and shift it to another spoon (the heated spoon might burn your tongue), now add a generous pinch of ajwain powder to this honey and take it the last thing before sleeping. This works magically for children but care must be taken to avoid eating and drinking after it for several hours.

For infants with chest and nasal congestion, steam from the brew of around half a dozen cloves added to a saucepan full of water is also really helpful. A room humidifier or simply a pot of steaming water with eucalyptus leaves in the room at night also helps the little ones to breathe easily. For children with congestion, it’s important to feed them in sitting position. They should also sleep with heads raised by pillows in a semi seated position.

It’s important to breastfeed infants with flu frequently so that they don’t dehydrate. In fact, research says that saliva from the ill baby’s mouth actually helps produce antibodies in milk that help the baby to get well early. But if the baby is too ill to nurse, breast milk should be fed with spoon or dropper.

Finally, babies with flu should have maximum skin contact with the mother and should be held upright longer to clear their nasal passages.

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