herbs for kids AvivA Romm MD

for kids
Taking Charge of Your Child’s Health...Naturally
An E-Book Intro to
Pediatrics for Parents
Aviva Romm
Midwife, Herbalist, MD
Meet Aviva . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Caring for Your Kids…Naturally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Recognizing When Your Child is Sick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Diaper Rash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Colic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Fever . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Colds and Flu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Cough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Earache . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
Pink-eye (Conjunctivitis) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Medical Disclaimer
All material provided on this website is provided for informational or educational purposes only, and is not
intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your healthcare professional or physician.
© 2012 by Aviva Romm
Meet Aviva
Dear Friends,
When I was a little girl anytime I got a mosquito bite it swelled
up to the size of a goose egg and itched like crazy. My greatgrandmother, a Hungarian herbalist, would immediately apply
witch hazel compresses, which brought certain relief from the
inflammation and itching. This is just one of many old-world
treatments she practiced.
She also had a lot of common wisdom. Now, some of the things
she did when I was a kid are becoming vogue as we learn the
value of supporting our body’s natural healing abilities and
protecting ourselves and our environment from unnecessary
chemical exposures.
So who is this woman talking to you about natural health for kids? Perhaps my most important
credential is that I am a mom. My greatest joy in life has been raising my four wonderful, creative,
lovely children — and now I am a grand-mom, too, to a beautiful baby I had the privilege of helping
bring into the world. I understand from a mom’s point of view how worried and vulnerable a parent can
feel when a child is sick, what kind of information a parent needs when things feel like they’re hitting
the fan, and how confusing it can be to know how and when to use natural remedies or when to get
medical care. I also know how helpful it is to have a trusted resource to turn to when a child is sick.
I am also a midwife who has helped hundreds of babies into the world, an herbalist who has written a
half-dozen books on natural health for women and children, translated into many languages, AND I am
a medical doctor, trained at Yale, with a specialty in family medicine. My focus is women’s health and
I am so glad you have chosen to learn to take care of precious little ones using natural approaches and
common sense for common problems. Using herbs for kids’ health is a win-win choice: kids benefit,
parents benefit, and the planet benefits, too!
I hope that my 30 years of practicing natural medicine for babies and children can be of service to you as
one of your trusted voices in health care.
Caring for Kids…Naturally
This booklet is an “e-intro” to Pediatrics for Parents…Naturally (coming in 2012), a comprehensive,
accessible course that will teach you how to take charge of your kid’s health!
Pediatrics for Parents…Naturally is based on the belief that parents can capably manage most of their
children’s health concerns and be informed partners when they must consult a health professional. It is
built on several key principles:
• Common kid’s health problems can be treated with common, natural home remedies.
• Pharmaceutical drugs are over-prescribed for commons kid’s health problems.
• Nobody knows a baby or child like his/her own momma (and often dad, too).
• Parents can safely and confidently take charge of their children’s health.
• Parents need the necessary tools and education to support kid’s health and recognize illness.
• Everyone has a right to affordable health care and adequate information for making informed
Further, natural parenting is best supported when:
• Parenting happens in the context of a supportive community (your tribe!).
• Parents can build supportive partnerships with integrative family docs and pediatricians for times
when the going gets rough.
Caring For My Children
Twenty-six years ago, when the first of my four kids was a tiny tot,
I was eager to learn everything I could about natural treatments for
common kid’s conditions. There wasn’t much information available
on how to use natural remedies, and most folks I knew took their
kids to the doctor’s office for every fever and sniffle, accepting
whatever medication was handed out as the solution. I knew that
there was a healthier way to treat my son rather than to treat every
symptom with an antibiotic.
Lemon Balm
I remember feeling anxious and vulnerable treating that first fever and upper respiratory infection he had,
choosing not to use conventional therapies. What if I missed a dangerous illness? How would I know if
my little one was really sick and needed a medicine? Could I really trust the bond I felt between my baby
and me to guide my intuition and common sense in decision-making around health care issues? Could I
really trust herbs and foods to help?
Around that time I took a class with a wise older doctor who told me that in all of his 30 years of
practice, he’d only once had a case where he found an illness in a child that the momma hadn’t picked
up on first. I’ve since heard this sentiment repeated many times by experienced family doctors and
pediatricians. It gave me a lot of confidence to trust myself to take care of my kids, and over the years
now as a midwife, herbalist, mom, and medical doctor, I too, have experienced a powerful phenomenon:
The momma almost always knows her baby best.
Antibiotic Overuse
When my kids were little, antibiotics were given for every fever, earache, and respiratory infection. Other
harmful practices were also commonly recommended, for example, washing kids down with rubbing alcohol
and giving aspirin for fever.
Fortunately, these latter practices are no longer done. We now know that rubbing alcohol used as described
can cause nervous system damage, and that aspirin given to kids with viral infections can cause Reyes’
syndrome, which can lead to permanent brain damage. In fact, it is not uncommon in medicine for practices
to fall out of favor when it is found that they were not as safe as originally thought. So instead of these
treatments, we used herbs like lemon balm and elder flowers for fever, garlic earache oil, and my homemade
cough syrup for chest congestion and cough.
Antibiotics remain widely overprescribed today, with as many as 50% of all antibiotics prescribed to kids
being unnecessary. New concerns are being raised that early childhood exposure to antibiotics may increase
the risk of developing asthma and irritable bowel diseases. There is also new concern that acetaminophen
(Tylenol) use in kids, even short-term, can also increase the risk of developing asthma.
While medications are lifesaving when needed, when overprescribed and misused they can contribute to
health problems, environmental contamination, and the deadly international problem of antibiotic resistance
— when antibiotics no longer work for serious infections.
Parents are seeking natural alternatives and even physicians are starting to turn to natural approaches for
kid’s health, realizing that many commonly used medications are ineffective at best, harmful at worst, and
that many herbs, minerals, and vitamins can play an important role in promoting health, and preventing and
treating common illnesses.
Pediatrics For Parents
Now, three decades into using natural medicines, I have treated hundreds of children, and through my
books and classes, have supported thousands of families in taking care of their kids naturally. I have
gained tremendous insight into when and how to use botanicals and other natural approaches safely
and effectively, and when medical care is appropriate.
This booklet is a unique mini-preview of updated information that will appear in my full e-course
Pediatrics For Parents...Naturally based on the integration of my work as an herbalist and medical
doctor, combined with experience gained from raising my own four kiddos.
It is my hope that this introductory booklet can help you to feel safe and confident in caring for your
kids with natural approaches for some basic conditions that might come up. It is my hope that others can
benefit from the knowledge I’ve gained using herbs and foods as medicine over several decades. I hope
you find this booklet to contain information you can trust on your own joyous journey of raising your
kids naturally!
Trust Your Momma Wisdom! You Know Your Child Best!
Recognizing When Your
Child is Sick
(and When to Seek Medical Care)
It can be really hard to know when you can treat a condition at home and when you need to take your
child to the doctor’s office or even the emergency room. I get so many calls late at night from patients
who are worried about a child’s fever, cough, or sore throat. By far, parents come into my office for
many more visits than they need to because they feel worried and don’t know the signs to look out for
that their child is really ill or how to help their child with cold symptoms.
It is, of course, always better to err on the side of caution and have a doctor’s visit you don’t need than to
miss something serious, but keep in mind, moms generally know when their kids are sick! By spending
time with your child and becoming a good observer, you will know your child’s health and illness
patterns better than anyone and you will quickly recognize when your child is “not feeling quite right.”
Early signs of illness will become obvious to you.
Knowing what is generally considered “normal” physical health and development in children can bolster
your confidence in assessing your child’s wellness. In my Pediatrics for Parents course you will learn how
to do a basic physical exam on your child, as well as more advanced skills for taking care of your child
Antibiotics remain widely overprescribed
today, with as many as 50% of all antibiotics
prescribed to kids being unnecessary.
Common Early Signs of Illness
hen your little one is getting sick, she or he may have a few or many of the following common early
signs of illness:
• Changes in eating habits (eating less, acting picky or not hungry)
• Behavioral changes (cranky, fussy, whiny, clingy, irritable, uncooperative)
• Sleepier than usual, sleep disturbances
• Sore throat, swollen glands, headache, runny nose, stomachache
• Achiness
• Chills, fever, quick pulse (or unusually slow pulse), respiratory changes
• Bowel and urinary changes (frequency, color, odor, consistency)
• Skin changes (temperature, color, moistness, rashes, sensitivity such as itching)
• Ears hurt, hearing seems “off”
• Eyes watery, glassy; circles under eyes
• Vomiting
• Coated tongue
• Disinterest in play (this may be one of the most significant changes parents notice)
• Voice changes (hoarseness, whining)
If any of the above symptoms occur, it is the perfect time for some herbal teas, chosen according to
the child’s symptoms. It is also a time for extra rest, attention, and perhaps changes in diet such as
eliminating sugar and eating a bit more healthily. These steps can offset the illness or at least minimize
your child’s discomfort and the length of the illness.
Reassuring signs that you can probably continue to treat an illness at home include:
• Your child, in spite of not feeling well, continues to play and act generally normally, awake, and
• Your child’s appetite may be decreased from normal, but he or she continues to take fluids and
perhaps a small amount of food.
• Your child is peeing a normal amount compared to usual.
• The symptoms slowly improve over the course of several days.
Here are symptoms to worry about. If you see any of these, bring your child to his or her primary care
• Any fever in a baby under one- month old requires immediate medical attention!
igh (A high fever is over 103.5°) or persistent fever (> 3 days) in any aged child
• I f your child is having to work extra hard to breathe or if her breathing is fast, labored, or
accompanied by unusual noises
ersistent pain such as an earache, sore throat, severe headache, or stomachache
requent vomiting or diarrhea: If your child is unable to keep down enough liquids to urinate at
least once every six to eight hours, this could be a sign of dehydration
• Thick eye discharge that doesn’t get better during the day
• A stiff neck, extreme lack of energy or the illness seems to be getting worse rather than staying the
same for more than five days
lood in the vomit or diarrhea
• I f your child has been exposed to a contagious disease such as mono, pertussis, measles, the flu, or
has travelled out of the country recently
• I f your treatment for a mild condition is not helping, and the condition persists or worsens, seek
medical help.
Anytime you feel uncomfortable
or worried about your little
one it is appropriate to get
support and advice from your
family doctor or pediatrician;
remember, trust your instincts!
Don’t be afraid to get medical
care when it is needed!
Diaper Rash
What is diaper rash?
Diaper rash is an incredibly common problem — it is practically just a normal part of being a baby! It
can occur regardless of diapering choices. Babies have soft, sensitive skin that spends 24 hours a day in
contact with a diaper, and has frequent contact with irritating poop and pee.
Most diaper rashes are just due to contact
irritation, less commonly they are caused by a
yeast infection. A diaper rash is usually not a sign
of a food allergy. (see Types of Diaper Rash). If
your little one develops a diaper rash, don’t fret.
There are simple steps you can take to prevent
and reduce the risk of diaper rash, and some easy
natural remedies to sooth that irritated bottom!
Even with the best treatment, it may reappear now
and again.
Common sense approaches to
preventing & treating diaper rash
Types of Diaper Rash
Contact diaper rash is the garden-variety rash
that looks flat, red, irritated skin, sometimes with
peeling skin if more severe.
Intertrigo occurs within the skin folds and
creases around the diaper area where the skin rubs
together. It looks like a burn.
Yeast usually only occurs if there has been a
diaper rash for a long time that then becomes
“superinfected” by Candida. It is a red, raised, and
patchy rash with clear edges and smaller patches
called “satellites” at a distance from the main area
of the rash.
• Change baby’s diapers often — every 2-3
Allergy ring is a red ring just around the baby’s
hours — and as soon as possible after baby
anus can be a sign of an allergy to something in his
or her diet or in breastfeeding babies, mom’s diet.
• Use a warm wash cloth each time you wash
baby’s bottom rather than diaper wipes if
possible, and make sure to clean baby’s bottom well.
• If using cloth diapers add ½ cup of white vinegar to your wash to neutralize the acidity of the
diapers and help kill germs.
• If using cloth diapers, make sure the edges of the diaper covers are not irritating baby’s sensitive
thighs and groin by hugging too close to the skin.
• If using disposable diapers change brands to see if another is less irritating to your baby’s skin.
• Let baby’s bottom air out — go naked bums — as often as possible!
• Apply a thick cream as a barrier on your baby’s skin. Old-fashioned A&D ointment works really
well; zinc oxide is also effective. Both are mild and safe. Herbal salve can be used as a healing
agent, emollient, and light skin barrier.
• Your little one might benefit from a probiotic in the case of diaper rash from yeast infection as well
as when there is an allergy ring.
• Another simple home remedy for yeast diaper rash is to slather your little one’s bottom with plain,
active culture yogurt daily then rinse off thoroughly.
Herbal Treatment
Healing Salve
Can be used to heal irritated, damaged skin and as a barrier. There are many possible herbal ingredients for a salve.
The following is an example of one I made for my kids’ bottoms. If you suspect a yeast infection add 20 drops of tea
tree oil to your preparation.
Calendula Flowers
Comfrey Root
Chamomile Flowers
Plantain Leaf
Olive Oil (more if needed to cover herbs)
Pure Beeswax
To prepare a salve: Place about an ounce of your mix of dried herbs and 1 cup of olive oil in a small pot. Simmer for
1 hour on a very low flame with a flame deflector on the burner, and with the pot semi-covered. Add a bit of oil as
necessary for the herbs to remain covered over their surface, and watch carefully to avoid scorching. After cooking,
strain the herbs well through a cotton cloth or cheesecloth, squeezing as much of the oil as possible out of the plant
material. (You may need to let the oil cool first to avoid burning your hands). Clean and dry the pot (discarding the
used plant material), then pour the oil back in, adding a 3–4 tablespoons of grated beeswax. Melt this over a low
flame, stirring constantly.
To test for readiness, put a small amount onto a teaspoon and place it in the refrigerator. After a minute it will harden
to its finished consistency. Salve should be firm and solid but not so hard that it won’t melt easily into your skin. If
the consistency is correct, pour your salve into small jars, cool to room temperature, cover, and store. If the salve is
too soft, add more beeswax; if it is too hard, add more oil.
When to See Your Doctor
Babies rarely need to be seen by the doctor for a diaper rash. If the rash is worsening, baby is very
uncomfortable, or you suspect an infection, contact your family physician or pediatrician.
At about three weeks old my perfectly sweet second baby suddenly started crying out in apparently
agonizing pain at sunset almost every evening, and no matter how much bouncing, rocking, swinging we
did, she’d cry and ball up her little arms and legs in discomfort for sometimes well over an hour.
It was incredibly distressing and since our first child didn’t have colic, we were new to the problem.
We were lucky — daytime was fine, but the next evening we’d start all over again. It was worrisome
and exhausting for all of us. Our usual lovely bedtime ritual of reading stories to our three-year old was
temporarily on hold, and after a couple of weeks of the new evening ritual of our baby crying in pain,
we were overwhelmed. Many of you are probably familiar with this story and some of you might have
babies that have colic all day long, too!
It took us another couple of weeks to figure out what was making our daughter uncomfortable — it
seemed that when I ate peanut butter or dairy, it affected her through my breastmilk — and to establish
some helpful routines that eased her discomfort and brought some balance back to our lives.
In addition to the dietary changes, we discovered that taking her outside or having soothing sounds also
helped. Each evening we’d put her in the baby carrier and stroll the neighborhood until she fell asleep,
or alternately, one of us would wash the dishes while the other rocked her, the sound of the running
water eventually soothing her troubles.
We also gave her simple herbal tea with an eye-dropper and I drank the teas hoping they’d make their way
to her through my breastmilk. Her symptoms improved almost completely, though now and then she’d
have a fussy evening. By the time she was several months old, she was her happy self again, day and night.
What is colic?
As common a problem as it is, nobody actually knows exactly what causes colic, though it appears to be
most commonly due to cow’s milk sensitivity from either directly eating dairy or through the mother’s
milk. What we do know is that when a baby has colic he or she is experiencing belly pain and this
distresses the baby.
Common signs of colic in a baby include:
• Episodes of fussiness that start in the first few weeks
after birth and lasts until about 3-4 months old
• Crying in distress, especially with the arms and legs
pulled in close to the body (sometimes the baby
stiffens up, too)
• Crying for several hours at a time or several hours
a day; commonly in the evening but it can happen
anytime (and seem like most of the time!)
• The crying occurs at least several days of the week
• The baby tends to be inconsolable during the episodes
Not all crying in a baby is colic. If your
baby is crying inconsolably, make sure that
the baby is not in pain because of any other
reasons. Check for anything that might
be poking into or pinching the baby, for
example, check for a “hair tourniquet” —
a fine piece of hair tightly wound around
a finger or toe that is cutting into the skin
and must be removed immediately; check
for signs of illness — for example, an ear
infection can cause baby to scream in
What can you do?
Common Colic Causing Foods in Breastmilk
• Stay calm and relaxed while
Dairy products
Cabbage family veggies
your baby is fussing — your
Soy products
(broccoli, cabbage,
baby will pick up on your
stress and anxiety, so being
Caffeine and Chocolate
upset won’t help anyone.
(which can also keep
• Try to get to the bottom of
baby awake longer!)
what is upsetting your baby by
keeping a journal of when your
baby is having colic episodes;
if you are a breastfeeding mom pay special attention to what you’ve eaten in the previous 24 hours
to help you sleuth out any food sensitivities (see Foods that Commonly Upset Baby).
liminate any culprit foods you identify.
• Try taking your baby for a walk — some babies will relax more if you have them close to your
body in a baby carrier, others will relax more in a stroller. Try different approaches.
lay soothing music or the sound of running water — some babies will respond to this; others will
just keep on crying.
• I f all else fails and baby keeps on crying, and you are getting increasingly upset, put the baby
somewhere safe (i.e. crib, bassinette) and take a breather out of crying range. You will return to the
baby refreshed and with more compassion, rather than frustration and resentment, which are natural
feelings that arise. You might also find that the baby self-soothes to sleep while you are taking some
deep breaths yourself!
• Take turns sharing the colicky baby responsibilities instead of both of you getting worn out each
night, and if you are a single parent, enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to give you
a break once in awhile.
• Talk with other parents of colicky babies for support.
e gentle to yourself — this is NOT your fault!
emember, this too shall end — babies do grow out of colic!
Herbal Treatments
Several studies have shown that traditional
herbal medicines used for colic do have some
noticeable benefit in reducing symptoms,
especially crying time. The herbs studied
include fennel, lemon balm, and German
Tummy Ease
To prepare these herbs as a tea,
mix ½ ounce of each of fennel, lemon
balm, and German chamomile together
in a clean, dry glass jar or plastic bag.
Take 1 teaspoon of the mixture and
place it in a glass mug or French press.
Cover with 1 cup of boiling water and
steep for 10 minutes. Strain the herbs
and put the tea into either a bottle if
the baby takes one, or use a medicine
dropper to give the baby several teaspoons at a time.
Alternatively, a product such as Children’s Compound by HerbPharm can be used.
It is concentrated and easy to give the baby 5-10 drops every couple of hours, or
even as often as every 30 minutes in a crying spell, up to 5 doses a day. Of note,
Children’s Compound comes in a glycerin base which tastes sweet but has no
sugar; sweet tastes have been shown independently to calm baby and reduce colic
symptoms. The tea can be sweetened with a teaspoon of maple syrup; do NOT give
honey to babies under 2 years old — it can cause infant botulism.
When to See Your Doctor
If you are concerned that there is something more serous going on, ask your baby’s
doctor. Your pediatrician or family doctor might be a great resource for you if you
are at your wits’ end. Most doctors don’t know a lot about alternatives for colic, and
may also not know that standard medications for colic are ineffective.
Tea is the most basic herbal preparation. Richly scented
herbs such as catnip, lemon balm, chamomile, fresh and seeds
such as fennel and anise are commonly made into teas. Any
combination of these herbs may be used for a colicky baby.
To prepare: Steep 1 teaspoon of the dried herb of your
choice in 1 cup of boiling hot water for 10 minutes. A French
press makes it easy to strain the tea.
To use: Give several teaspoons up to every hour for a fussy
baby, ½-1 cup every few hours for older kids.
…over the years now as a midwife,
herbalist, mom, and medical doctor, I too,
have experienced a powerful phenomenon:
The momma almost always knows her
baby best.
“Mommy, I don’t feel well.” Your little one wakes up in the middle of the night, fretful and hot to the
touch. You check her temperature and it is 102°. She’s had a cold for a few days but hasn’t had a fever
until now. You feel worried and don’t know what to do. Should you give Tylenol, go to the emergency
department? Should you call your doctor’s office hoping to reach someone in the middle of the night?
Can you wait until morning? You’ve heard about using herbs for fever and thought it sounded good at
the time, but now that your child has one, you’re not so sure. What should you do?
The answer to the above question for starters is:
• I f your child is under one-month old and has a
temperature of over 100.4°, Yes, call your doctor
or go to the emergency room!
or everyone else, take a deep breath, relax, and
read on…
What is a Fever?
Most importantly: Fever is not an illness. It is the
body’s healthy, natural response that actually helps fight
infection! Fevers are not dangerous. A temperature over
100.4° F is considered a fever. Most fevers are in the
range of 101-103.5°. A high fever is over 103.5°!
I know that when my own kids’ temps got over 103° my mommy alarm bells started going off! But in
truth, the height of the temperature does not necessarily reflect the severity of the illness. Most lowgrade fevers are not serious and kids can even run high fevers and not have serious illness — but it is
scarier to parents.
Fevers in kids are generally caused by common viral infections, and most of these are not dangerous.
Kids will often have symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, earache, or rash — but often the fever
comes before the symptoms. Bacterial infections such as strep throat, urinary tract, and ear infections
can also cause fever.
What Can You Do?
Keep in mind that you do not have to treat the fever. When your child has a fever the most important
thing is to keep her comfortable and give plenty of fluids. Fevers may continue for a number of days or
go away and come back — especially in the afternoon and evening — for several days. This is usually
not a problem if the child is taking plenty of fluids and seems otherwise well.
• Let your child rest and sleep as much as she needs to. Create a quiet environment conducive to
healing and recovery.
• Keep the child’s room fresh and comfortable. Diffuse light, as through a thin curtain on the
window, is soothing to feverish eyes.
o freshen the air, put some water with a few drops of
essential oil into a clean plant mister and spritz around the
room. Rosemary, lavender, thyme, rose, lemon, eucalyptus,
and mint make refreshing scents.
ive your child loads of fluids during the fever. Babies can
be nursed often and given water by teaspoon, cup, or eyedropper every 15-30 minutes. If the child is sleeping, you
can rouse him periodically for a drink.
Herbal Treatments
Herbs can be used to help ease the symptoms associated with a
fever — aches, headache, tummy discomforts, and chills. While
fevers don’t need to be treated, high fever can be lowered a bit
with these herbs. Some classic herbs for feverish kids include:
• Anise seed tea or a weak tea made from fresh ginger root
can quiet indigestion.
• Ginger tea can help fight upper respiratory infection and
helps sweat out a fever.
• For achiness, headaches, or restlessness, strong teas of
catnip, chamomile, or lemon balm can be used alone or in
combination. Baths with these herbs are also soothing.
• Lavender oil can be added to a warm bath, 5 drops per
bath, to bring a sense of restfulness and relief of the above
Nursing moms with feverish nursing babies
can drink adult doses of these herbal remedies.
Some of the benefits of the herbs will pass
through the milk to the baby.
Fever is not an illness. It is
the body’s healthy, natural
response that actually
helps fight infection!
Anise Flowers
Catnip, Chamomile, and
Lemon balm Tea
Mix equal parts of the dried herbs and prepare according to tea
instructions. This is very pleasant tasting and very gentle even
for little babies. Soothes tummy upset, aches, and eases fever
Spearmint Leaf and Elder
Blossom Infusion
Steep 1/2 oz. of each herb in a covered quart jar of boiling
water for 20 minutes. Strain and sweeten lightly (no honey
for kids under 2 years old; maple syrup is a good alternative).
Give as warm as your child will take it, and often, until a sweat
Infusions are medicinal-strength teas. More herb material is steeped longer in slightly more water than is usual
for a tea.
To prepare: Place 1 ounce of chopped, dried herb or 2 ounces of chopped, fresh herb in either a quart or pint jar.
Fill the jar with boiling water. Put a lid on the jar and let the mixture steep from a half-hour to 8 hours, depending on
desired strength and the part of the plant used.
To use: Generally, dosage of an infusion ranges from 1/4 to 1 cup, two to four times daily. Sometimes an infusion is
sipped throughout the day.
When to See Your Doctor
• All babies under one-month old with fever should be seen by a doctor immediately! This can be a
medical emergency!
• Babies under three months old with a high fever (see above) should be seen by a doctor.
ny kids who are not taking fluids, not urinating a normal amount compared to usual, or are just
not “acting right” should be seen by the doctor.
• Any kids with fever along with stiff neck or neck, persistent vomiting, or severe headache should
be seen by the doctor.
• If your child has severe ear pain or severe belly pain.
• If your child is lethargic — that is, he just isn’t really waking up fully, seems weak, or just seems
sort of limp, is just lying there, and doesn’t really make eye contact.
• Fevers that stay high for more than 3-5 days.
• If you feel worried that your child has a serious illness, take your child to the doctor: Remember,
trust your momma intuition (and better safe than sorry)!
Fevers may continue for a
number of days or go away and
come back — especially in the
afternoon and evening — for
several days. This is usually not
a problem if the child is taking
plenty of fluids and seems
otherwise well.
Colds and Flu
Most parents will recognize the early symptoms of colds and flu — children rubbing itchy or
irritated eyes, a sniffle or runny nose, a sore throat, skipping a meal, and kids who just aren’t quite
“themselves.” Frequently a child will say, “Mom, my head hurts.” An adept hand to the forehead and
sure enough, you realize your son or daughter has a fever.
What Are They?
A cold is just a simple, common viral infection that affects the upper respiratory passages — nose,
throat, upper breathing passages, and ears. Most kids with healthy immune systems get over a cold
within a week with nothing more than tender loving care.
Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious, acute respiratory infection caused by influenza A or B viruses.
Symptoms include fever ranging from 102 to 104°F, severe achiness, sore throat, cough, lack of appetite,
and extreme lassitude.
In the past, influenza was dreaded and even now it occasionally causes fatalities, but this is usually in
the very young, in the elderly, and in those already weakened by malnutrition or other causes, such as
underlying diseases.
In most kids it is treatable at home but it can be really exhausting. Be prepared for kids to run high
fevers and sleep a lot for a few days. If kids who have the flu seem to get worse instead of better, seek
a doctor’s help. It is essential to provide adequate time, even up to a week, for recuperation after the
symptoms of influenza have passed.
Natural remedies can help relieve cold and flu symptoms faster, can
prevent what are called secondary infections, for example, pneumonia,
that can occur after viral infections, and can help prevent colds from
recurring. This is important because believe it or not, the average
American school-aged child has about 10 colds each year! Antibiotics
do not treat coughs caused by viral infections and are almost always not
indicated for coughs due to colds.
What Can You Do?
Most kids with
healthy immune
systems get over a
cold within a week
with nothing more
than tender loving
The most important things to do for your child when he or she is sick
with a cold or flu are:
1. Encourage lots of rest.
2. Keep the diet light and healthy.
3. Give plenty of water, especially if there is fever; milk and juice can actually make chest and sinus
congestion thicker, so avoid them during an infection if possible, though sometimes if all kids will
drink is juice it is better than nothing.
4. Help your child feel as comfortable as possible.
Herbal Treatments
There are many herbs that can be used to help your child feel more comfortable when he or she has a
cold or the flu, and to support the immune system and fight viruses. Here are several of my favorites.
Treatment will be quickest and easiest if you begin at the first signs of illness, but you can begin using
the herbs at any time during the course of illness. Combine these herbs with those presented under fever,
cough, and other related symptoms and use some of my favorite recipes that do the work of combining
for you!
chinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) is safe, gentle, and capable of both preventing and fighting viral
infections. Echinacea can be used in small preventative doses throughout cold and flu season or in
larger doses for fighting sickness. Use of echinacea has been shown to shorten the duration of colds.
The tincture is the single most effective way to give children this medicine. Many of the newest
formulas use vegetable glycerine as a solvent instead of alcohol. For maximum effectiveness during
an acute infection it’s important to give echinacea tincture in therapeutic doses.
Echinacea Dosing
I generally recommend 1 drop of extract per 2 pounds of
the child’s body weight (i.e., a 50-pound child would get 25
drops, every 2 to 4 hours, depending upon the severity of the
infection). It can be given diluted in 1/4 cup of water, tea, or
diluted natural fruit juice.
arlic (Allium satiua) has been shown to
exhibit broad range antimicrobial properties,
including both viruses and bacterium. It’s
highly effective for reducing the duration
of colds and flu. To give to children try my
classic formula:
Garlic Lemonade
Finely mince 2 cloves
of fresh garlic and
place them in a 1-quart
mason jar. Fill the jar
with boiling water and
cover for 30 minutes.
Strain out the garlic,
and to the liquid add
the juice of 1 whole
lemon. Sweeten to taste
with honey. Give warm,
and offer as much as
the child can drink.
inger (Zingiber officinalis) root is an
aromatic, pleasant tasting herb that is easy to
find in supermarkets.
• Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a wonderful
anti-viral and antibacterial herb effective
against mast upper respiratory infections,
particularly coughs. It gently breaks up
congestion and eases irritable hacking
coughing. It also relieves gas and stomach
discomfort. It can be taken as a tea, tincture,
or syrup, and is pleasant tasting when lightly
sweetened with honey. See Cold and Flu
Syrup on the next page.
Ginger Tea
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of freshly grated
ginger root. Steep for 20 minutes, strain, sweeten, and drink
hot. Repeat as often as desired. Add lemon for taste if the
child likes it.
Any of these herbs or combinations can be
continued for up to three weeks after symptoms
have cleared up to prevent relapse and strengthen
the immune system.
Steam Baths
Steam baths can be used to relieve upper
respiratory congestion. Here is a simple method
for doing a steam at home.
Run the bathroom shower on full blast on hot
water only, with the bathroom door closed.
Put 3-5 drops of eucalyptus or thyme oil on a
washcloth and toss into the shower under the
running water. When the bathroom has filled
with warm steam, bring your child in and sit in
the “steam room” for ten minutes. This can be
repeated twice daily.
Cold and Flu Syrup
Here’s a sweet-tasting syrup that is highly effective against viral and bacterial infections. This syrup contains no
honey so it can safely be given to children under 2.
1 oz echinacea tincture
1 oz elderberry syrup
½ oz thyme tincture
½ oz lemon balm tincture
½ oz licorice tincture
½ oz anise seed tincture
To prepare: Combine all ingredients in a 4-ounce dark amber bottle.
Shake well.
To use: Give 1/2 to 1 teaspoon every 2 hours.
Tinctures are concentrated, alcohol extracts of herbs. They are quick acting, convenient (they
can easily be transported in a small bottle), and they have a shelf life of many years. Because they
are so concentrated, only a few drops are needed, making them particularly useful for children and
for serious conditions when a higher dosage of herbs is required. Tinctures are also convenient for
working parents who can’t easily prepare infusions or decoctions every day.
Herbal Baths
Herbal baths are used to soothe all sorts of
complaints: irritability, congestion, and fever, to
name a few. When using baths with children, be
careful to avoid burns from overly hot water. If you
keep the bathroom door closed, the aroma of the
herbs which is from the antimicrobial volatile oils
will fill the air, adding to the relaxing effect of the
bath and helping to fight infection. A simple herbal
bath, and one of my favorites, is simply to put
about 5 drops of lavender essential oil into a warm
bath after it has run.
When to See Your Doctor
Follow recommendation for when to see your doctor under Cough, Fever, and Earache.
It’s a common story. Your child has had a cold for a few days and now he’s started having a cough.
It’s midnight and you’ve been asleep for just about an hour when you hear coughing coming from his
bedroom. You know he’s having an uncomfortable night, and the coughing isn’t letting you get much
sleep either. You get up and bring him some water, and it seems to help for awhile, but then the coughing
starts again. This is the second night in a row you’ve both been kept awake by his cough. You’ve heard
that over-the-counter cough syrups aren’t really safe or effective for kids, but you both need some sleep.
What can you do?
What is a Cough?
A cough is a reaction to airway irritation or inflammation, usually caused by viral upper respiratory
infection (also called a cold) or something in the environment, commonly dust. Other problems such as
asthma and reflux can also cause coughs. For now we’ll focus only on coughs due to colds.
Coughs can last from days to even weeks. In fact, you might have noticed that sometimes after a cold,
a child can have a lingering cough for even six weeks. This can be completely normal and is due to
irritation in the upper airway passages that may just take this long to resolve.
What Can You Do?
There are many common treatments for cough. A few that I recommend regularly in my practice include:
• Encourage plenty of fluids, especially water, hot tea, bouillon broth, and miso broth (available at
Whole Foods and most natural food coops, this is a delicious paste made of fermented soy beans
that is loaded with live, active enzymes).
• Vick’s® VapoRub® applied to the chest (not to the face!) has actually been shown to help children
with coughs (and as a benefit, their parents!) sleep better.
• Place a humidifier in your child’s room to help moisten the air
and loosen the cough (to avoid burns. (Do not place a hot water
While medications are
humidifier anywhere near your child).
• For kids older than two years, honey has been shown to be
lifesaving when needed,
more effective and safer than cough syrups for relieving
cough. Either let your child take ½-1 tsp of honey directly
from a spoon or mix into tea. NOTE: The honey has to be
and misused they can
good quality honey which a recent study showed could only
contribute to health
be purchased from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and natural,
organic food sources. Honey in regular supermarkets is not of problems, environmental
adequate quality.
contamination, and the
• Over-the-counter cough medications should be completely
avoided in children under five and are not recommended for
children of any age.
problem of antibiotic
• Antibiotics do not treat coughs caused by viral infections and
are almost always not indicated for coughs due to colds.
Herbal Treatments
Aunty Aviva’s Cough Syrup Blend
This remedy is effective and pleasant for use with children.
½ oz dried mullein leaves
½ oz marsh mallow root
½ oz licorice root
½ oz thyme
½ oz anise seeds
½ oz wild cherry bark
½ oz slippery elm bark
1 quart boiling water
To prepare: Combine all the herbs. Put 1 ounce of the mixture in a glass jar,
Slipper Elm Powder
add the boiling water, cover, and steep for 2 hours. Strain the liquid into a pot
and simmer gently until it is reduced to 1 cup (discard the plant material).
Sweeten with 1/2 cup of honey (for children under one year, omit the honey
and replace with maple syrup or sugar to taste). After the syrup cools to room
temperature, store it in a jar in the fridge. It will keep for up to 2 months.
To use: Dosage is 1 teaspoon as needed for children one to three years old,
1 tablespoon as needed for older children, and 2 tablespoons as needed for
Wild Cherry
Quiet Cough Formula
This sweet-tasting, glycerin-based tincture is relaxing, expectorant,
and antimicrobial for the respiratory passages.
1 oz vegetable glycerin
½ oz anise seed tincture
½ oz cramp bark tincture
½ oz thyme tincture
½ oz elecampane tincture
½ oz red clover blossom tincture
½ oz black cohosh tincture
To prepare: Mix all the ingredients in a 4-ounce dark amber bottle. Shake well
before each use. It will store indefinitely. Refrigeration is not necessary.
To use: Give 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to every 30 minutes for 2 hours for acute
coughing bouts, or two to four times daily for milder or chronic coughs.
Red Clover
When to See Your Doctor
• If your child has wheezing and no
history of asthma
• If your child has asthma and wheezing
Syrups are sweetened and concentrated.
Children will more readily take a small amount of
that is causing him significant
a sweet-flavored medicine than any amount of an
difficulty breathing, with no relief from
unpalatable one. The dose is generally 1/2 to 1
prescribed medications
tablespoon one to six times daily, depending on
• Your child’s breathing is rapid and
age, herb being used, and severity of the condition
labored (fever by itself can cause
being treated.
breathing to be faster than usual, but it
should not make a child work harder to
• Your child’s lips or mouth are turning blue due to labored breathing or shortness of breath
Natural remedies can help relieve cold and flu
symptoms faster, can prevent what are called
secondary infections, for example, pneumonia,
that can occur after viral infections, and can help
prevent colds from recurring.
Earache/Ear Infections
Middle ear infections — also called acute otitis media — can be very painful and can make your child
fussy and irritable. They are generally caused by viruses (more rarely by bacteria) and can occur in
babies, young children, and teens. There may be fever, swollen neck glands, and your child’s hearing
may be muffled from the fluid in the ears. Younger children may pull on their ears or may scream or cry
suddenly and unexpectedly; older children will generally tell you that they have ear pain. Occasionally a
child can have fluid congestion and mild inflammation that causes hearing difficulties without the other
symptoms of ear infection; this is called otitis media with effusion.
Ear infections are the most prevalent complaint that land
children in the doctor’s office, and overtreatment with
antibiotics is a big problem. Even the American Academy
of Pediatrics recommends giving parents the option of
waiting 48-72 hours to see if symptoms resolve on their own
before using an antibiotic. Approximately 80% of kids with
acute otitis media get better without antibiotics! Antibiotics
treatment is considered appropriate for babies under 6
months old with known or suspected ear infections, and
sometimes for children ages 6 months to 2 years with severe
What Can You Do?
Natural treatment of ear infections can provide symptomatic relief without contributing to problems
of antibiotic overuse. Here are a few practical tips:
hot water bottle wrapped in a towel (to avoid burning your child) can bring a lot of comfort to
a painful ear. Let your child sleep on a slightly filled hot water bottle — if it is overly full it will
be too firm to rest on comfortably (do NOT use a heating pad).
• Give firm but gentle massage all around the jaw and head in the area adjacent to the ear. Massage
in a downward direction behind the ear on the neck and apply gentle inward pressure in front of the
ear toward the cheek (about where sideburns would be). This will facilitate drainage of ear fluids
and stimulate pressure points in the area. It may be
Ear infections are the most
uncomfortable to your child so do it a few times a
day for short periods.
• Kids who drink a lot of juice and dairy products
land children in the doctor’s
may get more earaches. They encourage the
production of a lot of mucus in the upper
office, and overtreatment with
respiratory system. This can lead to congestion
antibiotics is a big problem.
in the chest and ears, a ripe situation for an ear
infection. Cut back on juice and milk for at least
three days after the earache symptoms are gone.
• For very bad ear pain, you can give children’s doses of Tylenol® or ibuprofen.
Herbal Treatments
Herbal treatment can work quite well to relieve earache
symptoms and reduce ear infection.
• Give echinacea tincture to boost the immune system.
• Chamomile makes an excellent tea to help your child relax
during an ear infection.
• The classic herbal remedy for ear infections is garlicmullein oil. Garlic is a natural antimicrobial, addressing
infections of both a bacterial and viral nature. Mullein is
an analgesic, relieving the pain associated with earaches.
This can be prepared easily at home; I make a large bottle
annually to have on-hand for patients as needed; you can make your own and store in the fridge
for up to a year. If you do not have it ready when needed, good quality Garlic Mullein oil is
available from the company HerbPharm, sold at Whole Foods and other large natural foods stores.
Garlic Mullein Oil
To prepare: Place 1 whole bulb of finely chopped fresh garlic and 1 oz. of mullein flowers in a pint-sized jar. Add
olive oil until the jar is full. Stir with a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to release air bubbles. Cover the
jar and place in the sunlight for 3 weeks (2 weeks in warm weather). Strain into a clean jar (discard plant material)
and store in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to two years.
To use, place 3-7 drops of the oil into the affected ear while the child lays on his side with the affected ear upward.
The oil should be at room temperature or slightly warm. To warm it, put the drops in a spoon or a glass eyedropper
and briefly hold a lit match close to it. Test the oil against the underside of your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.
Have the child rest with the affected ear up for 5-10 minutes, keeping a warm hot water bottle on the ear. After this
time let the child roll over and rest on the hot water bottle for as long as this brings comfort. Repeat on the other ear
if necessary.
This treatment can be repeated 2-3 times a day but may only be necessary once or twice as it is very effective.
When to See Your Doctor
Call your child’s doctor if there is:
• Pain that won’t resolve
• High fever and persistent ear pain
• Drainage from the ear
• Neck pain or stiffness
Herbal Oils
Herbal oils are vegetable oils in which herbs have
been infused. They are different from essential oils.
They should be stored out of direct light and heat.
Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
What is Pink Eye?
Pink eye is a highly contagious infection that affects the conjunctiva, the inner lining of the eyelids and
the outer lining of the eyeballs. It is generally a viral infection, though it can also commonly bacterial.
Symptoms include itchy, irritated eyes that may have a watery or sticky, yellow-green discharge that
crusts over the eyelids, sometimes “gluing” them shut, especially in the morning. There can also be a
feeling that there is sand irritating the eyes, causing a frequent urge to rub them. Allergic conjunctivitis
usually affects both eyes starting at the same time and there is clear watery discharge.
Pink eye is not dangerous, but it is very uncomfortable, can be persistent and often recurs, and is highly
What Can You Do?
• Encourage the child not to rub his eyes. This will cut down on the inflammation.
• Insist on frequent hand washing to prevent the infection from spreading to other family members
(adults are not immune), as it is inevitable that the child will occasionally touch his eyes.
ach family member with pink eye should have his or her own personal towel to avoid spreading the
infection around to everyone. Similarly, don’t share pillows until after the infection is gone. Wash
towels and pillowcases daily.
reast milk is rich in antibodies that reduce many infections. If you are still lactating, a halfteaspoon of your milk can be placed in the infected eyes of a child of any age. Repeat four times
each day.
Note: HIV infection and hepatitis can be transmitted through breast milk, even through the eyes. It is
therefore best not to use breast milk other than your own.
Herbal Treatments
A very simply and effective treatment for conjunctivitis can be prepared easily at home:
Chamomile, Eyebright, and Goldenseal Wash
In a teacup steep 1 tsp each of chamomile and eyebright
herbs, adding ¼ teaspoon of goldenseal powder if the eye
discharge is thick and yellow or greenish. Let the herbs
steep for 15 minutes then strain very thoroughly.
Soak a cotton ball in the tea. To apply to the eyes, tilt the
child’s head back or have her lie on your lap and squeeze a
few drops into the inner corner of the affected eye. Let the
liquid run outward toward the ear rather than toward the
other eye to prevent the infection from contaminating the
other eye. The excess liquid can be patted dry with tissue
paper, gauze, or a cloth (use a clean piece each time). Do
not place anything that has touched the eyes back into your
remedy and discard the cotton balls after each use. Repeat
4 times daily. When applying, protect clothing and furniture
from the goldenseal which leaves a yellow stain.
Conjunctivitis symptoms usually start to improve within about 24 hours of treatment, but because
reinfection is so high, continue to treat twice daily for one week after symptoms have resolved.
When to See Your Doctor
Pink eye is rarely serious. Call your child’s doctor if:
• There is no improvement in symptoms after several days of treatment
• Symptoms get worse, for example, the eye drainage gets worse even with treatment
• Your child has swelling around the eyes or pain with eye movement
• Your child has a new onset of vision problems
Parents are seeking natural alternatives and even physicians are starting to
turn to natural approaches for kid’s health, realizing that many commonly
used medications are ineffective at best, harmful at worst, and that many
herbs, minerals, and vitamins can play an important role in promoting
health, and preventing and treating common illnesses.
Forest and Naomi Romm harvesting St. Johns wort flowers for earache oil.
Enjoy your parenting journey!