Staying healthy this fall means being prepared. With the change in seasons and the kids back in school, certain health issues will inevitably start to surface. The chances that you and your family will face colds and flu, aches and pains, and digestive problems are high—but having a fully stocked medicine cabinet will make managing those unexpected problems a little easier.
Although a plethora of over-the-counter drugs are available for these ailments, they do carry the risk of side effects. In fact, adverse effects from medications are a leading cause of emergency room visits. Some products can be hard on the liver or kidneys and others can cause bleeding in the stomach, racing heart, insomnia, and anxiety. Many OTC drugs are not safe or recommended for young children because the risks sometimes outweigh their potential benefits.
To keep your family safe and healthy, consider some natural remedies in your medicine cabinet makeover. Many natural alternatives to OTC drugs can safely and effectively manage minor ailments for the whole family.
Set aside some time to review what is lurking in your cabinet, clear out expired products, and look for some natural solutions to manage common health issues that occur during the fall and winter months.
For your reference, I’ve compiled a list of common ailments and my top recommendations for their treatment.
>>Aches and Pains
Whether it’s arthritis, sports injuries, or backache, many turn to OTC drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen for relief. These drugs can cause serious side effects, such as liver and kidney damage, ringing in the ears, stomach bleeding, and rebound headaches. Natural options for managing joint pain and inflammation include curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids, and products that contain NEM (natural eggshell membrane). For headaches, try a few drops of lavender on your temples or a supplement that contains butterbur, such as Petadolex by Enzymatic Therapy.
Keep ice packs in your freezer to provide relief for minor injuries. Apply the ice pack to the affected area; 10 minutes on followed by 10 minutes off. Ice helps relieve pain and reduce swelling. Follow with a cream that contains arnica, which can help improve healing and reduce bruising.
>>Cold and Flu
OTC drugs for managing symptoms like congestion and runny nose can cause a range of side effects such as racing heart, insomnia, drowsiness, and upset stomach. Instead of reaching for an OTC medication, try using a vaporizer with eucalyptus oil to help improve breathing. To clear congestion and mucus, try Similasan Cold & Mucus Relief; it contains gentle ingredients that help relieve symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and head and chest congestion. It is also free of dye, gluten, and alcohol, and is safe for those 2 years and older. Using a Neti pot or saline nasal drops or spray can also help hydrate the sinus passages and clear mucus. To help speed healing—and shorten duration of a viral infection—try zinc lozenges or Sambucol black elderberry extract.
>>Cough and Sore Throat
Buckwheat honey can help calm a cough and soothe a sore throat, and it also contains antioxidants and nutrients that help speed healing. Buckwheat honey can be given to children ages 1 year and older. You can also make a soothing tea with warm water, lemon, and honey.
>>Cuts and Scrapes
Tea tree oil is an effective natural antiseptic with anti-bacterial and antiviral properties. Try it for minor cuts and skin irritations. You can use a drop or two of the oil or look for a product that contains tea tree oil, such as Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Skin Ointment.
Gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation are common and distressing problems. Probiotic supplements can help aid digestion by improving levels of good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics also help improve nutrient absorption and support immune health. Try Kyo-Dophilus probiotics, which are stable at room temperature and available in both capsules and chewable tablets for children. Soluble fiber supplements can compensate for a lack of dietary fiber and help both constipation and diarrhea. Look for Sunfiber, a clear, tasteless fiber that can easily be added to any fluid or recipe.
When the furnace starts running, the air inside our homes, work, and school becomes drier and in turn can lead to dry eyes, burning, and irritation. To lubricate the eyes and relieve symptoms of dry eyes, try Similisan Dry Eye Relief. It is free of harsh chemicals and safe to use every day.
>>Dry Skin and Eczema
Colder outdoor weather—combined with dry indoor air—can be harsh to the skin. To sooth dry, itchy skin, add 2 cups of ground colloidal oatmeal (not breakfast oatmeal) to a tub of warm water. Avoid hot water because it can further dry and irritate skin. You can make your own colloidal oatmeal by grinding whole oats in a coffee grinder. After bathing, apply a moisturizer with soothing and hydrating ingredients like vitamin E.
Most OTC sleep aids contain antihistamines, which make you drowsy and fall asleep—however, they can also cause dry eyes and mouth and next-day drowsiness. Instead, try a supplement that contains Suntheanine (L-theanine). This amino acid helps promote relaxation and improves sleep quality without causing any drowsiness or dry mouth the next day. Melatonin is also helpful for getting to sleep and supporting restful sleep.
To prevent and manage motion sickness brought on by traveling by car, plane, or boat, try ginger root. Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. Research has found that it can help relieve motion sickness, dizziness, nausea, and gas, as well as soothe the intestinal tract. A few options to consider are Solary Ginger Trips (a chewable formula which can be taken by children), Traditional Medicinals Ginger Aid tea, and Sea Band ginger gum.
Keeping your medicine cabinet up-to-date and fully stocked will not only leave you ready to manage those unpredictable bruises, runny noses, and tummy troubles, but also help you avoid those late-night trips to the pharmacy.
By Sherry Torkos