My three young children have been falling ill regularly with colds and coughs. They also complain of earaches and throat pain and the infection sometimes lasts for a month. Antibiotics and conventional medicines don't seem to be helping. Please suggest a few Ayurvedic home remedies. I used to massage them with coconut oil when we were living in India. Since we came here a year ago, I started using Niragunadhi keram. Is the change in oil the reason for their problem? Please advise.
Jija via email

It is not uncommon to feel frustrated by the number of times children fall sick, especially if they are in school or day care. Most young children get six to eight upper respiratory tract infections each year. Infections are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. If children's immunity levels are not strong, they will contract an infection when they come in contact with a person who is suffering from a contagious illness.

Respiratory infections are spread through droplets from an infected person's lungs, nose or mouth. Infections spread by respiratory droplets include the common cold, chickenpox, whooping cough, pneumonia and flu.

Children have a high risk of contracting illnesses because they often put their fingers and other objects which may have been in contact with viruses and bacteria into their mouths. As a child gets older, he will build up immunity to many common infections.

To prevent illness, you should teach your children and care providers to wash their hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom and before eating. Other helpful tips:

  • Just before bedtime, get your children to gargle with warm water to which you add a teaspoon of honey.
  • Add a pinch of turmeric to their milk on a regular basis.
  • Give them a mixture of lime juice, ginger juice and honey (half teaspoon each) regularly.
  • Increase their intake of Vitamin C.
  • Chyavanaprasam* or Agasthya rasayanam* (1 teaspoon) at bedtime will help.
  • You could also give them a teaspoon of Indukantham ghritham* in the morning.
  • Include lots of green vegetables in their diet along with fruits.
  • Teach them some good breathing exercises (consult a yoga expert for this).
  • Apply Thulasyadi* or Marichadi thailam* to the scalp five minutes before they shower.
  • Rub a pinch of rasnadi choornam* on their crowns after a head bath.

*Available at shops selling herbal products