5 Old Wives Tales for When Your Child Is Unwell – And Whether They Actually Work

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5 Old Wives Tales for When Your Child Is Unwell - And Whether They Actually Work

Two orientation sessions at childcare and my dear Jaxon has already picked up a cold. He’s sniffly and struggling to breath. His nose is constantly running and he won’t let me near him with nasal spray, aspirator or even a tissue!

Seeing your child unwell is the worst. All you want to do is take their sickness and make it yours just to see them better. To see them happy and laughing again and not curled up on the couch feeling miserable.

This is not the first time that Jax has been unwell, unfortunately. He copped a cold on our return from Bali (we all did) and before that the change from summer to winter really got him too.

While I may not be an expert on child health, I am a mama who will do what I have to, to make my baby feel better. I thought I would share some things I have been doing that I have noticed have made a huge improvement to his overall well-being when he is unwell.

Most of these things I do because I remember my own mum doing them for me when I was a child. And while there may be limited research on whether they actually work or not, for me I do seem to see results every time, so let’s break them down and see if there are actually any true science behind these old wives’ tales.

Don’t forget to comment at the end your favourite old wives’ tales that you still use today

1 – Chicken Soup

My observations with chicken soup and the common cold has always been the heat and liquid factors. The liquid being one more way to hydrate and the hot soup helping to liquify mucus as well as raise the body temperature to ‘sweat it out’

We always have chicken soup on hand. By that I mean the ingredients.

Once a month I buy up a bunch of chicken, carrots, celery onion and garlic and portion out the raw ingredients into zip-lock bags.

This saves me having to cook a huge batch of soup and portioning it out to freeze.

As soon as someone is feeling under the weather, out it comes, into a pot with 2L of water and a couple of stock cubes to simmer away for 40 minutes. And voila fresh chicken soup at the ready. Jax loves this with chicken tortellini (which I always have in the freezer as well), or alphabet noodles (my personal fave).


Chicken soup translates through cultures all over the world, there is good reason too! The science behind the humble bowl of bone broth is as follows: The gelatin and collagen in chicken bones and cartilage is released when cooked for a long period, i.e. made into a soup.

These regenerative minerals are just a fragment of what you are getting from a hearty bowl of chicken soup. Vitamins and nutrients from common vegetables like carrots (Vitamin A and C), onions (Vitamin C and amino acids) and celery (potassium and folate).

The liquid broth also hosts added sodium (salt), a beneficial electrolyte to help you hydrate. Keep your fluids up!

2 – Sweat it Out

Extra clothes, definitely socks, hot soup, hot tea and a blanket rugged up on the couch is the way to go. “but I’m sweating!” Alan will declare as I fuss over him with a blanket. “you are supposed to!”


Sweat is your body’s way of cooling you down by adding moisture to your skin. When the moisture evaporates it cools the skin and as a result your body temperature drops. This happens naturally when you work out or if you have a fever.

A fever is the body’s way of raising the body temperature in the attempt to kill off certain bacteria that may be making you sick, and that are sensitive to temperature changes. Usually it is a sign of infection.

Sometimes when you are hit with a common cold, you may not get fever as a symptom (especially with a viral strain) so intentionally elevating your temperature (by keeping warm or exercise) can help clear other presenting symptoms like congestion.

It is also super important to ensure you drink lots of fluids using this method as perspiration can cause dehydration.

Note: it is always important that you go to the doctor with fever, especially children, as it can be a sign of more serious underlying issues.

3 – Honey, Lemon & Ginger Tea

The three ingredients above, mixed with a teabag of your choice (hello, Earl Grey) makes for a powerhouse cuppa, especially with a sore throat or nasal congestion. This is another go to for our household.


We use Manuka Honey for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, as well as the fact that it is loaded with anti-oxidants.

Anti-oxidants are compounds produced in your body. They fight harmful molecules, defend your cells and halt oxidation. Too much? They are good for you, OK?

Lemon as we know is packed with Vitamin C which is important when it comes to immunity which may be compromised when you are unwell.

Ginger is the root of a flowering plant and has been used for centuries for its medicinal purposes. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

4 – Keep Food Intake The Same

Jax hasn’t been super thirsty or hungry but I haven’t stopped offering the same sorts of food and water every day. I have read about the BRAT diet when a child is unwell. This diet consists of limiting your child’s foods to the following: Banana, Rice, Apple sauce and Toast.

While I do agree that this may be a good diet for children with gastro-like symptoms I don’t believe it is beneficial to children with the common cold.

When I was a child, I was always taught that when you are sick you need to eat and drink normally to ensure your body is strong enough, has the right nutrients and anti-bodies to fight whatever virus you may have. While this is a huge old-wives-tale, I still implement this with both myself, my hubby and now my son.


Jury is out on this one, you do you, mama.

5 – Vicks VapoRub

Mama used to rub Vicks on our chests every few hours when we were unwell. The close proximity to our mouth and noses helped us breath in the vapours, clearing our congestion.

The Vicks website states that the product is good for the relief of cough, nasal congestion, body ache, headache and muscle stiffness.

It does this with ingredients like camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil.


Menthol and eucalyptus are included for their aromatic purposes. Camphor is a compound found in the wood of a camphor tree. The compound is a waxy, clear and has a strong smell. Found in other medicinal topical ointments like tiger-balm and cold-sore creams, it is not safe to handle when pregnant due to lack of research on its effects.

Vicks have several products, three of which I have in my medicine cupboard all the time.

As not all babies or adults are able to have Vicks rubbed on their skin (due to contact allergies) they have developed their product into an oil that is able to be placed with water into one of these devices to omit the fragrance into the air.

It is great for helping Jaxon sleep through the night with a clear nose.

Final Thoughts

It seems that with a closer look there seems to be a LOT of evidence that shows what I am doing is not so bad. Even if it is totally old-fashioned. In fact, it seems that there is a reason that all these home-remedies have withstand the test of time and been passed down from generations, crossed borders and weathered wars and famine.

They bloody work!

I would love to hear your most recommended old wives’ tales! Comment below!!

Much Love, Veronika Xx

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