This year we're treating winter colds without cold medicine, so far. I know that health items aren't part of the R4A, but it still rankles to have to purchased plastic bottles full of artificially colored and flavored purple syrup. So far we've soothed the cold beast with a couple of Traditional Medicinal teas left over from last winter (Throat Coat and Gypsy Cold Car), a tin of Badger Winter Wonder Balm, various other natural balms, homemade or small-crafted, eucalyptus essential oil, rest, snuggles, and homemade lemon/ginger/honey tea.
In other words, we're treating symptoms. We know that there is nothing that will cure the common cold; it takes about 7 days to feel better using time and natural remedies, and about a week if you use over-the-counter cold medicines.
As we run out of purchased home remedies I stand at the ready, knowing I can duplicate them at home without the packaging. Licorice root and slippery elm tea for sore throats and coughs. Honey for coughs and sore throats as well. Ginger for warming. Lemon and other citrus to provide natural vitamin C and to clear nasal passages. Good old salt, for gargling. Olive oil and beeswax to be made into soothing salves, providing relief for chapped skin as well as the power of essential oils.
In my experience, it is best to get on the ball as soon as a cold virus hits your house. Sure, it may be a little chilly in the house since you lowered the thermostat in order to use less fuel. Still, getting chilled stresses the immune system. So pull out the long underwear, wear extra layers, and drag your quilt from room to room with you.
Eat optimally when you or your children are ill. Avoid sugar and refined foods (There isn't much room for them in the R4A diet anyway), and increase your intake of produce, nourishing broths and soups, and lean protein. If dairy and wheat are mucus producers for you, then don't eat them while you are ill.
Wash your pillowcase daily, if you have two and can rotate. You can wash it by hand in a bowl of water. If you can dry it in the sun the UV rays will kill any lingering germs on the pillow case.
There are other, important things to do. Wash your hands. Get a little fresh air, and some sunshine if you can. Eliminate stress and pare your to-do list down to the essentials.
Most of all, rest and sleep. Sometimes I think that the over-the-counter medicine industry thrives on our Protestant work ethic. Taking off work is seen as weak. Being unproductive is nearly a crime. We take strong medicines to make us feel well enough to work, without offering us any healing at all. Our colds linger because we don't rest when we should. Most people don't mind, because the medicines keep us productive.
I'm not a doctor or health care professional. If you or anyone in your care is really ill, only you can make the call in terms of medical intervention. Don't ignore high fevers that won't go away, sore throats and coughs that don't get better after a week or so, ear drainage, or wheezing. Many of these symptoms just need time, but you may want to check with your local nurse practitioner or herbalist or other health care provider for a little guidance.