November 22, 2009

Home Hydrotherapy for Colds and Flu

Hydrotherapy, the use of water as a healing therapy, is a powerful tool to add to your home health kit, especially during the cold and flu season.

The physiological basis of hydrotherapy is that cold water causes constriction of superficial blood vessels which is stimulating, while hot water causes expansion of vessels and is relaxing.  When used in alternation a pumping effect is created which can increase circulation, decrease inflammation and improve elimination.

You probably use hydrotherapy and don't even realize it. Anytime one places a cool, wet washcloth on a feverish forehead hydrotherapy is being used.  Taking a cold shower after a sauna, soaking in an epsom salt bath, using a tepid bath to bring down a fever and taking a cold rinse after a hot shower are all examples of hydrotherapy.

While there are many hydrotherapy treatments there are two that are commonly used in our home and serve as powerful healing tools.  The first one, called "Warming Socks", is great to use when someone is "coming down with something" as it is relaxing and can help increase circulation removing the potein byproducts of inflammation which cause stagnation.   The second "Alternating Hot and Cold Compresses to the Chest" is used when an illness goes into the chest or lungs as it creates a pumping effect as the cold constricts and the hot open vessels creating a pumping action which helps the lungs to clear excess fluid and congestion. It is great for soothing coughs and relaxing someone who is uncomfortable.

Warming sock treatment 
  • white, cotton socks
  • wool socks
1) Take a hot bath, shower or foot bath.  Dry feet.
2)  Soak socks in cold water or run under cold water in tap.  Wring out.
3) Place cold, wet socks on your feet followed by wool socks.  It's ok to put adult sized wool socks on the wee ones.  I just fold down the cuffs.  Don't worry about getting the bed wet as the wool will prevent that.
3) Go to bed.

 While you sleep your body will warm up the wet socks creating a warm compress on your feet which will increase circulation and help draw congestion out of other parts of your body and can help to improve fevers, sore throats, sinus infections, headaches and head congestion.  This is a great treatment for children as it is very relaxing and helps them to sleep, plus they think it’s fun to go to bed wearing wet socks!  You will be amazed that when you wake from your nap or sleep your white socks will be completely dry!  Check out my friend Dr Heather Manley's video (performed by her daughters) - a step by step guide on how to do "Magic Socks."  I like that in lieu of a shower or foot bath their family does a little foot massage to warm up the foot before applying the cold wet socks.

Hydrotherapy for Chest Congestion and Cough 

A great way to bring increased circulation to chest.  Also relaxing and tends to quiet cough allowing for sleep.

  • dry hand towel
  • 2 washcloths
  • 1 sheet
  • wool blanket
  1. Place wool blanket on a bed
  2. Place a cotton sheet on top of the blanket
  3. Have child lie on the sheet and wrap child up like a burrito (feet first then sides), first with sheet, then with wool blanket.
  4. Open covers quickly to expose patient’s chest and place a hot, wrung-out washcloth on patient’s chest from armpits to belly button. Place dry towel on top to prevent sheet getting very wet.  Wrap back up in sheet and blanket as before and leave on for 5 min.  Let patient relax.
  5. Quickly remove warm cloth and replace with a wrung-out cold wet washcloth with dry towel on top, re-wrapping as before.  Leave on for at least 10 minutes or until patient warms washcloth with body heat.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 on the back while child lies on stomach.  If you prefer you can perform treatment twice on the chest while they remain on their back is ok too, especially if coughing is quelled with treatment as it can start back up when turning over totheir stomach and breathing may be more difficult.
  7. Remove anything wet so patient can sleep.  They will often sleep very soundly with less coughing after this treatment.
This treatment can be modified to use on the throat or areas of the body where circulation needs to be increased, such as after a bite, muscle strain or sprain or injury.

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