I was reminded of my very favorite go-to treatment for “all that ails you” this evening while a dear friend visiting from Germany lay on the couch with a sore throat and a mounting fever.  I mentioned this briefly in my last post, but here is more detail.

The Warming Sock Treatment, aka “Cold Socks” or “Naturopathic Tylenol” is a very simple, very effective water therapy to be used at the first signs of cold, flu, congestion, cough or fever.  You can begin the treatment at any point during an illness, and ought to repeat it nightly until you are feeling well again.  Warming Socks brings congestion out of the sinuses and lungs, stimulates the body to mount an efficient fever when one is needed or lower a fever if it is too high, and lull restless children into deep sleep.

I learned tonight that my husband received a similar treatment growing up in Germany but it was done with towels rather than socks.  Socks make this treatment so incredibly easy and non invasive!  The treatment is best done at bedtime, but works great during naps, too, and in a pinch can be done under heavy blankets on the couch midday.

For a Warming Sock Treatment you will need:
-one pair of regular, thin cotton socks
-one pair of thick wool socks; I am told polar fleece will work too but have no personal experience with it
-cold water as it comes from the tap
-a warm bed with plenty of blankets

To do the Warming Sock Treatment on yourself:

  1. Run the thin cotton socks under cold water.  Wring them out well, so they are not dripping.
  2. Wiggle your toes a lot on your way to take the wet cotton socks, the dry wool socks, and your sleep-ready self to your bed.
  3. If your feet are not warm from the toe-wiggling, rub them with your hands to make them warm.  This is important!  You can also do a warm foot bath.
  4. Sitting on your bed ready to get under the covers, put on the cold wet socks and cover them fully with the dry wool socks.
  5. Tuck yourself under the covers and go to sleep!!

The socks should warm comfortably very quickly, and will be dry in the morning.  You may find that you wake up with hot feet in the middle of the night.  If this happens, just pull off the socks and go back to sleep.  In the event that you are laying in bed awake with cold wet feet after about 15 minutes, your feet were improperly warmed to begin with.  Remove the socks, dry and warm your feet, and try again.

Better yet, to do the Warm Sock Treatment on someone else:
Instruct your patient into bed, or lay your little one down.  Have them wiggle their toes while you prepare the socks.  Warm their feet further with a nice, brisk foot rub.  If your “”patient” is an adult, have them put on the cold socks, followed by the dry ones.  If your patient is a child, you can playfully sing about the cold and then warm socks as you place them on their feet.  Tuck them in, pile on the blankets, and lights out!

Warming Socks are safe for people of all ages.  Little babies and toddlers respond incredibly well.  Many children ask for the treatment by name when they are getting sick or just want a sleep aid.  (In my house, our two year old requests “cold socks” on a regular basis.)

My favorite warming socks story.
Before I began naturopathic medical school I lived in a house with several roommates, one of whom was a late-20’s male suffering frequent colds and sinus infections.  When I shared this treatment, he thought I was CRAZY.  “No way am I going to give myself trench foot,” he’d say.  It became a running joke between us, that I knew he would feel better if he would just “do the socks!”  One day about 3 months after I had moved to another living situation I received a text message from this old roommate.  It read, “Finally did the socks.  Sorry I ever doubted you.  They’re amazing.”

I have to agree.

As with many hydrotherapy treatments, the impact gets stronger with subsequent treatments and so I generally recommend at least three nights in a row of warming socks, though even a single night will help.  I also suggest you add a pair of wool socks to your travel case, and never leave home without this easy way to combat airplane viruses!

What are your favorite go-to cold and flu fixes?