Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

Alternative thinking

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 05 June 2012

I have always dismissed any health treatment that doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill as a waste of time. I believe in medicine and regard any remedy that doesn’t contain chemicals as insulting. I don’t think alternative medicine is rubbish – some of my sanest friends swear by it. But I, personally, feel fobbed-off, patronised and not believed when recommended it. I just don’t like it. My prejudice has redoubled after experiencing labour: medicinal opiates stood between me and certain madness and I will be grateful forever.

So I have always obnoxioualy ignored that advice about sitting in a steamy room with your baby or toddler when they’ve got a cough. I roll my eyes. “Just gimme the antibiotics,” I hiss to myself “and stop leading me a merry dance”.

But this time with Kitty’s most recent crackly, soggy, yukky cough, I couldn’t get to a doctor in order to turn them upside down and shake hard until some amoxycillin fell out of their pocket, because the cough started up just as everything else shut down for four days for the Jubilee. Not even I, with my deranged passion for tracking down medicine for my child, was going to raise a GP on the longest bank holiday of the year.

So while I waited for 9.01am Wednesday morning to roll around, I thought I might as well try this steam inhalation rubbish. I ran a scalding shower and dripped some Karvol into the bath. Kitty smashed up the bathroom merrily while I tried to persuade her to stand with her head in the steam.

I breathed in and out in an exaggerated way and then said “Kitty do it.” She did her best. As instructed, I performed this – I thought – pointless operation twice more that day. Kitty wasn’t able to sleep through her cough so her lunchtime nap shrank from two hours to 20 minutes. There was, subsequently, an awful lot of time in the day to mess about in bathrooms.

And the thing is, it worked. We’d had three nights of sleeplessness and sporadic vomiting from this endless, hacking cough – but the night after we started the steam inhalation, she slept: not perfectly, but much better. As I type, she has been asleep for 56 minutes of her lunchtime nap and hasn’t coughed once.

With a slight chill down my spine, I have now come to my own unverified and unscientific conclusion that perhaps the reason Kitty’s coughs and colds have always turned nasty in the past is that I haven’t been doing this, the phlegm therefore hangs about and goes bad.

My husband performs an absolutely blood-curdling throat-clearing operation every morning and evening and swears that this is why he never gets throat or chest infections. And it’s quite true: he doesn’t.

So you see before you a reformed character. I am now evangelical about steam inhalation. Just don’t start going on about arnica.

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