At Home Hydrotherapy for Immune Support

Born out of well-established European spa medicine traditions (balneotherapy), naturopathic hydrotherapy uses the application of hot, cold, or neutral temperature water to the body. If you’ve ever put an ice pack on an acute injury like a sprain, than you’ve used hydrotherapy! Naturopathic doctors use hydrotherapy techniques to stimulate healing processes and you can use it this winter to help your body’s immune system beat a cold or flu.  Here are three of the most common hydrotherapy techniques that I recommend in the winter months: the warming sock treatment, the contrast shower, and an at-home version of constitutional hydrotherapy. Today I will tell you about the first one, which is also my favorite. 

Warming Socks

Do this before-bed treatment when you’ve got a sore throat, ear infection, sinus infection or congestion, upper respiratory infection, cough, or bronchitis. This treatment is best repeated for three nights in a row.  This treatment acts in a reflexive way by increasing blood circulation and decreasing congestion in the upper respiratory passages (lungs, throat, sinuses, and nasal passages). It can be very calming and often people report that they sleep well during the treatment. The warming sock treatment can also help decrease throat pain of acute infections. This treatment can be done in conjunction with whatever other treatments you are taking for your illness (antibiotics or natural medicines).

Gather the following: 1 pair of white cotton socks (ankle socks are best), 1 pair of thick wool socks (that are taller than the cotton socks), a towel, and a warm bath or warm foot bath.

Directions: soak your cotton socks in cold tap water and wring them out thoroughly so that they do not drip. Place these socks in the freezer while you complete the next stage, called the warming phase. You must complete the next stage of the treatment (warming phase) as it is the most important and protects your feet from the harmful effects of just applying cold. It is also the fun and soothing part: Soak both feet in warm water (either in bathtub or a bucket) for a full 10 minutes. You may also take a warm bath or hot shower for 10 minutes to complete the warming phase, but do not get your hair wet. After you’ve warmed your feet for 10 minutes, dry off completely (feet or whole body, depending on how you completed the warming) with a towel. Put on your warmest pajamas that consist of both long sleeve shirt and pants. Grab the cotton socks from the freezer and place one on each foot, then immediately cover the cold cotton socks with the warm wool socks so that they are double-layered. Get right into bed, under the covers and make sure that you are not chilled. Add extra blankets as needed. Keep the socks on overnight as you sleep. When you wake up in the morning the cold, wet cotton socks will be dry and warm!

Cautions: don’t do warming socks if you’ve got a circulation disorder like Raynaud’s, diabetes, arterial insufficiency, or intermittent claudication as the cold phase will cause blood flow in your feet to decrease too much for you. If you have a skin disorder on your feet that is aggravated by cold or wet, this treatment is not for you either. If you have decreased sensation of pain or temperature in your feet, do not do this treatment because you will have a hard time knowing if the water is too hot or the socks too cold. If you have questions, always consult your provider!