News | Published April 12, 2012

That nagging cold: some easy-to-follow advice

Are cold symptoms - even that nagging spring cold - making you feel miserable? Here are 11 cold remedies you can use right now - at home - to feel better. Not all these remedies are great for kids - but they could certainly make adults and older kids feel some relief.

Cold Remedy #1: Drink plenty of fluids to help break up your congestion. Drinking water or juice will prevent dehydration and keep your throat moist. You should drink at least 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily. Include fluids such as water, sports drinks, herbal teas, fruit drinks, or ginger ale. Your mother's chicken soup might help, too! Avoid cola, coffee, and other drinks with caffeine because it acts like a diuretic and may dehydrate you.

Cold Remedy #2: Inhale steam to ease your congestion and drippy nose. Hold your head over a pot of boiling water and breathe through your nose. Be careful. If the steam burns your nose, breathe in more slowly. You can buy a humidifier, but the steam will be the same as the water on the stove. Moisture from a hot shower with the door closed, saline nasal spray, or a room humidifier is just as helpful to ease congestion.

Cold Remedy #3: Blow your nose often, but do it the proper way. It's important to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But when you blow hard, pressure can carry germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, causing earache. The best way to blow your nose is to press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.

Cold Remedy #4: Use saline or salt water rinse to irrigate your nose. Salt-water rinsing helps break nasal congestion while also removing virus particles and bacteria from your nose. Here's a popular DIY recipe:

Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Fill a bulb syringe with this mixture (or use a Neti pot, available at most health foods stores). Lean your head over a basin, and using the bulb syringe, gently squirt the salt water into your nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the salt mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Repeat two to three times, and then treat the other nostril.

Cold Remedy #5: Stay warm and rested. Staying warm and resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle. This battle taxes the body, so give it a little help by lying down under a blanket to stay warm if necessary.

Cold Remedy #6: Gargle with warm salt water. Gargling can moisten a sore or scratchy throat and bring temporary relief. Try 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water four times daily. To reduce the tickle in your throat, try an astringent gargle - such as tea that contains tannin - to tighten the membranes. Or use a thick, viscous gargle made with honey, popular in folk medicine. Steep one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.

Cold Remedy #7: Drink hot liquids. Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, prevent dehydration, and soothe the uncomfortably inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. If you're so congested that you can't sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Make a cup of hot herbal tea. Add one teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon if you wish. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol inflames those membranes and is counterproductive. I only advocate this if you are of legal drinking age, of course.

Cold Remedy #8: Take a steamy shower. Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and relax you. If you're dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

Cold Remedy #9: Try a small dab of mentholated salve under your nose. Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw while opening breathing passages to make breathing easier.

Cold Remedy #10: Apply hot packs around your congested sinuses. You can buy reusable hot packs at a drugstore, or make your own. Take a damp washcloth and heat it for 30 seconds in a microwave. (Test the temperature first to make sure it's right for you).

Cold Remedy #11: Sleep with an extra pillow under your head. This will help relieve congested nasal passages. If the angle is too awkward, try placing the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more gradual slope.

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