When cold and flu season comes around, it's inevitable that you or someone in your family will get sick. But if you're not the type of person who feels inclined to reach into the medicine cabinet at the first sign of a sniffle, you may want to try these simple home remedies for relieving symptoms of a bad cough and the common cold.
Foods And Drinks
Practically everyone knows that eating Mom's, homemade chicken noodle soup is the tried and true food remedy when you're feeling under the weather. The steam from a warm bowl can open up your nasal passages, and eating it just makes you feel better. But it's also important to eat foods that contain the immune system-booster, vitamin C. Zinc and Echinacea are also said to be helpful in fighting off a cold, although the effects of both are yet to be proven.
It's also important to drink plenty of fluids, including hot tea, water, juice and even milk. Some people believe that drinking milk can stimulate the formation of mucus, but that's actually just an old wives' tale. Stay away from drinks that contain caffeine as they can dehydrate you. For infants who are sick, it's important that they consume breast milk, formula or Pedialyte.
How To Soothe Sore Throats
There's probably no worse cold or cough symptom than a sore throat. When you eat, it hurts. When you drink, it hurts. When you breathe, cough or sneeze, it hurts. So, if your sore throat is driving you crazy, here is the relief you've been looking for:
- Eating cold and soft foods, such as Popsicles, Jell-O and pudding, can help soothe an irritated throat.
- Keep your throat moist. Drink plenty of those fluids and when you're not eating, suck on cough drops. If you don't have cough drops, a piece of hard candy will do in a pinch.
- Try gargling with salt water to keep your throat moist. If you don't want to use salt water, you can make a thicker mixture of hot water and honey. Just make sure that the water has cooled before you gargle with it. You can also gargle with tea that contains tannin.
Stop That Stuffy Nose
The main symptom of a cold is, of course, a stuffy nose. If breathing through your nose is a chore, follow these tips to clear the nasal passages:
- Inhale steam, either from a pot of boiling water, a hot shower or that bowl of Mom's chicken noodle soup.
- Another good source of heat, which will open up the nasal passages fairly quickly, is a heat pack. You can make your own heat pack by microwaving a damp washcloth for 30 seconds.
- Gargling with salt water is good for the throat, and rinsing with salt water is just as good for the nose. You can make your own salt water rinse, which is an alternative to the store-bough saline nasal spray, by combining a quarter-teaspoon of salt, a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda and eight ounces of water. You can either use a Neti pot or a bulb syringe to inject the water into the nose, one nostril at a time.
- Apply a menthol or eucalyptus-based salve, such as Vick's Vapor Rub, on the skin just below the nose. Not only will your nasal passages open up, but the skin below your nose, which can get irritated from endless nose blowing, will be restored and will feel less sore.
- Sleep on two pillows instead of one. The angle will provide relief to the sinuses and you'll breathe easier while you sleep. If sleeping on two pillows is too uncomfortable, place the extra pillow or a few rolled up towels underneath the mattress.
Blowing your nose properly is also key in unblocking the nasal passages. According to WebMD, the best way to blow your nose is to hold a finger against one nostril while blowing gently through the other one. Blowing often is important as it gets the mucus and bacteria out of your system; sniffling it back only makes it worse.
Alleviating the Cough
Coughing is a good way to bring mucus up and out of the lungs, but it can also cause a burning sensation in your chest or irritate a sore throat. A lot of the same remedies that alleviate sore throats and stuffy noses will also alleviate coughing. Sucking on cough drops, keeping the throat moist, sleeping on an extra pillow and drinking plenty of fluids can all keep the coughing at bay.
Another good home remedy for coughing is a hot toddy. Combine one teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of lemon juice with eight ounces of hot water to make a homemade version. You can also add an herbal tea into the mix, if you so desire.
The most important remedy for a cold is time. A cold has to run its course and, unfortunately, there's just no remedy, homemade or otherwise, that will cure a cold overnight. But by eating and drinking food and beverages that boost the immune system, and by using these home remedies to alleviate your symptoms, your body will be on the path to recovery in no time.