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12 Natural Treatment Tips for Colds and Flu

#6 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. Limit yourself to one. Too much alcohol will inflame the membranes and make you feel worse.

#7 Take a Steamy Shower

Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and may help you relax. If you're dizzy from the flu, run a steamy shower while you sit on a chair nearby and take a sponge bath.

#8 Use a Salve Under Your Nose

A small dab of mentholated salve under your nose can help to open breathing passages and restore the irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw. However, only put it on the outside, under your nose, not inside your nose.

#9 Apply Hot or Cold Packs Around Your Congested Sinuses

Either temperature works. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a drugstore or make your own. You can apply heat by taking a damp washcloth and heating it for 55 seconds in a microwave (test the temperature first to make sure it's not too hot.) A small bag of frozen peas works well as a cold pack.

#10 Sleep With an Extra Pillow Under Your Head

Elevating your head 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.

#11 Don't Fly Unless Necessary

There's no point adding stress to your already stressed-out upper respiratory system, and that's what the change in air pressure will do. Flying with cold or flu congestion can temporarily damage your eardrums as a result of pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you must fly, use a decongestant and carry a nasal spray with you to use just before takeoff and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing frequently can also help relieve pressure.

#12 Eat Infection-Fighting Foods

Here are some good foods to eat when you're battling a cold or flu:

  • Bananas and rice to soothe an upset stomach and curb diarrhea
  • Vitamin C-containing foods like bell peppers
  • Blueberries curb diarrhea and are high in natural aspirin, which may lower fevers and help with aches and pains
  • Carrots, which contain beta-carotene
  • Chili peppers may open sinuses, and help break up mucus in the lungs
  • Cranberries may help prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the bladder and urinary tract
  • Mustard or horseradish may helps break up mucus in air passages
  • Onions contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections
  • Black and green tea contain catechin, a phytochemical purported to have natural antibiotic and anti-diarrhea effects

Remember, serious conditions, such as sinus infections, bronchitis, meningitis, strep throat, and asthma, can look like the common cold. If you have severe symptoms, or don't seem to be getting better, call your doctor.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 11, 2012

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