4. Humidify. Breathing moist air helps ease nasal congestion and sore throat pain. One good strategy is to indulge in a steamy shower several times a day -- or just turn on the shower and sit in the bathroom for a few minutes, inhaling the steam. Another is to use a steam vaporizer or a humidifier. Clean it often to make sure it’s free of mold and mildew.
5. Make a tent. Need a quick way to open clogged airways? Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Drape a towel over your head, close your eyes, and lean over the water under the “tent,” breathing deeply through your nose for 30 seconds. David Kiefer, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, recommends adding a drop or two of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the water for extra phlegm-busting power. Repeat this as often as necessary to ease congestion.
7. Be a sucker. Cough drops, throat lozenges, and hard candy can be surprisingly effective at easing a cough or sore throat. Some doctors, including Kiefer, swear by lozenges containing slippery elm. Others recommend zinc lozenges to help shorten cold symptoms, though Schaffner is not convinced of their effectiveness. “If there is an effect [against colds and flu], it’s a small one,” he says. “I wish their effect were as good as their taste is bad.”
8. Swish and spit. Gargling with salt water helps get rid of the thick mucus that can collect at the back of the throat, especially after you've been lying down. It can also help ease stuffy ears, Kiefer says.
9. Try nasal irrigation. To ease stuffiness and post-nasal drip -- and perhaps cut the risk of getting a sinus infection -- some doctors recommend nasal irrigation. You can buy a neti pot in health food stores and drugstores, or opt for a saline squeeze bottle. You pour salt water into one nostril and let it run out the other, clearing out your nasal passages. You can buy pre-made saline solution or make it by mixing salt and lukewarm sterile or distilled water.
10. Line up a caregiver. A caregiver can’t lower your temperature or cure a sore throat, but “having someone to tuck you into bed and bring you fluids is very comforting,” says Blackwelder. If a friend or family member offers to help, even if it’s only to stop by and check in on you, count your blessings -- and take them up on it.