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Slideshow: 10 Ways to Rest Better With a Cold

Use a Humidifier to Help Breathe Easier

Use a humidifier or vaporizer all night to release moisture into the air. Steam can loosen congestion and moisturize your nasal passages. Besides helping you breathe easier, moist air can soothe irritated tissues in your nose and throat. This may relieve sore throat pain as well. Be sure to clean and disinfect your humidifier or vaporizer regularly to get rid of germs.

Shower Before Bed

When you have a cold, get the benefits of steam from a hot shower to make breathing more comfortable. You can also run the shower and sit in the steamy bathroom with the door shut, bend over a sink filled with running hot water, or put a warm compress over your sinuses.

Choose Medicines Wisely

Cold medicines combine various ingredients to treat symptoms like congestion, runny nose, cough, fever, and aches. Check the ingredients carefully and choose the medicine that most closely matches your symptoms. That way you won't accidentally take two drugs with the same ingredient. Medicines with decongestants may keep you awake. Some antihistamines, on the other hand, make most people drowsy. If your child is under 4, do not use cold medicine. 

Decongestant Nasal Spray May Help

When you can't get any air in your nose, a decongestant nasal spray may help open up nasal passages and ease congestion. But beware -- using decongestant sprays for more than three days in a row can end up making congestion worse.

Soothe a Sore Throat

For quick relief of sore throat pain, gargling with warm salt water before going to bed may be soothing. There are also over-the-counter lozenges, throat sprays, and pain relievers that may help. If you have a severe sore throat and a fever for more than two days, check with your doctor -- especially if you don't have typical cold symptoms like congestion and sneezing. It could be due to a strep infection.

Nasal Strips May Provide Relief

Some people try nasal strips for relief from congestion while they sleep. They're intended to go across the bridge of your nose to perhaps help stretch and open the nasal passages. A strip won't break up mucus but it may allow more space for some airflow.

Make a Saline Rinse

Saline can be put in a spray bottle and used to loosen mucus and can be used repeatedly. To make your own saline solution, mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. The saline can also be used for nasal irrigation with a Neti pot, for example, to flush mucus from your nasal cavities.

Menthol Salve May Soothe a Cough

Rubbing a menthol salve on your chest and throat can help ease a cough that's associated with a cold. Don’t eat the salve or put it inside your nose. And never use it on children under 2.

Raise the Head of Your Bed

You may have heard that your sinuses will drain more easily if you prop up your head on many pillows. Doctors say this isn't a good idea, because it bends the neck unnaturally and can make breathing more difficult. What works better is raising the head of the bed. Try putting large books under the legs of your headboard and securing them. This creates a gentler, more natural incline.

Sleep on Schedule

A cold can wreak havoc on your schedule. But it's best to wake up and go to bed at the same times as usual. Sticking to a sleep schedule not only makes it easier to fall asleep -- it can help fight off the next cold. One study suggests sleep-deprived people are three times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep eight or more hours a night.

How to Treat Cold and Flu Symptoms

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on July 22, 2013

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