Home Remedies for Colds

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on March 10, 2023
4 min read

Don't let that nasty cold get the best of you. Take charge with simple do-it-yourself treatments that clear up your stuffy nose and soothe your scratchy throat.

Get plenty of fluids. It helps break up your congestion, makes your throat moist, and keeps you from getting dehydrated.

Need ideas for something to drink? Try water, sports drinks, herbal teas, fruit drinks, or ginger ale. Your mother's chicken soup might help, too!

You can loosen up your stuffy nose if you breathe in some steam. Hold your head over a pot of boiling water and breathe slowly through your nose. But be careful. Don't let the heat burn your nose.

You can also get some relief with a humidifier in your bedroom. Also try to take in some moisture from a hot shower with the door closed.

It's better than sniffling mucus back into your head. But make sure you do it the right way. If you blow hard, you'll send germ-carrying phlegm back into your ear passages, which can lead to an earache.

The best technique? Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.

Both can help break up the congestion in your nose. If you go the rinsing route, try this recipe:

  • Mix 3 teaspoons of iodide-free salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • Place in an airtight container.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of this mixture to 8 ounces of lukewarm boiled or distilled water.

Next, fill a bulb syringe with this solution (or use a neti pot.) Lean your head over a basin and gently squirt the salt water into your nose. Hold one nostril closed by applying light finger pressure while squirting the mixture into the other nostril. Let it drain. Then treat the other nostril.

Always use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water when you make this solution. Otherwise you might get an infection. Also, rinse the bulb or neti pot after each use and leave it open to air dry.

Use tools like the ClearUp sinus relief device or SinuSonic to help beat cold symptoms. You can get them without a prescription.  

The ClearUp device temporarily opens your airways and eases your sinus pain. As you move it along your face, it  uses a mild electrical current to stimulate nerves in your sinuses.

SinuSonic uses sound vibrations and pressure to open your nasal passages. To use it, you hold it over your nose while you breathe in and out. 


It's especially important to get rest when you first come down with a cold or the flu. Rest helps your body direct its energy to fighting off your infection. This battle taxes your body. So give it a little help by lying down under a blanket to stay warm if necessary.

It moistens your sore or scratchy throat and brings temporary relief. Try a half teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water four times a day.

To calm the tickle in your throat, try a gargle made from tea. Or use one that's got honey in it.

They relieve your congestion and soothe the inflamed lining of your nose and throat.

If you're so congested you can't sleep at night, try a hot toddy, an age-old remedy. Here's how:

  • Make a cup of hot herbal tea.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of honey and one small shot (about 1 ounce) of whiskey or bourbon if you wish (adults only!).

Limit yourself to one, though. Too much alcohol inflames the membranes in your nose and throat.

Try a small dab under your nose. It opens up breathing passages.

Menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw.

You can buy reusable ones 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.

Do this at night when you sleep to help relieve congested nasal passages. If the angle is too awkward, place the pillows between the mattress and the box springs to create a more comfy slope.