Nope. It doesn’t matter how much internet trawling I do, I just can’t accept the whole ‘there’s no cure for the common cold’ thing. My personal plea to medical science is to please, please get a move on and sort this out!
If, like me, you have problems with your sinuses, having a cold is not a trifling inconvenience to be shrugged off like some, it’s having someone pour concrete into your head, punch you in the back of the nose and then repeatedly scrape your throat with sandpaper.
So, having tried numerous miracle medical products and plently of old wives’ remedies over the years, this is my ‘Hall of Fame’ – those items that help get me through the whole uncomfortable experience.
Gotta be the ultra-balm type or I’m gonna rip my nose to shreds. I get two boxes so that one is always in easy reach and be sure to throw used tissues in the bin. However tempting it is to blow like a trumpet player, I have to remember to blow gently or those nasal passages will quickly get inflamed. Keeping those passages calm and chilled-out is the name of the game here.
Staying hydrated helps to stop mucus thickening up and thick mucus leads to blocked sinuses and encourages bacterial growth.
Apparently, viruses set up home in your nose and throat and they don’t like changes in temperature so I alternate between hot and ice cold drinks, avoiding dairy products as they are mucus-forming (which is a shame because I love a cup of milk tea!)
Hot honey, lemon and thyme.
Simple and effective. I throw a couple of slices of lemon and a sprig of thyme into a cup, fill with hot water and let steep for three to five minutes. I generally pull out all the bits (or use a tea infuser if I can find one) and stir in a heaped teaspoon of honey. I add some cinnamon or grated ginger or sometimes, in extreme and desperate circumstances, some grated garlic. (Ah mais oui!)
I mix it up a bit with some other herbal teas. Most of them smell nice but taste of practically nothing so I only bother with peppermint or hibiscus, both sweetened with honey.
Iced water, iced water and iced water. Forgetting all sugary, carbonated, caffeinated stuff, cordials or fruit juice. I need to limit the sugar intake to offset the vast quantities of honey in those hot drinks!
Using salt water or a couple of drops of tea tree or lemon oil added to a glass of water, (stirring between each mouthful to keep the oil suspended), and spit, swallow, repeat. This keeps those pesky viruses jumping through hoops.
(Hot cold, hot cold, hot cold. Ha! Take that you little villains!)
If my throat is really sore, I gargle with dispersible aspirin in water but again, spitting not swallowing.
Keeping the nose clear..
It’s swollen passages that block your nose, not snot, so I do everything in my power to stop them swelling up.
Saline rinses If I were to give you one big tip it would be this: Get thyself a neti pot or a saline rinse kit! (Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, of course). It’s flushes out your sinuses and takes only some pre-boiled cooled water and some buffered salt sachets. No chemicals and no nasties. This was a absolute revelation for me. Keep that nose clear!
Call in the anti-inflammatories…
Paracetamol is best; it’s cheap and reduces fever, helps with headache and sinus pain and is gentle on the stomach. Take it as Lemsip if you can tolerate the decongestant ingredients. I try to avoid them as I find after the initial relief, they make the snots last much longer for me in the long run.
Proven to be anti-inflammatory (although who knows quite why). I make my own if I can drag myself out of bed or press my lovely husband into picking up some up at the supermarket. Fresh is better than tinned.
Ice pack Whenever my nose feels like it might be blocking up, I place an ice pack wrapped in a flannel on the bridge of my nose. Ahhh, that’s soooo nice.
Essential oils I use a couple of drops of Olbas Oil on a tissue and inhale or mix three drops each of eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint oil into two teaspoons of coconut or olive oil and use it as a chest rub.
Hot showers twice a day. It’s easier than the ‘towel over your head’ thing.
Getting some sleep…
Easier said than done but I find these give me the best chance.
Combatting that dry air
I try to get some moisture in the air at night. A humidifier is the best bet but a wet towel on a warm radiator helps too.
Sleep on your back
Hmmm. Not an easy one.
I set up my pillows so that I can sleep on my back with my head higher than my chest. Not exactly so I’m sitting upright but rather that I’m propped up without getting a horrible crick in my neck. Keeping your head in this position is supposed to help drain your sinuses and stop mucus ‘pooling’ (eek!). If you suffer from blocked ears after a cold, (grumble, grumble, grunt, what was that you said?) this helps avoid that really unpleasant after-effect.
Opening the airways
My second top tip would be to buy some nasal strips baby! Honestly these little fellas are amazing! They actually work and keep my nose clear while I sleep. This has stopped me from having to use those bloody awful nasal decongestants that work for a bit then leave you with sticky glue-like nastiness in your head for weeks and weeks after the virus has gone. Did I mention the blocked ears thing?
Don’t pass it on…
Please stay away from work. We, your cold-prone-stuffy-headed colleagues would much rather cover you for a day or two than have you infect us with the evil lurgy. Don’t be a hero. Please.
A word on supplements…
Now I know people swear by them but they just don’t cut it for me. Taking Vitamin C, Zinc or Echinacea supplements only relieves the pressure in my wallet, not my nose and until someone comes up with some proper scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness, I’m going to save my pennies and stick to what I know definitely helps.
Visiting the Quack…
If things get really bad or last longer than a few days, I get myself to the doctor in case there’s an infection that needs medical attention. There are some pretty horrible complications out there and I’d rather let the doc decide whether or not I need antibiotics.
Best of luck with the cold season!
(Any of your top tips gratefully received.)