Survive sniffle season

Remedy #5: Gargle.
Another standby, the old-fashioned saltwater gargle — 1/2 teaspoon salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.

Remedy #6: Over-the-counter medications.
Nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some relief for symptoms, but they won’t prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have side effects. Experts caution that if over-the-counter cold and flu products are used for more than a few days, they can actually make symptoms worse. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can cause serious liver damage or liver failure if taken in high doses. Also, people who take Tylenol in addition to flu medications that also contain acetaminophen are at risk of a drug overdose. Read the labels of any cold medication carefully to make sure you’re not overdosing.

As for children, a Food and Drug Administration panel in the United States recently recommended against giving children under age 6 over-the-counter cold medicines. And in Canada, drug makers recently pulled a number of children’s cough and cold products off store shelves due to fears of an unintentional overdose and other potentially life-threatening reactions. (Click here to see recalled products.)

Health Canada has issued a warning to parents to take extra precautions before administering the non-prescription cough and cold products. The agency also announced it is reviewing labelling requirements on the products.

Saline nasal sprays. Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays help to relieve stuffiness and congestion. Unlike nasal decongestants, experts say that saline sprays don’t lead to a rebound effect or a worsening of symptoms once the medication is discontinued.

Mentholated salve. A small dab of mentholated salve under your nose can open breathing passages. Menthol, eucalyptus and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that may help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw.

Remedy #6: Blow your nose – a lot.
If you have a cold, it’s far better to blow your nose regularly rather than sniffling mucus back into your head. But if you blow too hard, you’ll end up with an earache. Experts recommend this technique: press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other. Note: Remember to always wash your hands after blowing your nose.

Remedy #7: Take a steam shower.
Steamy showers are not only relaxing, but they moisturize your nasal passages. If you’re feeling dizzy or light-headed, run a steamy shower while you sit on a nearby chair.

It’s also a good idea to use a humidifier. Cold viruses thrive in dry conditions, and the parched air dries mucous membranes, causing a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. To avoid mold, fungi and bacteria be sure to change the water in your humidifier daily.

Remedy #8: Starve a cold, feed a fever?
There’s no evidence that avoiding food will shorten a cold’s duration or relieve symptoms.

Remedy #9: Apply hot – or cold? – packs around congested sinuses.
Either temperature may help you feel more comfortable. You can buy reusable hot or cold packs at a pharmacy. Or to make your own, simply heat a damp washcloth for 55 seconds in the microwave. (Be sure to check temperature before applying.) For a cold pack, you can improvise with a small bag of frozen peas.