Fighting off illness takes a toll on the body. When you start to feel a cold coming on, it's best to get plenty of rest – conserving energy to bolster your immune system. If congestion makes sleep difficult, try propping yourself up with a pillow to relieve some of the pressure on your sinuses.
For a sore throat try the tried-and-true salt water gargle remedy. Gargling with a tablespoon of salt dissolved in a cup of warm water four to six times a day helps sooth a sore throat. The salt draws out excess fluid in the throat, reducing swelling and the associated pain.
There are a variety of natural treatments for congestion and a runny or stuffy nose. To start, garlic, with its antiviral and antibacterial properties, has been used to prevent and to treat colds for centuries. If you can stomach it, try eating one or two raw cloves as soon as you feel a cold coming on. Otherwise, you can boil a couple chopped cloves to make a tea or add a few lightly cooked cloves to your food. You may be able to ward off a cold completely or, at the very least, relieve your congestion.
Drinking plenty of warm fluids is another natural way to help clear up congestion. Drinking water, herbal tea, broth, juice, sports drinks, and ginger ale can also help prevent dehydration and keep your nose and throat moist. Just avoid dehydrating drinks like soda, coffee, and alcohol. One hot toddy (hot herbal tea, honey, and whiskey or bourbon) is fine.
Keeping nasal passages moist helps alleviate nasal congestion. Try inhaling steam, running a humidifier, taking a hot shower, and/or using a saline nasal spray. A Neti pot (available in most pharmacies) can help irrigate your nasal passages and provide some congestion relief.
A natural salve made with menthol, eucalyptus or camphor placed under the nose can help open breathing passages and sooth the irritated skin on the nose. Applying a heat pack to congested sinuses can reduce congestion and the pain and pressure with which it comes.
Finally, many people turn to natural supplements for a holistic way to fight off colds. There are several products in the market touting zinc as the way to reduce or eliminate cold symptoms, but the most recent research shows in has limited effects fighting cold viruses. Many people swear by echinacea to either prevent or treat colds. If it has any effect, it's only in a preventative capacity. If you want to try using echinacea, it's best use it daily during cold and flu season. It will be of little use once you're actually sick. Currently, the best bet in cold-fighting supplements is vitamin C. It does not prevent colds, but taking an 8 grams megadose as soon as a cold begins can help shorten the duration of a cold. This is my own personal go-to remedy and I did not suffer a single cold last winter.
And, of course, there is always Nana's go-to remedy – chicken soup. There is, in fact, scientific evidence that supports the idea of chicken noodle soup as a cold remedy. And, even if there wasn't, there's something to be said about a dose of nostalgia to make you feel better.