You wash your hands often, eat a balanced diet, and get plenty of sleep, but even your best attempts to head off germs may fail once in a while, leaving you coughing, sneezing, and feeling under the weather.

But rest easy, we have some home-based solutions to help you weather the worst of your symptoms, thanks to James Hubbard, MD, MPH, a family doctor who runs and is author of Living Ready Pocket Manual-First Aid: Fundamentals for Survival. "Although these won't actually cure your cold or flu, they can sure ease your misery until you're over it," he says.

These are Hubbard's top tips for finding comfort the next time you have a cold or flu:

1. Use a neti pot

This small tea-pot shaped container with a long spout enables you to clean your nasal passages and relieve congestion. After filling the pot with a saltwater solution, you simply pour it into one nostril and let it come out the other side. Flushing the nasal passages in this way can also help to prevent a sinus infection.

2. Sip some chicken soup

Several recent studies have touted the benefits of savoring your grandmother's favorite soup recipe to treat the symptoms of a cold or flu. Some researchers credit the steam from the broth with helping to loosen mucus and thin nasal congestion. But, even better, the healthy ingredients offer some much-needed nutrients when you're sick.

3. Take a hot shower

The steam from the water can ease your sore throat and congestion. It can also help relieve chest tightness and coughing. No energy for a shower? Run a humidifier in your room for a similar effect.

4. Sweeten up with honey

Adding a tablespoon of honey to a cup of hot water can thin mucus secretions, soothe a sore throat, and calm a cough. It's also a good alternative to coffee and other drinks that contain caffeine, which can be dehydrating.

5. Try saline drops

A few drops of saline in each nostril can moisten dry, irritated nasal passages and ease that stuffy nose and head feeling.

6. Slather petroleum jelly on dry skin

A dab under your nose can help soothe skin that's raw from constantly blowing your nose. You can also put a little on chapped lips to help heal any irritation.

7. Sit Upright

Lying flat on your back with cold and flu symptoms can cause your head to throb. Instead, prop a generous stack of cozy pillows behind your back to elevate your head. You'll feel more comfortable and the upright position will help the mucus drain better, so your head will feel clearer.

8. Lay on your side

When you do lie down, curl up in a fetal position. From a physical standpoint, this enables you to relax your abdominal muscles—especially good if your stomach hurts. Bonus: it offers psychological comfort, too.

9. Snuggle up with a hot water bottle

The heat can help ease chills and can feel soothing, too. It can also ease stomach pain and muscle aches to help you sleep more soundly.

10. Sleep it off

When you're sick, getting as much sleep as possible is best to help your body recover quicker. In addition, resting can help to keep your symptoms more controlled and also prevent your germs from spreading.

James Hubbard, MD, MPH, reviewed this article.




"The Flu: What to Do if You Get Sick." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online Jan. 30, 2014.

Rennard, BO et al. "Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro." Chest 136(5 Suppl): Nov. 2009:e29.