Runny Nose? Here’s How to Stifle the Sniffles at Home
Ah, the runny nose. In the grand scheme of things, you know that ultimately you’re lucky to not have anything more severe… but in this present moment? Well, you feel cursed – “why me!?” you cry, as if the Universe doesn’t understand that this is the worst thing that could happen to you right now.
Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock of not being able to breathe properly through your nose, you start to consider ways of tackling your symptoms and improving the situation.
Victim mode: off Survival mode: on
First things first, you need to pinpoint the cause of your runny nose – is it a cold or the flu? To help you to do this, we’ve included everything you need to know below, so you can make informed choices for a full and speedy recovery.
The symptoms of a cold-related runny nose
When you have a cold, a blocked or runny nose is a common symptom, though it’s often accompanied by a few others. These symptoms come on gradually and go through different stages. They include:
Sore throat and/or cough
Pressure in your ears and face
Loss of smell and taste
A raised temperature
The common cold often doesn’t require you to see a doctor or GP, as the symptoms can be easily treated in the comfort of your own home. By following some of our natural self-help tips, you should start to feel better within as little as a week or two.
The difference between cold and flu
There are a lot of similarities in cold and flu symptoms (including the fact they can often be treated naturally at home using the same methods), but it’s worth noting that the flu tends to come on quicker and feels a lot more intense.
When you have a cold, you mainly feel it in the nose, sinuses, throat and occasionally chest – it’s an unpleasant feeling mainly focused around the head (ever heard the term heady cold?), but you’re okay to walk to the shops, compose an email or run a few minor errands if you have to.
When you have the flu, you feel as though more of your body is affected. You don’t just feel unwell, you feel utterly drained of all energy – you are unable to carry out any of your usual ‘business’.
If you’re concerned what you’re experiencing is something more severe than that described above, it’s better to be safe than sorry… Please do head straight to the ‘When should I see a see a GP?’ and ‘Please call 999 if...’ sections of this article or call 111 if you’re not sure what to do next.
How you can avoid catching a cold or the flu
You may be wondering how you caught your cold or flu. As germs from coughs and sneezes can live on hands and surfaces for up to 24 hours, it’s likely you picked it up this way – either by sharing a household item with someone or touching your eyes just after contact with a contaminated hand or surface.
You can avoid catching a cold or the flu by washing your hands with warm, soapy water regularly and thoroughly throughout the day. Anytime you shake someone's hand or use a communal kettle etc, it is important to wash your hands. The trick is to be aware of when you may come into contact with germs and stay one-step ahead of them!
In addition to this, the flu vaccine is worth looking into if you haven’t already, as it is designed to reduce the risk of catching and spreading flu, though not everyone is eligible.
How to minimise the chances of spreading your cold
If you’ve caught a cold, the last thing you want to do is pass it around work and onto family members. To minimise the chances of spreading your germs, be sure to always keep tissues to-hand. Sneeze, cough and splutter into the tissue, trapping the germs and immediately throw it into a closed-lid bin once you are done. Don’t share things like towels with anyone (even your partner!) and use antibacterial hand sanitiser in between regular hand-washes! Keep fresh air flowing throughout your home and bear in mind that a cold can be contagious a few days before symptoms actually begin to show.
9 natural ways to soothe the symptoms of a runny nose at home
As we’ve explored, you can treat most common colds and runny noses at home, without needing to see a GP or doctor.
This is because antibiotics for colds and flus won’t ease symptoms or speed up the recovery process – antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, whereas colds are caused by viruses.
So, save yourself a trip to your local surgery and take up our top 10 tips for relieving a runny nose naturally at home:
1. Stay hydrated at all times
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body and overall wellbeing. This is important in day-to-day life, and when when it comes to sick days it becomes even more significant. Not getting enough fluids can weaken the body’s ability to fight off infections. By drinking enough water throughout the day, you’re offering your body a vital resource that it requires to heal itself. Failing to hydrate during an illness can lead to heightened or even added symptoms, such as headaches, tiredness and a dry mouth.
If you’re bored of water, top up on vitamin-rich drinks such as natural fruit juices and organic teas. Lemongrass and Ginger tea is our recommended combination for runny noses and nasty colds, which is why we’ve included this combination in our Runny Nose Box. Ginger is known to be one of the most effective natural flu remedies, as it promotes good blood circulation in the body and therefore can create warmth. It also has various antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help fight infection! If you want to sweeten your tea, honey is the ideal accompaniment as it too contains similar healing properties.
2. Get as much shut-eye as possible
There are plenty of sayings and quotes we use in everyday life that suggest sleep is magic. Ever had someone tell you “it’ll all feel better in the morning”? It’s because sleep actually does have this incredible power to heal our mind, body and spirit. Sure, it won’t fix all your problems at once, but giving yourself a full 7-10 hours sleep when you are sick will benefit your immune system and improve mental clarity.
It is often difficult to drift off to dreamland when you have a stuffed up nose (in which case, refer to points 6, 7 and 8 for natural relief). But once you are asleep, your body can start producing more white blood cells to attack viruses and any bacteria that could be hindering the healing process. When you’re ill, you feel the need to rest more for a good reason – it is your body’s way of producing what it needs. Stay in tune with the messages from your body in this way and you’ll find your overall well-being will skyrocket!
3. Blow your nose regularly with soft tissues
Most of us blow our noses fairly regularly out of convenience and comfort when we have a cold – you don’t need to be told to take to the tissues when you have snot running down your face or feel the need to decongest in order to breathe! But often what we don’t do is blow our noses as much as we actually need to. This means blowing your nose in between the moments it’s at its worst. So, if you feel like there’s something to blow, blow away! Otherwise you’ll find you swallow the mucus, which can cause you to develop a chesty cough.
It’s always best to stick to soft tissues, never toilet paper, as you could end up rubbing the skin raw around your nose (ouch!). Another common mistake people make when they have a runny nose is blowing too vigorously. Pressure like this can cause an earache and other irritations. The best way to avoid this is to blow your nose softly but again, much more regularly. Of course, this kind of excessive nose blowing means you’ll have to be extra careful in terms of spreading germs, so we recommend keeping your hands clean and disposing of any used tissues appropriately.
4. Fill up on vital minerals and vitamins
If you have a poor diet, it’s highly likely that you’ll fall ill more often than those that lead a healthy lifestyle. You won’t just suffer more, you’ll suffer for longer if you continue eating unhealthy processed foods whilst you’re sick. You see, in order to function at its best and protect us from colds and the flu, your body requires good nutrition all year round. Without nutrient-dense, fibre-rich whole foods, it wouldn’t be able to respond quickly and efficiently to all those ugly, germ invaders. So the trick is to ensure our immune system is always getting what it needs to function seamlessly, by consuming plenty of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty oils, but especially so when we are feeling under the weather!
If you’re diet has been lacking vital minerals and vitamins for some time, you could have a microbial imbalance. If this is the case, it will be useful for you to speak with a specialist nutritionist that can advise you on how to alter your lifestyle and food choices to promote better health. A good place for anyone to start introducing some of the nutrients necessary to nourish the body is with a daily multivitamin, or Vitamin C. Look for formulas containing a mixture of any of the following: Vitamin A, Vitamin B and Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iodine, Iron, Beta-Carotene, Copper, Potassium and Zinc.
Vitamin C is most important when you’re ill because you body can’t produce it itself and it is vital for the proper functioning of immune cells. Our favourite brand is: VÖOST because it’s super drinkable and free from preservatives.
But remember, supplements can’t and absolutely should not, under any circumstance, replace a varied and balanced diet. Get as much goodness as possible from your food, and up your dosage of nutrient-dense, vitamin-rich foods when you feel your immune system needs that extra boost. The more in tune you are with your body, the easier it will become to work out what it requires and when.
5. Take a warm, steamy bath with essential oils
Taking a long, luxurious soak in the bath has many health benefits. It can help to ease muscle pain, reduce the symptoms of various skin conditions and has even been proven to encourage a better nights sleep. But it’s not just a womb of water that has healing abilities, in this case steam is the saviour. Steam inhalation has the ability to clear congestion in your sinuses and chest and therefore is the ideal ritual for a runny nose.
Simply run a warm bath, close the windows (turn off the fan) and add a couple (literally only 1 or 2!) drops of essential oil into the mix. Give the bath a good stir with your hand and then climb in and relax. Breathe deeply and let the vapour work its magic (it should soothe the mucous membranes that line the nose). If you can, stay until all of the steam in the room has disappeared as this will ensure maximum effect.
Most essential oils work well for this purpose, but the very best are peppermint, lavandin, cedarwood, tea tree, eucalyptus, geranium and thyme. If you don’t have time for a bath, try leaning your face over a big bowl of water warm water, with a towel to cover your head and trap the steam in. Be careful not to use water that is too hot, as the last thing you need to do is burn yourself. At the right temperature, this should work a treat.
6. Use a natural nasal inhaler
The Olbas Inhaler Nasal Stick is popular for good reason. It’s compact and effective, meaning you can pop it in your pocket to use on the go or keep it next to your bedside table for easy, powerful relief. It contains cajuput oil, eucalyptus oil, levomenthol and peppermint oil, and works in a similar way to an essential oil steam bath.
With regular use, not only will you feel less affected by your cold or flu symptoms, you may also find that they clear up a bit quicker. This is because the essential oils are actively reducing the size of the blood vessels in the nose with their anti inflammatory effect. Inflamed blood vessels can block nasal passages along with snot, so minimising their size will automatically make breathing easier. This pure plant remedy is often used for the likes of hay fever and catarrh too – it’s a handy item to have in your household all year round.
7. Apply a warm compress
One of the simplest, natural ways to relieve sinus pressure and congestion is to place a warm compress over your nose and forehead. The compress doesn’t need to be anything specialised to be effective, it could just be a hot, damp towel or a homemade heat pad. Lay back when you do it, either on a bed or with your head rested on the back of a chair. Breathe slowly but deeply and consciously, noticing any differences the compress makes.
Doing this several times a day can provide relief from a runny nose and headaches, and in addition, it’ll act as a reminder for you to slow down while your body fights back and recovers from a cold or the flu. If you like, you can add a drop or two of essential oils (refer to our recommendations back in #5) for added impact. Be sure to keep the essential oils out of your eyes though as many can sting, especially those with strong decongestant properties!
8. Try out a neti pot
For those of you that don’t know, neti pots are interesting items used for nasal irrigation (otherwise known as nasal lavage). They may look strange (like mini teapots with an odd spout) but they are said to be incredibly effective in treating sinus issues. So, if you have a runny nose that is causing discomfort and nothing else you’ve tried seems to be working, this could be the one for you. Simply add a warm saline or saltwater solution to the pot and then, gently tipping your head to one side, use the pot to pour the solution through one nostril and out the other. As you can imagine, this gives your sinuses a thorough rinse.
You can find affordable neti pot kits online and in pharmacies, but it’s worth noting that every pot is slightly different – do be sure to follow the directions provided carefully as improper use, though rare, can lead to infections. The most important thing to ensure is that you only use sterile and distilled water, not tap water!
9. Test a humidifier
A really overlooked approach to treating the symptoms of a runny nose is the use of a humidifier in the car or home. There are so many different types on the market right now, from central humidifiers and steam vaporizers to cool mist evaporators and everything in between! You’ll find a good guide to choosing the right humidifier in our further reading section, but first you should understand why they are effective for the sniffles…
Humidifiers help provide moisture in your environment, keeping your nasal passages moist. When your nasal passages are moist, mucus flows faster, which means your runny nose will clear sooner. As with anything of this nature, humidifiers should be used with care – overusing can potentially cause further complications. Always follow the instructions and if your symptoms don’t improve or seem to be getting worse, stop using a humidifier and see a GP. But generally, this home remedy does make a significant difference when it comes to dry airways. Try it for yourself and let us know your results.
And there you have it, the ultimate guide on how to rescue your runny nose without any professional intervention or pharmaceutical medication!
We really do hope you feel better soon, and that you found this article helpful. Please do share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, and pass this onto to any friends or family you think could benefit.
When should I see a doctor or GP?
If you’ve jumped to this final section because you believe what you’re experiencing is something more severe than a runny nose orientated cold, it is better to be safe than sorry. Likewise, if you’re returning to this article because none of the above suggestions have worked for you, it’s probably time to get checked out by a Doctor.
Seeking a professional opinion is recommended in the following scenarios:
if your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks
if your symptoms suddenly get much worse
if you have a weakened immune system (due to chemotherapy treatment, for example)
if your temperature is skyrocketing or you feel hot and shivery
if you have a long-term medical issue (like heart, lung or kidney disease or diabetes)
Remember, if you can’t reach your GP and aren’t sure what to do, call 111 for advice and support. The sooner you respond to your body, the better (and quicker) a recovery you’re likely to have.
Please call 999 if…
you develop intense and sudden onset of chest pain
you are unable to breathe properly
you are coughing up blood
Please don’t hesitate in calling 999 or going to your nearest A&E to be assessed if these symptoms apply to you; they should not be ignored. Give us (and yourself) peace of mind and get them seen to immediately!
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sending you endless get well wishes, from our heart to yours…
Samuel & Marie x
Research, Resources & Further Reading:
Psssst! Don’t leave before checking out some of these awesome articles. Some super helpful stuff here.
NHS guidelines and advice
Minerals the human body needs
Things you should know about Multivitamins
What to eat when you’re unwell
How much Vitamin C you need when you’re sick
How drugs and foods interact with vitamins
A guide for colds during pregnancy
Types of humidifiers and their health uses
How to use a Neti Pot safely
The advice in this article is not specialised to pregnant women, babies or children. This article is aimed at regular, healthy adults suffering from a runny nose. We are not responsible for the decisions you make, and this website should NOT be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool. We are simply sharing our recommendations/experiences with you, friend to friend. Always consult your conventional doctor for specific concerns. In cases of medical emergencies, visit your nearest hospital or call 999. Click here for complete disclaimer.