A "cold" is just an incidence of one or more of the random herd-viruses out there catching up with you, temporarily overwhelming your immune system and getting you all gunked- and symptom'd-up.
I do not accept this. About once a year, the herd around me will get to passing enough things around that my system slips and something multiplies a bit too quickly, and I get a cold. Then it's time to press the voluntary systems into service of the involuntary, and to right things as quickly as possible.
First, prevention is, as always, worth a week of cure. Learn to spot when your immune system is having to work hard (you can feel it if you try), and give it extra support asap: Extra sleep, extra vitamins, extra good food, extra meditation — extra everything you've identified as good for you. Nine times out of ten, a day or two of "extra" will keep me from catching anything to begin with. It saved me from three rounds of my closest friends and coworkers having nasty flu-type things in the past few months; I didn't get so much as a snorfle while even the most robust of them was laid up for days.
But sometimes you just have to go to war; that's life. Thursday night I went to hockey practice and found out the hard way that my sinuses were full: I hung out on the bottom of the pool and couldn't equalize, and my face went SQUISHSTAB. Pressure plus sinus issues is not cool…so this weekend I'm killing me some sniffles.
Here are my favorite prevention-didn't-work, time-to-throw-down weapons:
- Naps. Because duh. Even if you're not tired, try to lay in bed reading (or whatever) as often as you can stand it. (Prop up with pillows if your sinuses hate lying down.) Energy you're not burning on moving your body around can be shunted to your immune system.
- Hot fluids. Not much coffee, since I like it with milk and dairy gunks you up; but tons of tea and soup and hot showers. I drink tea pretty much constantly, especially ginger tea with honey (honey is throat-soothing and ginger is spicy, which helps flush things out even more).
- Neti pot. Awfully unfun as this is, using it about twice a day shortens the duration of any sinus-hiding bug's reign better than anything else I know of. While you're suffering through it, comfort yourself by considering that you're becoming hardened against waterboarding. ;)
- Whiskey. Yeah, this is my farm-wife grandma talking, but I dare you to tell me those women weren't geniuses in many ways. Alcohol kills germs and constricts capillaries, and nothing will sledgehammer open clogged sinuses like a shot of whiskey. Plus, it can help you get to sleep if you're miserable (hence NyQuil). Grandma always splashed some honey and lemon in, then topped it off with hot tea — a nice pre-bedtime toddy, but make it *strong* if you're sick. I usually force a straight shot down in the morning, and either take another at night, or drink the tea/toddy thing if I'm feeling wimpy.
- Spicy food. Spicier food than you usually like always tastes better with a cold anyway, since the tasting abilities of your nose are impaired; use this to eat the hottest stuff you can gastrointestinally stand.
- Very very good tissues: As soon as I get sniffles, I run out and buy the super nice lotiony kleenex. I don't keep these around the house because they're pricey and if you've ever accidentally used them to wipe lenses, you know how much you can hate them; but after the fifteenth nose-blow, I'm always super glad I have them.
- Peppermint lip balm — real peppermint; the one I use is Burt's Bees; their plain "beeswax lip balm" has a good strong dose of peppermint in it. This is the best stuff for keeping your lips from cracking due to extra mouth-breathing, plus inhaling peppermint oil opens your sinuses too. Apply liberally and constantly to lips & nostrils.
- MOVE. Yes, rest a lot, but when you're feeling up to it, and especially if you're very congested, get some cardio — even just running in place can help. Jumping jacks were my savior through an awful sinus infection; nothing else would unblock my face, but a few minutes of jumping and I'd be able to blow my nose again.
After most of these things, your nose will run like mad. BLOW IT: Get the virus out. Cold medicine, especially the decongestant kind that lets you function well in the outside world, keeps stuff in; avoid it unless you have to work or something, and be aware that by forcing yourself to function while sick, you're almost certainly asking to stay sick longer. A constant stream of hot liquids, plus regular neti and whiskey treatments, will keep you feeling well enough if you're staying at home, and if you go ahead and blow your nose constantly (taking care of your skin using the last two steps above), you'll get that crap out and over with much faster.
- On the rare occasion that I've actually gotten an infection rather than just a cold (it's been years at this point; the move away from Detroit's visible air may have made a difference there), the bazooka for fighting those is raw garlic. You MUST either chew the raw cloves, or crush them right before ingestion. Yes, it's not pleasant. The best way I've found is to butter a piece of bread, then crush a clove and smear it on one corner. Eat that corner in one bite, then finish the bread — by the time you're done, it'll just taste like garlic bread instead of nuclear death. Do that three times a day though, and the nastiest, greenest, most cement-faced sinus infection from hell will run screaming.