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The Only Cold Remedies That Actually Work

I've tried almost every over-the-counter cold remedy, and most of them are useless. But not all of them!

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Since childhood, I've been plagued with epically long and torturous stuffy noses and colds. Accordingly, I've spent an inordinate amount of time in the cold-remedies aisle at the local pharmacy. I'm going to try to get you to put down your typical "cold medicine" (because it's useless) and consider trying some things that sound a little weird (just a tiny bit, really) but will actually help you feel less like a piece of crap.

When you're really stuffed up: The Neti Pot

When someone first suggested I try a neti pot, I thought it was some kind of herbal nonsense.

In reality, the neti pot is basically a small vessel that holds water that is going to end up going in one nostril and out the other. It sounds weird, I know, but once you get past the icky realization that your nostrils are all connected, you'll understand that you're basically just flushing out your stuffed sinuses.

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The traditional neti pot will look like a little tea kettle, and it will be either ceramic or plastic, like this:

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Typically, the neti pot will come with little packets that look like sweetener. You'll mix one of these packets with lukewarm water to create a saltwater mix, and then place the pot's spout in one nostril. You'll tilt your head and breathe out of your nose, allowing the salt water to pass through that nostril and out the other. In the process, the gunk that is stuffing you up will magically fall out into the sink. It's gross, but so is getting your snot all over everyone, so get over it.

This woman will demonstrate!

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Unlike the woman, you may express emotions.

This neti pot is the way to go if you're a purist, but it also requires you to tilt your head in a kind of weird way. Which is why I think you should probably go with...

The Sinus Rinse

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It's the same idea, but with a squeeze bottle. Instead of using gravity to force the flow of water, you're pushing the water through your nose by gently squeezing the bottle. This means you can keep your head upright and feel slightly less insane throughout the whole process. The flow of water, however, tends to feel a little stronger.

When you have chills: Oscillococcinum

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A box of Oscillococcinum comes with a dozen or so small tubes of little sugary globules that you toss in your mouth and let dissolve every few hours. For the most part, they're basically sugar pills. But as all homeopathic medicines do, they contain a diluted, trace amount of a curing ingredient.

In this case, it's duck heart and liver. There's not much scientific evidence to support why it works, but millions of patients agree it does, and its French producer, Boiron, has made millions of dollars as a result. Oscillococcinum is typically seen as a remedy for flu symptoms such as fever or chills.

And for vegetarians, the amount of duck is essentially negligible — a few molecules worth, if that, but it's your call.

Some say it's just a good placebo, but if it works, you can say you've cured yourself with foie gras.

When you insist on taking a pill: Mucinex

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If you must take a pill, take Mucinex. It clears up the congestion without making you feel like you're in the clouds, as most cold medications do. Swallow your pill. Be done with it.

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When your throat hurts and you're generally feeling helpless: Garlic Ginger Tea

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Yes, you're going to put garlic in your tea. Boil a peeled, diced garlic clove with a few chunks of peeled, diced ginger. You can add as much cinnamon, lemon, and honey as you want until it tastes palatable.

But don't think you need to get antibiotics.

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First, going to the doctor is a pain and you don't want to build up a resistance to antibiotics. Also, most of the time, a cold's going to be a viral infection, not a bacterial one, meaning antibiotics won't even work. If it becomes a sinus infection that won't go away, it's possible that it's bacterial.

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