Cold and flu season is upon us, and often times a lingering, nasty cough coincides. Even after that sore throat and stuffy nose are gone, the cough can still persist.
However, you may be able to treat that incessant cough in the comfort of your own home with some of these remedies.
1. Eat a Spoonful Of Honey
Just a simple, sweet spoonful of organic honey can soothe that horrible cough. Various studies, such as one from Penn State College of Medicine, found that honey can actually be more effective at soothing a cough than over-the-counter drugs. Honey’s high viscosity and stickiness is great for coating the throat and soothing irritated mucous membranes. Also, thanks to an enzyme added by bees when they harvest honey, it has antibacterial properties that can shorten a cough if it’s due to a bacterial infection.
2. Gargle with Salt Water
Gargling warm salt water may seem like a fruitless remedy your grandmother once forced on you, but many experts say that this old trick does, in fact, hold water.
In a 2005 randomized study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers followed nearly 400 healthy volunteers for 60 days during cold and flu season. The participants were asked to gargle with salt water three times a day. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the volunteers who gargled regularly had a nearly 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections compared to the participants who didn’t gargle. Also, when they did get sick, “gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms,” the researchers explained.
According to the editor of “The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies,” gargling with salt water loosens thick mucus, which can get rid of irritants like bacteria and allergens from the throat.
3. Take a Steamy Shower
Go ahead: take a nice, long, steamy shower — it may help you beat that nasty cough. Hot showers can help ease a bad cough by loosening mucus buildup. If you’re not in the mood for a hot shower, get your humidifier out and let that steam soothe you. In a dry home, snot can become dry, and putting moisture back in the air can help your cough. But like all good things, don’t overdo it.
“The downside is, if you don’t clean it, (humidifiers) become reservoirs for pumping out fungus and mold into the air, and bacteria,” says Robert Naclerio, MD, chief of Otolaryngology at the University of Chicago.
4. Drink Lots Of Liquids
Last but not least, drink lots and lots of liquids — whether it’s water or herbal tea. Drinking lots of fluids thins out the mucus in postnasal drip and keeps the membranes moist, which in turn helps ease a persistent cough. However, you should avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate you.
5. Snack on Some Ginger
Ginger has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years — and for good reason. It’s been used to cure nausea, digestive problems, headaches and reduce coughing. Ginger root can act like an antihistamine and decongestant, which eases symptoms of the common cold, including a cough.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.