Healthy travel tips: relieving a cold or flu while on the road
If only we could schedule cold or flu when they are most convenient. Sadly, those bugs seem to choose the worse time to strike, such as when we're traveling, and all our usual remedies are out of reach. Don't let a stuffy nose put you off your trip, however. There's plenty you can do to open your nasal passages and relieve sinus pressure and headache while you're on the road.
A blocked-up nose doesn't only make you sound weird when you speak; it's also uncomfortable and can lead to worse problems such as a sinus infection. Whether you're on a bus, train or plane or in a car, you can help relieve the congestion by trying some of these tips:
- Drink plenty. Sorry, that doesn't mean you should take advantage of free alcohol if you're on a plane. Drink plenty of water to keep your nasal tissues moist and reduce irritation, and drink hot beverages so the passages can benefit from the rising steam. If nasal congestion while traveling is a sad fact of life for you, and you aren't traveling by plane, pack ginger and lemon herbal tea bags and a flask of hot water to use when the mucus begins to build.
- Eat something spicy. Chili peppers and horseradish help drain nasal mucus. You'll be blowing it all out of your nose in no time.
- Hum for around an hour. You probably only want to try this one if you're alone in a car. Humming improves the airflow and the beneficial gases in your sinuses and can help prevent congestion from turning into a sinus infection.
- Use nasal decongestant sprays. An over-the-counter nasal decongestant can provide immediate relief from a stuffy nose if you can manage to pick one up from a drugstore while traveling. Excessive use of nasal medications could make your symptoms worse, however. For gentler relief from nasal congestion, purchase a saline nasal spray.
Out of all the symptoms of colds and flu, sinus headache is one of the worst to deal with while on the road, especially when flying. The dry atmosphere and changes in air pressure in the cabin make congested sinuses even more uncomfortable. For relief from a sinus headache, try these fixes:
- Acupressure. Pressing your fingertips to certain places on your face can reduce the pain from a sinus headache. Firmly press the point above your nose and between your eyebrows for two minutes to help drain your sinuses. You can also try pressing both sides of your nostrils for one minute for another sinus unblocker. For a behind-the-eyes headache, press in and up at the top of your nose next to the corners of your eyes for five minutes. Other sinus acupressure points include the groove below your nose, the bottom of your cheekbones beneath the pupils of your eyes, and just above your eyebrow ridges.
- Hot and cold compresses. If you have access to hot and cold water and washcloths or something similar while you're on the road, you can try to relieve your sinus headache. Place a hot washcloth over your eyes and nose, and hold it there for three minutes. Swap the hot washcloth for a cold cloth, and hold that in the same place for 30 seconds. After repeating the treatment three times, you should feel some relief. Use the hot and cold compresses up to four times a day.
- Deep breathing. You can't reduce congestion or inflammation in your sinuses with deep breathing, but it can help you cope with the discomfort until you reach your destination. Breathe in slowly, counting to five while imagining the air is filling a spot below your belly button; then breathe out slowly, counting to five again.
When to see a doctor
When your cold or flu could be something more serious, it's time to take a detour from your trip and see a doctor. If you experience numbness, tingling, weakness or confusion, or nausea or vomiting that doesn't stop, you should book an emergency appointment with a physician. Other symptoms that require immediate medical attention include yellow or green mucus, relentless neck pain or fever, and pain that lasts longer than 24 hours.