Between endless sniffling and your voice sounding decidedly unsexy, feeling congested is a typical winter woe that no one is fond of. While everyone is preaching "just breathe" these days, that mantra can't really apply here, so we've found some strategies to help clear those airways, albeit temporarily.
"Breathing in steam helps moisturize nasal passages and sinuses, allowing mucus and phlegm to loosen," says Hoboken, NJ-based primary care physician Malini George, M.D. Aim for a 15-minute session with a gadget like Panasonic's Facial Ionic Steam ($180; shop.panasonic.com). For a more spa-like experience, add in a blend of detoxifying herbs (we like the blend of calendula, rosemary and comfrey in Mullein & Sparrow's Facial Steam, $25; mulleinandsparrow.com). Help keep tissue moist by also "using a vaporizer or humidifier frequently, especially during the night-time," says N.Y.C. internist Jeffrey Graf, M.D. We like Dyson's version, which also kills 99-percent of bacteria ($499; dyson.com).
Suds Up with Essential Oils
To create a Vicks VapoRub effect in the shower that helps ease a head cold, use a body wash that contains essentials oils like eucalyptus and peppermint. (We love the nose-clearing scent of Molton Brown Eucalyptus body wash, $30; moltonbrown.com). For a more inexpensive option, try Kiss My Face Cold & Flu shower gel, $9; kissmyface.com). "Menthol in peppermint essential oil has been shown to help breathing, and inhaling eucalyptus has been shown to dilate blood vessels, allowing more air into the lung," says aromatherapy expert, Farah Abassi, who has included both oils in an energizing blend. (Aroma360 Wake Me Up; $39; aroma360.com).
Spritz It On
If you're looking for some relief during the day, a shower or steam session may not be possible. Instead, try using a facial mist containing ingredients like lavender or aloe. Lavender is naturally anti-bacterial while aloe can help soothe inflamed tissue. Try Farmaesthetics Cool Aloe Mist $25; farmaesthetics.com for some instant TLC.