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Got the sniffles? Try our readers’ remedies

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At the first sign of a scratchy throat or runny nose, we all have our go-to strategies to keep from catching a full-blown cold. Some strategies just might be stranger than others.

In response to an story about fewer Americans using alternative or complementary cold remedies, we asked readers to tell us their best methods for keeping colds at bay. Some of you use the old standbys — vitamin C, hot tea and echinacea — but a few of you have some unique ideas: black licorice candy, a teaspoon of Tabasco and a Nordic concoction called glogg.

But some readers, like Dulcie Berkman of Rochester, Minn., prefer more proactive measures to prevent infections.

"Keeping your TV and other remotes in zipper baggies can keep germs off them any time of the year, but especially for a sick person to use," writes Berkman, who's from Rochester, Minn. "The remote still works through the plastic. This has the added advantage of protection from spills that might wreck the remote."

Hey, whatever works. Keep reading for more responses.

Amazingly, I found that when I started to get a cold, all I needed to do was go to my local Applebee's and order a Mudslide and drink it. I don't know if alcohol kills off germs or what, but for a few years that was my remedy. I would only drink ONE drink though, anything more was just too much. Sadly I have moved to a town where Applebee's is over a 2 hour drive away in good weather so I haven't been able to use that remedy for a while. I might have to experiment with other alcoholic drinks.

— Jill

When I get a cold, I take a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce, followed by a glass of water, every 4 hours. This sweats the cold out in 36-48 hours.

— Bob Beaman, North Attleborough, Mass.

Black Licorice candy really works for me. Licorice root is really good for fighting viruses and getting rid of congestion. It's also really good for your liver and digestion although you shouldn't eat too much of it because it can increase your blood pressure. Last month I had a cold that just wasn't going away and I had a sinus infection ... Well after a couple of weeks of that I remembered what my Naturopathic physician told me about licorice root — so I ate several sticks of organic black licorice (the kind that has licorice root in it) and my congestion disappeared within the hour. My mom got the cold next and I told her to try black licorice and she experienced the same results — within the hour her congestion was gone and she was feeling a lot better.

— Joy Labadie, Fort Collins, Colo.

Jello water to soothe a sore throat (you know, homemade jello before you put it in the fridge — it tastes like kool-aid or warm gatorade). Chicken Soup for the sniffles (or any hot and steamy soup), lots of water and sleep. And orange juice.

— SD, Houston

Being of Scandanavian descent, I drink glogg (a homemade brew). It works great!!

— Tom Forsberg, Auburn, Mass.

Zicam, it's the only thing I've found that works.

— Robin, Lakeside, Calif.

I regularly do a saline nasal wash 3x's per week. On the rare ocassion I get a cold I bump it up to 2 times daily. That seems to cut the intensity & duration of the cold. I also drink hot water with lemon juice & cayenne pepper, it soothes the throat & helps loosen congestion.

— Desiree, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Home remedy: Onion Syrup. A mixture of Sliced Onions,Vinager,Lemon Juice, and honey, heated until thick, sip with spoon while the vapors unclogs your head.

— Althea, Chesapeake, Va.

I try to let my body fight it off. I usually sleep more, and I make sure that I'm always drinking plenty of fluids.

— Katherine, Alexander City, Ala.

I use Zicam at the first sign of a cold. In the last 5 yrs all but one cold was cleared up in a day or two without progressing pass the scratchy throat stage.

— Betsy Hardin, Ellensburg, Wash.

I make fresh ginger tea for our family to drink during the cold season as well as first signs of a cold. Ginger has great medicinal qualities if you don't boil it, but simmer it.

— Maya, Baltimore

My Daddy has always used this and it works everytime. Vicks vapor rub, rub on chest, back, bottoms of feet and put a glob in each nostril, put socks on put warm jammies on and throw a damp towel in the microwave to get nice and hot- throw that hot damp towel on your chest under your warm jammies and go to sleep. When you wake up you feel like a brand new person every time. I tell everybody about this and it works!!!!

— Angela Filter, Norfolk, Va.

Zicam at the first sign of a cold, best thing I've found to decrese the length of a cold and lessen it's severity.

— Leslie Ratcliffe, Madison, Wis.

I believe in lots of handwashing and not touching the hands to the face. This is the first cold I've had in 5 years and I forgot how miserable it makes you. I am taking over the counter meds (expectorant and cough), taking hot showers and drinking lots of fluids.

— Dorothea Carson, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

During the cold and flu season, I try to distance myself from coworkers who insist on coming to work ill. I wash my hands often and will use my towel I used to dry my hands to open the door. There are those that still refuse to wash after visiting and the door is the first thing they touch on the way out. I also try to purchase my Christmas gifts early to avoid the crowds. The less contact with people with colds the better. If I do catch a cold, I tend to use the old fashioned comforts to ease my misery, such as chicken soup, but I take no pills. I want my body to fight the disease by itself.

— Keith E., Hershey, Pa.

I use real echinacea. I mean that I've harvested myself from my garden. It's sad that people say it doesn't work, because they're probably using some capsules from Wal Mart, which are totally useless. If your tongue doesn't tingle when you take echinacea, it's old and useless.

— Theresa Root, Atchison, Kan.

Probiotics work wonders for me and all of the rest of our family. My own sickness rate has dropped from a consistent 4-full-weeks per year to zero or one day per year. You cannot tell me that natural health remedies do not work, for I am living proof that they do.

— Bill Baer

Vitamin C 1000 mg daily. Drink tea and honey since honey has some anti-microbial properties. Two Sudafed and three Motrin every 6 hours. Lots of liquids to drink. Saline nasal irrigation and saline gargles. The saline nasal irrigation will help clear the nasal passages. Afrin or something similar for five days maximum. Now the medications named are brand names but generics work just as well. I don't have any financial connections with any of them but people recognize brand names and then can obtain the generic equivelant.

— M. David Rodriguez, Denver

I shower everyday, change my bedding daily and spray the mattress & pillows with Lysol. I use clorox in my dishwater and wipe door knobs, handles, light switches, the telephone and remote with Clorox wipes or lysol. I constantly clean and disinfect.

— Anonymous

I read something about 10 years ago that tonque scraping is the best way to avoid a cold. I have been doing it ever since and only had one cold since. Every morning the first thing I do is use a tonque scraper and scape it clean. Then brush my teeth. Works for me.

— Anonymous, Fish Creek, Wis.

At the first sign of a cold (usually scratchy throat for me) I take 1000 mg of Vitamin C and I do this for at least 3 days and by then I'm cleared up. I have been doing this for at least 5 yrs. and in all that time I've only had the flu once but never a cold.

— Anonymous, Hamptom Roads, Va.

When I feel a sore throat or cold coming on, I drink at least 3-4 cups of green tea with raw honey every day. I also make chamomile tea with raw honey, lemon, and a SMALL amount of cayenne pepper. Adequate sleep, avoiding stressful situations, eating lots of vegetables, and even small amounts of physical activity help me take care of myself when I have a cold. I do not take medicine or supplements. To avoid getting sick in the first place, I drink at least 3 liters of water daily, eat a diet composed of primarily fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds, and exercise at least 6 days a week. I really only get sick once every year or two as a result.

— Jake, Seattle

Make sure I gargle with Listerine twice a day. Eat Thai Lemon Grass Soup (Tom Yum Gai) — Viet Pho soup — and lots of fruit during the most dangerous months of the cold season.

— John Otroba, Centreville, Va.

I just stopped taking anything altogether. Now when i feel like im under the weather i'll drink more water and rest more.

— Ebo, Woodbridge, Va.

Flat ginger ale, endless cups of tea, resting as much as I can and feeling sorry for myself.

— Nelly, Albany, N.Y.