November 15, 2006

Hair Dryer vs. Common Cold

The cold season is upon us and I've noticed a new remedy (new to me anyway) floating around on the internet. In addition to the usual ways to keep the immune system strong (healthy diet, plenty of sleep, exercise, water and hand-washing), some people swear by blowing a hair dryer up your nose.

According to this post on Ask Metafilter:

The hair dryer trick works on a number of levels. First, rhino virus (one of the virus families that causes about 35% of common colds in adults) grows best at temperatures around 91° F, and dies above 105° F. So, raising the temperature of your nose, and nasal and sinuses to 104° F for a few minutes can kill a lot of virus. Second, warming your nasal membranes and sinuses this way immediately dries them, and can shrink them, relieving headache pain and pressure. Drying the nose and sinuses temporarily also inhibits the growth of virus, and transmission of virus through nasal drip, tissues, and sneezing. Third, drying the nose and sinuses interrupts the natural histamine reactions that cause tissue swelling and sensitize you to other allergens.

Use a bit of lotion on your nose and face to keep from drying the skin unduly, set the hair dryer on low heat, low airflow settings (or higher, if you can take it), and breathe warm, dry air for 3 to 5 minutes at time, or until you can feel your nose and face are thoroughly warmed and dried. You can repeat as often as needed, but doing this 4 to 6 times in the first 24 hours of feeling drippy or stuffy will reliably stop a cold in its tracks, and will provide substantial symptomatic relief of on-going colds in later stages.

Your mileage may vary--after all, the writer goes on to extol the cold-fighting virtues of Scotch whiskey and buttered toast with marmalade. A slightly more authoritative source for the hair dryer cure is here.

I'm not planning to catch a cold, but if I do, I think I'll try this. How about you? What's your favorite home remedy?

Edit 12/21/2010: For some reason, this post has received a surprising amount of traffic. I researched the topic a little more and wrote a similar but better researched article on the hair dryer cure for the common cold.


  1. I'll go with the Scoth Whiskey

  2. I do have a bit of a cold now, but it's all in my throat, so I don't think I need to blow anything up my nose. Hmmm, what to put in my throat? Whiskey or marmalade?