When the common cold hits and a your head is stuffed up to your eyelids, you will do just about anything to be able to breath through your nose. Saline nasal lavage sounds quite disgusting at first, but often works better than other remedies. Once tried, it often becomes a staple in the medical repertoire of those who have experienced the relief it provides.

To perform the procedure on yourself you will need:

If you do not have normal saline sitting around the house, you will have to manufacture your own. You can do it imperial or metric:
  • Imperial: Mix 1/4 tsp of salt in a cup of water
  • Metric: Mix about a gram of salt into 250 ml of water
(Either Kosher salt or table salt is fine.)

Finally, put the solution in the bowl and test with your finger to make sure it is not too hot or too cold (you should almost not be able to feel the water if it is at the right temperature). When assured of the temperature, tilt your head forward a bit, put the lip of the bowl to your nostrils, and begin to snort the saline up into your nasal passages.

The sensation is unpleasant but not unbearable, and with perhaps a false start or two most people can get the hang of it. Once the saline is pulled up into the nasal cavities, you can "gargle" it a bit by letting air bubble up through it. Saline will almost always make it into the back of the throat, and when you have washed the sinus tracts for a few seconds, you can expell the saline from your nose and mouth.

Repeat this once or twice, and you will have significantly improved your ability to breathe. Saline nasal lavage is not by any means curative, but can certainly be palliative.

Further notes:

tdent says re Saline nasal lavage: This is called neti or jala neti in Hatha yoga... when done with the correct type of pot.