A consistent cough, heaviness in the chest, and constant urge to clear your throat of mucus are signs you might be having chest congestion. Usually thought to be a companion of cold weather conditions, chest congestion is a common experience that everyone must have felt at least once in life.
Chest congestion is a result of an external interference by a foreign body and is characterized by a buildup of mucus in the respiratory tract. This excessive production of mucus gives a feeling of tightness in your chest.
The respiratory passages produce mucus as a barrier to restrict the entry of microbial pathogens into the system. When your body contracts an infection, as a response it produces extra mucus to help combat the microbial invasion and expel the microbes out along with the expectorated mucus.
Causes of Chest Congestion
Chest congestion involves the buildup of mucus and excess fluids in the passageways of the respiratory system as a result of a number of ailments including:
- Common cold
- Bacteria and fungi
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Influenza (flu)
Signs and Symptoms of Chest Congestion
You are likely to experience the following symptoms when your chest is congested:
- Presence of phlegm
- Mild chest pain
- Rapid breathing
- Chest tightness
- Irritation in the throat
- Difficulty breathing
Natural Treatment Options for Chest Congestion
When trying to get rid of your chest congestion, the key is to loosen the trapped mucus and clear the respiratory passages. Outlined below are some affordable and easy-to-use methods that can pave the way towards a speedy recovery.
1. Gargle with Salt Water
A reliable remedy to treat sore throat, gargling with salt water several times a day can help loosen the phlegm and lessen the congestion in your chest.
The salt draws out the mucus from the respiratory tract, and the hot water reduces the irritation in the throat and soothes your respiratory tract.
A study published in the American Journal of Backentive Medicine reports the positive effects of frequent water gargling among healthy people in preventing upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs).
- To a glass of warm water, add 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Stir until the salt is dissolved completely.
- Gargle with this solution for a few seconds two to three times until required.
2. Inhale Steam
You can help relieve your congested chest by inhaling steam, which provides moisture and helps loosen and dissolve the built-up mucus in the respiratory tracts.
- Pour hot water in a deep bowl. Add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil. Hold your face over the bowl and put a towel over your head, leaving space between the steam and your face to avoid getting burnt. Inhale the steam for as long as you can and breathe deeply. The duration of steam inhalation is upon your discretion. Do this two to three times a day
- Set up a hot shower and breathe in the steam vapor for 5 minutes.
Steam inhalation is not ideal for:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- People suffering from high blood pressure or heart conditions
- People allergic to eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils
3. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar in Water
Apple cider vinegar can help loosen the mucus and oust it from your system. This can help relieve chest congestion.
Apple cider vinegar can also rev up your immunity levels and curb the causes of chest congestion in the first place due to its natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
- To 1 cup of warm water, add 2 teaspoons of organic raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
- Mix in 1 teaspoon of raw honey.
- Drink this solution two to three times a day for 1 week.
4. Say Yes to Turmeric
The active compound in turmeric called curcumin is an expectorant and provides quick relief from chest congestion. Aside from its ability to loosen phlegm, turmeric is a rich anti-inflammatory agent that may help deal with the associated symptoms of chest congestion such as cough and pain.
- To 1 glass of warm water, add a pinch of turmeric powder. Gargle with this mixture a few times daily until required.
- Alternatively, mix 2 tablespoons each of turmeric powder and apple cider vinegar in 1 glass of water. Take this solution two times daily until needed.
5. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger can help with chest congestion due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The polyphenols in ginger may restrict the secretion of mucus. Plus, ginger is an immune-boosting food that can help fight infections that are primarily the reason behind a congested chest.
- To 1 cup of hot water, add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped raw ginger. Cover and allow it to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the water and drizzle it with a little honey. Drink this tea three times daily till needed
- Alternatively, you can prepare a concoction of 1 teaspoon each of dry ginger powder, black pepper powder, and clove powder. Divide it into three doses. Take this concoction with honey or milk three times a day
- Also, chewing ginger candies or small pieces of ginger throughout the day may help you get rid of chest congestion
6. Drink an Onion Concoction
Onion contains high levels of quercetin that can help loosen the clogged mucus and prevents further buildup of mucus in the chest. An added is its antimicrobial activity that can help ward off infections.
- Extract the juice of one onion. To equal amounts of lemon juice and water, add a ½ teaspoon of honey and the extracted onion juice. Heat this mixture until it is lukewarm. Drink this solution when warm three to four times a day.
- Alternatively, chew and swallow five or six small onions or shallots along with sugar before you go to bed at night.
7. Drink Lemon Water
Lemon contains copious amounts of citric acid, which can help reduce the thickness of the phlegm and can facilitate its easy discharge from the body.
Plus, lemon contains vitamin C that can aid in boosting your immunity and help fight infections.
- To 1 glass of hot water, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and a little honey. Drink this solution several times a day in between meals.
- You can also gargle with lemon water. Add 1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest to 1 cup of hot water. Cover and allow it to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the water and gargle with it. Follow this treatment two to three times until needed
8. Consume a Concoction of Honey
Well known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, honey helps fight infections. Honey can help relieve chest congestion by reducing the thickness of the mucus and facilitating its expulsion from your respiratory tract.
- Either mix 1 teaspoon of raw honey in warm water or swallow pure honey.
- To a ½ teaspoon of powdered black pepper, add raw honey to make a paste. Swallow this paste three to four times daily until needed.
9. Choose Garlic
Garlic is believed to possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight a range of microbial infections including those that can cause chest congestion.
Plus, it contains vitamin A, C, and B and minerals, namely, copper, iron, calcium, and selenium, which can contribute to your health positively.
- To 1 cup of water or milk, boil two to three crushed garlic cloves. Strain the liquid and add a few drops of honey. Drink this solution two times a day until required.
- To 1 cup of hot water, add two crushed garlic cloves and juice of three lemons. Add ½ teaspoon of black pepper and salt as required. Drink this mixture while it is warm two times a day until needed.
10. Soothe Your Throat with Licorice Tea
Licorice is a beneficial remedy for chest congestion. It helps expel mucus through its expectorant activity.
- To 1 cup of hot water, add ½ teaspoon of licorice root. Cover and allow it to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the water, and add a little honey. Drink this tea two to three times a day.
- To 1 glass of hot water, add ½ teaspoon each of licorice powder and ginger powder. Drink this mixture two times a day until needed.
When to See a Doctor
Having a congested chest can leave you insipid and jaded. Although a minor chest congestion can usually subside in 3-5 days, a lingering chest congestion lasting for more than 7-14 days needs medical attention. Consult your doctor immediately if:
- You experience wheezing.
- You develop a high fever.
- You are having trouble breathing.
- You are coughing up blood.
- Your mucus changes texture or color.
- Your chest distress keeps you up at night.
- You have a “cold” that lasts for more than 7-14 days.
Mild chest congestion can be treated with over-the-counter medication, but to avoid the side effects of decongestants, using natural home remedies to treat your chest congestion seems like an easy-to-follow approach.
- Drink hot liquids such as green tea, herbal tea, and black coffee.
- Slurp on chicken soups and inhale its steam to ease chest congestion.
- Include spicy foods in your diet in a bid to thin the trapped mucus.
- Drink adequate amounts of water and eat fruits and veggies rich in vitamins.
- Stay away from carbonated drinks and greasy and processed foods that can aggravate your chest congestion.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- To keep your nasal passages open, use a humidifier at night.
Chest congestion can be a symptom of an underlying condition such as an allergy, cold, and flu. It can be uncomfortable and cause respiratory distress.
Mild congestion in the chest can be treated by medications available in your local pharmacy shops. Alternatively, you can use home remedies to dislodge the trapped mucus, relieve the tightness in your chest, and ease your breathing.
Aside from the home remedies, make sure you drink hot liquids and follow a diet that can help you keep infections at bay.
However, it is wise to seek medical attention in persistent cases of chest congestion to determine the reason behind the condition.
- Cough and the Common Cold. Plum X Metrix. . Published January 2006.
- Kushnir NM, Kaliner MA, Li HH. Allergic Asthma: Symptoms and Treatment. WAO. . Published July 2015.
- Braman SS. Chronic Cough Due to Acute Bronchitis. Plum X Metrix. . Published January 2006.
- Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, et al. Backention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. American journal of preventive medicine. . Published November 2005.
- Nanda MS. Efficacy of Steam Inhalation with Inhalant Capsules in Patients with Common Cold in a Rural Set Up. IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences. . Published February 2015.
- Yagnik D, Serafin V, Shah AJ. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans ; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific Reports. . Published January 29, 2018.
- Vyas K. The Cure is in the Roots: Turmeric. Journal of Nutritional Disorders &Therapy . . Published June 3, 2015.
- Chang JS, Wang KC, Yeh CF, Shieh DE, Chiang LC. Fresh ginger (Zingiberofficinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. . Published January 9, 2013.
- Li Y, Yao J, Han C. Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity. Nutrients. . Published March 15, 2016.
- Yang T, Luo F, Shen Y. Quercetin attenuates airway inflammation and mucus production induced by cigarette smoke in rats. International Immunopharmacology. . Published March 27, 2012.
- NHS Choices. . Published December 18, 2017.
- Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. . Published November 3, 2017.
- Oduwole O, Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita A, Udoh EE. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. . Published March 14, 2012.
- Wallock-Richards D, Doherty CJ, Doherty L, et al. Garlic Revisited: Antimicrobial Activity of Allicin-Containing Garlic Extracts against Burkholderiacepacia Complex. PLOS ONE. . Published December 1, 2004.
- Kuang Y, Li B, Fan J. Antitussive and expectorant activities of licorice and its major compounds. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. . Published December 2, 2017.