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Tightness in chest keeping you up all night? Well, dealing with chest congestion is never easy to endure. It can leave you in constant discomfort, with a stuffed and obstructed feeling in the chest. Truth is, with the increasing pollution, the prevalence of chest congestion is increasing with each day. Even a large number of the pediatric population is suffering from chest congestion. So it is best to learn ways to deal with it effectively.

When it comes to causes that could possibly lead to chest congestion, these can be diverse like cold, flu, bronchial infection, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis. Moreover, it can manifest in several different ways like with a feeling of tightness in the chest, chest pain, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath. However, you can lay your worries to rest we have a complete guide for you to manage your chest congestion effectively.

Relax and read the whole article to know the various tips and home remedies that can provide you with the ultimate relief.

  1. Self care tips for chest congestion
  2. Home remedies for chest congestion
  3. Steam inhalation for chest congestion
  4. Salt water gargle for chest congestion
  5. Warm drinks for chest congestion
  6. Honey for chest congestion
  7. Other remedies for chest congestion
  8. Essential oil for chest congestion
  9. Vaporub for chest congestion
  10. N-acetylcytiene (NAC) for chest congestion
  11. When to see a doctor for chest congestion

Before trying any medication or procedure to get rid of any condition, it is best to learn methods of simple health and hygiene care. Self-care will not only provide you relief from your health condition but also it ensures optimum health and prevents recurrence of the said condition. Here are some of the tips that will help you in relieving chest congestion and give you the comfort you desperately need without the use of any medicines:

  • Drink plenty of water. Keep yourself adequately hydrated. It helps in fighting the infection as well as loosens the mucus so that you can cough it out easily. (Read more: How many glasses of water to drink in a day)
  • Take adequate rest while going through chest congestion. Avoid vigorous activity as it might worsen your condition. Sit and relax on a couch, enjoy some steaming cup of tea or coffee. Apart from soothing your muscles, it will also help liquify the accumulated mucus so that it can be easily expelled out of the body.
  • Sleep on a comfortable, cozy mattress to keep yourself warm and get adequate rest at night. You could also take support from a few pillows to sleep comfortably.
  • Elevate your head while sleeping, taking support from extra pillows. It will help you to breathe easy.
  • Stop smoking, at least during the period of congestion, in case you can't give up completely right now. Smoking could possibly worsen the situation by increasing the stress to your chest and respiratory system.

(Read more: Disadvantages of smoking and benefits of quitting smoking)

Secret cures from various disease conditions often lie inside the kitchen. Home remedies have long since used to relieve or provide temporary respite from various conditions. And the best part is that you can do most of the things yourself or with the help of friends or family members, so. you can feel at ease without even going to the pharmacy for medications. Following is a list of few remedies that will allow you to breathe comfortably:

The simplest remedy to clear a blocked nasal pathway or airway is by inhalation of steam. Steam holds an inherent potential to loosen mucus, helping you breathe with ease. It is not just a thing that is practiced in a home lacking any scientific background. Various studies have proven the effectiveness of steam in clearing airway blockage due to the common cold. One such study demonstrated noticeable changes in breathing patterns after steam inhalation session for 20 minutes. The water temperature going through the nose was kept between 42 to 44 ℃.

Now let us move on to know the correct way to take steam inhalation. Follow the mentioned steps for effective results:

What you'll need?

  • Water
  • Saucepan
  • Clean towel

Procedure:

  • Take a saucepan, fill it with water till half of its capacity
  • Boil the water for a few minutes
  • Turn the heat off and take a clean towel
  • Cover your head and neck with a towel in a way that your nose faces towards the steaming water
  • Let no steam escape 
  • Inhale the steam by taking a deep breath in and out
  • Do this until steam keeps coming out of the pan
  • Repeat this procedure 2 to 3 times per day for ultimate relief

Additional Tips:

  • Hot water bath: You can also get benefits of steam by taking a hot shower bath or by sitting in a bathtub with warm water for a while. They are equally effective in alleviating the discomfort and relieve muscle tension and stress as an added perk.
  • Humidifier: Most people suffering from congestion and cough prefer using a humidifier or vaporizer in order to get instant relief. If you frequently suffer from chest congestion, investing in a good quality humidifier or vaporizer could be a wise decision. A humidifier uses distilled water to improve humidity in your surrounding area. It is especially effective in dry winters or hot and dry summers.

Gargling with boiled water mixed with a pinch of salt is a go-to remedy for people who suffer from sore throat. The science behind this is simple: salt tends to increase the mucociliary function and helps in expelling the mucus out of the airway. Although, it might not give you direct relief from chest congestion, decreasing the mucus deposition will eventually ease the congestion. For saltwater gargling you just need to:

What you'll need?

  • Salt
  • Warm water

Procedure:

  • Boil a cup of water and add a pinch of regular salt to it
  • Once it cools down to a bearable temperature, take a sip squash in and out of the mouth and spit it out
  • Keep doing the same until you use all the salt water for gargling
  • Repeat this a few times every day to get rid of distress

Water has a tendency to clear out body wastes, be it mucus, undigested foods, unabsorbed drugs or any other substance. It thins the accumulated mucus and makes it flowy so that it can be expatriated. You can certainly use this property of water to clear the congested chest and increase the airflow of the lungs. Studies have shown that hot drinks provide immediate as well as sustained relief from cough, chills, tiredness and sore throat caused by various infections.

You can take several drinks to relieve the symptoms, like:

  • Green tea
  • Herbal tea
  • Fruit or spice-infused water
  • Soup
  • Or plain warm water

Honey is not just a healthy and natural sweetener for your pancakes. It also possesses an enormous amount of medicinal properties, starting from facilitating weight loss to fighting infection. When it comes to cough and congestion it stands the tallest amongst all home remedies.

When you consume honey, it immediately soothes the blocked airway. Along with this, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help in combating the symptoms of viral or bacterial infection, that are usually the cause of congestion.

All you have to do is take 1 tablespoon of honey daily to see noticeable changes within a few days. If you're suffering from active symptoms, increase the frequency of intake to 3 to 4 times a day.

While we are at it, it is important to point out that honey is not recommended for infants (below 12 months of age).

Apart from the abovementioned remedies, some of the regular spices and food supplements have been traditionally employed for the treatment of health conditions since ages. Our grandmothers have played a vital role in keeping their use alive by incorporating them in various remedies. Here is a small list of such herbs and supplements that may just become your next go-to remedy for chest congestion:

Vitamin C
You probably know that Vitamin C is helpful in improving immunity. It stimulates the immune system so your body can actively fight against infections and harmful microbes. But what most people don’t know is that vitamin C is also an excellent antioxidant (eliminates dangerous free radicals from the body). This antioxidative property of vitamin C reduces oxidative stress from the body and further helps us to fight against infections. Vitamin C can also reduce the severity and length of cold, cough and congestion.

For optimal benefits you can take vitamin C supplements or can eat citrus fruits and lemons, both are equally effective as far as results are concerned.

Ginger
Ginger tea is usually taken during winters for its warm, cozy and soothing effects. For relief from congestion too, you can consume ginger as such. There various ways to include ginger in foods and drinks:

  • Eat diced ginger with little bit of salt or grate it in salads and sprouts
  • Drink ginger tea

However,  ginger tea can be the best option to get rid of chest congestion. Ginger has a warming effect on the body, which along with the warmth from the tea helps liquefy mucus so it can be easily expelled. Furthermore, ginger provides additional antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to this delectable brew. Not only would it provide your respite from the accumulated mucus but also it helps relax muscles so you can relax and rest.

Garlic
Eating garlic may help in reducing the congestion and aids in respiration. The Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine suggests potent therapeutic effects of garlic on human health. It has antimicrobial as well as anti inflammatory properties, that are helpful in providing relief from infections and mucus accumulation in the body, thus providing relief from a congested chest. Just like ginger, garlic is also a warming spice. This means it promotes liquifIcation of mucus so it can be expelled out with coughing. To get its benefits you just have to grab a bulb of garlic, peel it and swallow it with warm water on an empty stomach. Alternatively, you can also incorporate it in your daily recipes optimally.

Additionally, there are a few less popular options, which can help you in reducing congestion. If you can find them easily, use them as remedy:

Essential oils are plant essences that carry the unique fragrance of the plant they are obtained from. They are often used in aromatherapy and massages for relieving stress and inducing a sense of general well being. However, along with their divine smell, essential oils are loaded with numerous bioactive compounds, which possess several medicinal properties. The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy shares evidence of the potent antimicrobial properties of essential oils, especially against respiratory tract infections and influenza virus.

So, using essential oils via inhalation can ease the airflow to lungs by suppressing microbial infections. Some essential oils also contain volatile compounds that promote mucus expulsion and reduce inflammation. There are several ways by which you can inhale the aroma from these essential oils like:

  • Direct inhalation from the bottle
  • Used in diffuser
  • Or steam inhalation

Common essential oils which can be used to relieve a congested chest are:

  • Lemongrass oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Peppermint oil

When it comes to easily available options, this one is unmissable. You might have seen numerous ads regarding vaporub and its ability to provide relief from chest congestion, cold or cough and consequently securing a good night’s sleep.

Vaporub usually consists of menthol and/or camphor extracts. These act on thermosensitive receptors and help in increasing nasal airflow in children as well as adults.

They also have stimulating action on the mucociliary movement that is ultimately responsible for mucus clearance and providing the utmost relief.

A study carried on 138 patients (from 2 to 11 years old children)  demonstrated noticeable relief from the distress caused by cold and chest congestion after application of vaporub after just two days. To bring out the most effective results, you need to massage the vaporub all over the chest and neck region a few times a day.

NAC is a supplementary medicine used for thinning the thick deposited layer of mucus in your airway. It helps in reducing the severity of congestion and cough. In a meta-analysis of 13 studies, patients using NAC have shown a significant reduction in the rate of exacerbation caused by chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The recommended dose of N-acetylcysteine is approximately 1200 mg per day to prevent aggravation and for someone without airway obstruction. But if you have the disease already, 600 mg will suffice.

It is always wiser to see a doctor for any health care problems. If you are noticing any of the below-mentioned signs, seek a doctor’s help immediately:

  • Congestion is getting worse even after taking remedies and over the counter medicines
  • Extreme difficulty in breathing
  • Breathing becomes irregular and rapid
  • Whistling sound while breathing
  • Inability and lack of desire to eat or drink
  • Fever
  • Skin becomes blue or very pale

References

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  2. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Chest infections
  3. Ophir D, Elad Y. Effects of steam inhalation on nasal patency and nasal symptoms in patients with the common cold. Am J Otolaryngol. 1987 May-Jun;8(3):149-53. PMID: 3303983
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Symptom Relief
  5. Sanu A, Eccles R. The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. Rhinology. 2008 Dec;46(4):271-5. PMID: 19145994
  6. Nicola Principi, Susanna Esposito2. Nasal Irrigation: An Imprecisely Defined Medical Procedure. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 May; 14(5): 516. PMID: 28492494
  7. Sarah J Barker. Honey for acute cough in children. Paediatr Child Health. 2016 May; 21(4): 199–200. PMID: 27429573
  8. Haider Abdul-Lateef Mousa. Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan; 22(1): 166–174. PMID: 27055821
  9. Ain Raal, Daisy Volmer, Renata Sõukand, Sofia Hratkevitš, Raivo Kalle. Complementary Treatment of the Common Cold and Flu with Medicinal Plants – Results from Two Samples of Pharmacy Customers in Estonia. PLoS One. 2013; 8(3): e58642. PMID: 23484045
  10. Leyla Bayan, Peir Hossain Koulivand, Ali Gorji. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan-Feb; 4(1): 1–14. PMID: 25050296
  11. Shigeharu Inouye Toshio Takizawa Hideyo Yamaguchi. Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact . Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Volume 47, Issue 5, May 2001, Pages 565–573
  12. PEDIATRICS; Official Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics. Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms. Volume 126, Number 6, December 2010
  13. Ian M. Paul et al. Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms. Pediatrics. 2010 Dec; 126(6): 1092–1099. PMID: 21059712
  14. Mario Cazzola et al. Influence of N-acetylcysteine on chronic bronchitis or COPD exacerbations: a meta-analysis. European Respiratory Review 2015 24: 451-461
  15. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Coughing and wheezing in children