There’s nothing enjoyable about being sick and struggling with chest congestion while coughing up phlegm and battling a sore throat and lack of sleep. In fact, that is the perfect combination of symptoms to ensure that you will stay sick for as long as possible. If you’re tired of just waiting out upper respiratory infections, longingly remembering your mucous-free days, and hoping that your lungs will clear, you’ll love these natural methods will help you get back on your feet in no time.
Dry heating that is necessary for the winter months can also exacerbate mucous build-up because your body will naturally produce more as a lubricant for a dry throat and nose. Add a cool-mist humidifier to your bedroom and keep it running while you sleep. It will help reduce a sore throat associated with a cold and keep your nose clear. Be sure to keep doors closed to trap the steam.
Utilizing aromatherapy to help loosen mucus in the chest is one of the easiest and most effective natural methods. Most essential oils will help ease breathing, but some are especially effective, including basil, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, and oregano. Add a few drops of your favorite to a diffuser or inhale the scent directly from the bottle, if you are on the go. You can also make a homemade vapor rub to use on your chest by combining ¼ cup of coconut oil with 12 drops of one or a few of the oils listed above. This will target the chest congestion directly and help reduce buildup.
If you are very congested and want fast relief, drop 12-15 drops of essential oils into a bowl with boiling water. Put your head over the bowl and cover it with a towel to catch the steam. Stay there for about 5-10 minutes. As a bonus, it will act as a natural facial and help open and clear out your pores. Remember to drink a large glass of water following this treatment to avoid dehydration.
Let yourself cough
Though coughing can get irritating incredibly, it is best to avoid using cough suppressants if you are coughing up phlegm. Using medication or other means of cough suppressants frequently could prevent your body from naturally clearing out the blockage and restoring healthy breathing. Instead, don’t swallow any mucous that rises up into your throat but find a way to dispose of it, such as in the sink or a tissue.
Studies have found that buckwheat honey may be more effective at preventing and relieving cold-related congestion than some over the counter medications. Take a teaspoon of honey every three or four hours to kee your cough at bay and soothe your sore throat. It also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it an excellent tool for reducing the duration of your illness. Remember, honey should not be given to infants under 12 months.
Believe it or not, chicken soup for a cold isn’t just a myth. Warm broths, soups, and teas can actually help thin mucus and clear it from your nose and chest. As usual, drink lots of water, but you can also sip on herbal tea and broth to help keep you hydrated, soothe your throat, reduce coughing, and alleviate congestion.
Your diet can either harm or help your upper respiratory infection. Certain foods that could keep you clear and free of mucus buildup include garlic, ginger, lemon, and spices like cayenne and chili pepper. Any foods with a little kick to the sinuses will be beneficial and may provide relief. Other foods and supplements that are loaded with nutrients and vitamins to help battle an infection include berries, ginseng, guava, echinacea, licorice root, pomegranate, and zinc. Remember, always consult with your doctor before beginning any supplementation if you are already on prescription medication.
When to see a doctor
While most chest congestion will go away within a few days and will not require a trip to the doctor, it is important to make an appointment if your symptoms persist for over two weeks or are accompanied by fever, chest pain, or trouble breathing. It is also a good idea to see a doctor if the mucous changes in color or texture as this could mean that an infection is present.