Understanding and Getting Rid of Chest Congestion
GET RID OF CHEST CONGESTION, BY FIRST UNDERSTANDING IT
Upper respiratory tract infections, like the common cold or flu, often put your mucus membranes into overdrive – clogging up your airways and causing chest congestion. This is because of your body’s natural immune system; when you get sick, your body produces extra mucus and phlegm to trap germs, bacteria, and any other irritants that could cause harm to your body. The production of mucus and phlegm is designed to trap these pathogens before they enter your body.1 *
WHAT CAUSES CHEST CONGESTION?
Mucus is normally present in the body, but when you’re suffering from the cold or flu too much mucus is produced which can lead to coughing, congestion, and pain. Coughing and mucus is your body’s way of trying to remove the irritant that has entered your upper respiratory system2. Coughs are usually useful, and you shouldn’t try to stop them. Once an irritant is inhaled, mucus production is stimulated and tiny hairs in the lining of your nose and windpipe, called cilia, transport the mucus and irritant up and out of your throat. There it can either be coughed out or swallowed into the stomach 3.
SYMPTOMS OF CHEST CONGESTION
The following symptoms may be associated with chest congestion:
- Wet or dry cough
- Discomfort or tenderness in the chest
- Mucus and phlegm produced with a cough
Chest congestion symptoms can be the result of multiple ailments, but if your chest congestion is a result of a cold then it should typically last less than 10 days.
When coughing up mucus and phlegm, the color of the fluid may be an indication of underlying issues. See our chest cold article for more information on what the different colours of your mucus may mean for your health.
SEEKING RELIEF FROM CHEST CONGESTION
Dealing with a constant cough can be tough, especially if it is keeping you up at night. Try these suggestions to ease the symptoms of chest congestion while your medicine gets to work.
Tips & Home remedies to help you feel better with chest congestion2:
- Drink plenty of water: Water may help loosen mucus
- Use a humidifier or take a hot shower
- Get bed rest with your head elevated
- Drink hot tea with lemon and honey
- Use a hot compress on your chest
- Avoid unhealthy foods
- Avoid or quit smoking
- Avoid exposure to irritants such as smoke, dust or other pollutants
Medications TO HELP YOU relieve symptoms of CHEST CONGESTION:
- If you have difficulty clearing congestion because your cough produces thick mucus, consider taking an over-the-counter medication containing guaifenesin.
- Guaifenesin is an expectorant. It works by thinning and loosening the mucus clinging to the lungs or respiratory airways, making it easier to cough up mucus and breathe more clearly.4 Although Guaifenesin can help relief your cough caused by chest congestion, expectorants do not cure coughs and should only be taken as directed on the drug label.5
Cough suppressants work well to relieve a dry, hacking cough.
- Consider taking an over-the-counter medication containing dextromethorphan. It works by helping to control cough reflexes6. Be sure to always follow the instructions on the labels, and do not over suppress a productive cough. Coughing is useful as it brings up mucus from the lungs and helps to prevent bacterial infections.
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