How to ease chest congestion

Updated April 17, 2017

Chest congestion may be caused by a viral illness, such as a cold or flu, or may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as bronchitis, asthma or pneumonia. Chronic chest congestion requires medical evaluation, but most cases of chest congestion are temporary and can be treated at home.

Run a humidifier inside your home or bedroom, especially at night while you are sleeping. Moist air loosens mucus and relieves coughs due to chest congestion. Clean your humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of mould and bacteria, both of which can irritate the lungs and worsen congestion.

Take antibiotics if your chest congestion is caused by a bacterial infection. The type of antibiotics and the length of your treatment will depend on many factors, including your symptoms, diagnosis, overall health and medical history. Take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better after a few days.

Increase your intake of fluids to thin the mucus in your lungs and prevent dehydration. Extra fluid intake is especially important if your congestion is accompanied by a fever.

Use an over-the-counter decongestant or expectorant. Do not use cough suppressants when chest congestion is significant, because coughing helps bring up mucus and remove irritants from the lungs. However, your doctor may prescribe a cough suppressant to use at night if you are unable to sleep due to coughing.

Take deep breaths, even if it is difficult to do so. Deep breathing expands the air sacs in the lungs and prevents blockages caused by mucus. Approximately once every hour, take in a deep breath and hold it for several seconds before exhaling.

Stop smoking. Bronchitis is one of the primary causes of chest congestion, and smoking is responsible for 80 per cent of all chronic bronchitis cases.

Use a bronchodilator if your chest congestion is caused by asthma, bronchitis or another serious illness. Bronchodilator medications are often given through inhalers and help open up the airways and reduce mucus to enable easier breathing.

Things You'll Need

  • Humidifier
  • Over-the-counter decongestant
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