If you’re suffering from the flu or a cold, then chest congestion is your inevitable and unwelcome companion.
Feeling congested is miserable. The gremlin on your chest that causes constant coughing is exhausting, and without any sleep, you can go downhill fast.
What Is Chest Congestion?
It’s normal to have some mucus in your nasal and chest passages because it stops germs and viruses from entering, but a buildup of mucus can cause difficulty sleeping, breathing, and eating. It can also cause a chest infection that may require antibiotics.
Your body attempts to expel chest congestion by coughing. Coughing brings up mucus, but it’s tiring—and when mucus is sticky, coughing it clear feels impossible.
Does Chest Congestion Need Antibiotics?
No, not unless it develops into an infection. In most cases, you can clear chest congestion at home. What you need is an expectorant.
Expectorants increase the moisture content in mucus, which loosens it up so your coughing is productive and you can cough your chest clear.
Here are the best home remedies for chest congestion.
8 Top Home Remedies for Chest Congestion
If the aim is to increase moisture content in mucus, then steam is your number-one friend. There are several ways to get steam into your lungs.
Use a Vaporizer: A vaporizer or humidifier increases moisture in the air. They’re especially helpful at night when lying down increases the need to cough.
Keep your windows closed and clean the machine regularly to prevent bacteria buildup.
Inhaling: Do it the old-fashioned way. Fill a bowl with hot water and drape a towel over your head. Inhale the steam! If you feel dizzy, move further away from the bowl.
Hot Bath or Shower: Not only does the hot water soothe your aching back and lungs, but the steam also shifts congestion.
A Hot Drink: A mug of hot tea, coffee, or water gives off steam. Inhale it before taking a sip.
Which leads us neatly to:
Cups of hot tea release steam and studies show they bring other chest congestion benefits such as stress relief and comfort.
It’s not good to drink too much caffeine, as it causes the shakes, insomnia, and anxiety—so make your tea for chest congestion green tea or an herbal variety.
The best teas for chest congestion are:
Menthol in peppermint helps shift congestion. You can buy it ready-made or create your own with boiling water and peppermint leaves.
Garlic tea doesn’t sound the tastiest, but garlic contains antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. If you’re worried your chest congestion could turn nasty, garlic tea is a good choice.
Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement taken to fight off winter flu. Studies show it may boost your immune system and reduce the number of colds you might catch, so it’s worth drinking this all winter to reduce your likelihood of chest congestion.
Green tea is chock full of the catechin EGCG. This is a natural antioxidant that fights cell damage and boosts your health. Drinking hot green tea can loosen chest congestion and boost your immune system.
Ginger tea, like garlic, is antibacterial. If you’re feeling under the weather, soothing ginger tea can quell nausea and speed up the expectorant process.
Lemon tea is refreshing and a great pick-me-up before you face a big meeting, as it clears your mind and loosens chest congestion. Drink it before a meeting to clear your throat, and keep sipping it to soothe irritation.
Plain old salt water can clear the tickly mucus at the back of your throat, but don’t drink it as tea. Instead, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in warm water and gargle for as long as you can.
If your throat is sore, salt water will soothe it as well as clear out the mucus.
Hot water with honey is the go-to natural combination for sore throats, but honey can also help clear chest congestion and prevent infections with its natural antibacterial and antiviral properties.
One study showed honey brought the best relief from upper respiratory tract infections in children, so do as your granny said and drink hot honey water when you have a cold.
Honey is best consumed as a hot tea. Pop some lemon in it for double chest congestion benefits.
We don’t drink enough water, despite our best intentions.
It’s difficult when you have a busy life; who wants to be busting for a pee on the commute or during a meeting?
However, having a hydrated body means congestion is more easily expelled. Drink as much liquid as you can to thin out mucus.
If you don’t have any of the best teas for congestion on hand, drink water.
Essential oils are non-prescription medicines that have been used for millennia to treat illness, so it’s no surprise they are effective at loosening and treating chest congestion.
Herbs can be drunk as an herbal tea, but also put in a vaporizer, rubbed onto skin through massage, or inhaled from a tissue.
Among the best essential oils for chest congestion are eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, rosemary, cinnamon, basil, and lemongrass.
Essential oils help loosen mucus, and many contain antiviral and antibiotic properties that can help prevent a chest infection.
Spice can loosen up mucus and release chest congestion.
If you don’t have a sore throat, eat curry, chili peppers, radish, horseradish, mustard, ginger, onions, or a milk drink with black pepper.
Go easy on milky drinks, though, as dairy may make mucus thicker.
There are plenty of over-the-counter medicines for chest congestion. Vapor rubs and plug-ins containing menthol help break down mucus effectively.
Decongestant medicines taken as liquid, tablets, or sprays can help break down a buildup of phlegm, too, but they are expensive.
RELATED: Does Cough Syrup Actually Work?
What Is the Best Home Remedy for Chest Congestion?
Try out the above tips to ease your chest congestion this year—especially drinking tea.
Chest congestion is common, but always see a doctor if it gets worse, you experience problems breathing, or the mucus turns yellow, green, black or bloodstained, as it could indicate an infection.