18 Home Remedies for Bronchitis
Humidify your environment. Believe it or not, coughing is actually good for you. It's the body's way of eliminating the infection that causes bronchitis. So instead of stifling a cough with an over-the-counter suppressant, help it along by using a warm- or cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air. (Take care to use and clean the humidifier according to the manufacturer's instructions.) The added humidity will help bring the sputum (matter that is coughed out of the body) up and out of the body. Standing in a steamy shower with the bathroom door closed, keeping a pan of water at a slow boil on the stove (never leave it unattended!), and using a tea kettle to shoot out warm, moist air can also help loosen and bring up phlegm. And if you have a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to add to the water, these can be quite soothing.
Bronchitis and Smoking
Smoking is a habit that is continually under fire for its negative impact on a person's health -- and rightly so.
Smoking has been proven to be a significant contributing factor in emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease, and several other serious illnesses. It leaves you more vulnerable to acute bronchitis and other respiratory infections; aggravates any such infection that does take hold; and slows your body's ability to heal.
Because a smoker's bronchial tubes are already irritated, any additional inflammation caused by acute bronchitis may require medical attention. Smoking is also the primary cause of chronic bronchitis, which is an ongoing irritation of the lining of the bronchial tubes marked by a perpetual cough that brings up mucus, tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing.
Needless to say, refraining from smoking or at least cutting way back is essential when battling a case of acute bronchitis. To treat or prevent chronic bronchitis, quitting for good and avoiding exposure to other people's cigarette smoke are essential.
Drink plenty of liquids. Taking in extra liquids helps keep the sputum more fluid and therefore easier to expel. It doesn't really matter what type of liquid you drink, although tea, soup, and other warm liquids may feel better than cold ones. As a bonus, warm fluids may also soothe the irritated throat that may result from all that coughing.
Gargle with warm salt water. Gargling with salt water may provide a double dose of relief by soothing the inflammation in the throat and by cutting through some of the mucus that may be coating and irritating the sensitive throat membranes. It only takes one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water; too much salt causes burning in the throat, and too little is ineffective. Gargle as often as needed, but be sure to spit the salty water out after gargling.
Rest, rest, rest. Since your bout with bronchitis probably followed on the heels of a cold or the flu, you may find it hard to sit still any longer. But walking around with bronchitis will only make you feel worse and slow your body's ability to fight the infection, so you'll need to take it easy a little longer. Those who won't be exposed to your germs will probably be thankful, too.
Take aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve the chest pain. If a bout with bronchitis produces muscle pain in the chest, these anti-inflammatory medications may provide some relief. Acetaminophen does not have an anti-inflammatory effect and so may be less helpful. (Because of the risk of deadly reaction called Reye's syndrome, don't give aspirin to children; acetaminophen should be used instead.) For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.
Use a cough remedy as a last resort. Remember, coughing is your body's way of driving out the infection and keeping your breathing passages clear. The best cough remedies for bronchitis contain guaifenesin, which helps bring up sputum. But if you're at the end of your rope and can't bear another minute of hacking, especially if it's been keeping you from getting the sleep you need to recover, you can try a medicine that contains the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Take it only as often as absolutely needed. Check with your doctor if you are unsure. Combination products should generally be avoided; decongestants, antihistamines, and alcohol (common ingredients in combination products) have no role in the treatment of coughs and may even increase discomfort by causing side effects. Most of the candy-type cough drops act as demulcents on the throat; in other words, their soothing properties are due largely to their sugar content.
Stay out of harm's way. With bronchitis you're at risk for picking up another infection. Avoid crowds, children with colds, smoky rooms, and contact with anyone who has a cold or flu. Wear gloves or a mask if you have to, and wash your hands often.
Keep an eye out for complications. While letting nature take its course is generally the best treatment for acute bronchitis, complications can sometimes occur, so you'll need to stay alert for signs that it's time to see your doctor. The most worrisome complications include pneumonia, sinus infection, and ear infection, all of which need to be treated with prescription antibiotics. Signs that one or more of these complications may be present include a persistent high fever (not a typical characteristic of bronchitis), severe shortness of breath, prolonged coughing spells or a cough that lasts more than four to six weeks, severe chest pain, pain behind the eyes, or ear pain. Be on the lookout for blood in your sputum or sputum that changes dramatically in color or consistency, and report it to your doctor. In addition, tell your doctor if you suffer frequent bouts of bronchitis, since you may be suffering from a more serious respiratory problem that requires medical treatment.