Dealing with a cough is no fun, and that goes double if you’re also suffering from chest congestion. Chest congestion is caused by excess mucus in your airways and can trigger wheezing or chest pain that leaves you feeling drained. We have some good news though — chest congestion often readily responds to therapies, including some at-home remedies that are free. Read on to learn more about DIY and over-the-counter remedies to clear up that congestion.
1. Gargle With Salt Water
Gargling with warm salt water helps draw excess fluid from your throat, loosening the mucus that accumulates in your throat. It’s also soothing on your throat, which should naturally relieve some of the discomfort caused by persistent coughing. A 2005 Kyoto University study found that frequent gargling with water when you aren’t sick may prevent upper respiratory infections — including those that cause coughing and congestion.
Making the salt water is simple. Just stir a half-teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water, then stir until the salt dissolves, and gargle for a few seconds. Repeat a few times a day, as needed.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
You’ll help relieve your chest congestion even more if you down a glass of (non-salted) water when you go to gargle. Staying hydrated can help thin the mucus in your throat, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Plain old water will do, but staying hydrated with other liquids may be even better. Try sipping on tea if you don’t like water. Menthol, for instance, may make your mucus thinner and helps break it up to clear congestion, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
3. Inhale Steam or Add Humidity
Water isn’t just for drinking; inhaling steam or humidity can help clear congestion as well. Breathing in steam draws more moisture through your airways, which helps thin and loosen mucus, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
If spending a few minutes in a steam room isn’t an option, set up your own facial steam by pouring hot water into a mixing bowl, and then hold your face above the water, leaving several inches of space in between to avoid burns. Place a towel over your head to hold in the steam.
Using a humidifier in your room offers a longer-term solution. A humidifier moistens the air 24/7, including as you sleep, so it can be a great way to deal with congestion if you don’t have time for the DIY steam bath.
4. Slurp on Soup
There’s a reason your mom used to recommend chicken soup for stubborn congestion: a steamy bowl of soup offers similar benefits to water. Soup — especially the low-sodium variety — boosts your hydration, which may help to thin out the mucus that causes congestion. And savoring each sip helps you breathe in more humid air, further helping with congestion. Certain herbs, like thyme, also may help relieve cough, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. So savoring a generously seasoned soup might offer extra benefits.
5. Take Medication for Tested Relief
While homemade remedies may offer some relief against congestion, sometimes you need medication to help you feel better. Look for cough medications containing expectorants, which help thin and loosens mucus in your airways. Delsym® Cough+ Chest Congestion DM contains the expectorant guaifenesin, as well as a cough suppressant to relieve stubborn, persistent coughing. It offers maximum strength* relief against both cough and chest congestion so you can focus on the day ahead, not on your chest congestion.
*per each dose
Chest congestion is uncomfortable, but clearing it can be (almost) as simple as turning on your tap. Try one of these five easy remedies to feel better.
- University of Florida: Saltwater Soothes Cold Symptoms
- American Journal of Preventative Medicine: Prevention Of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections By Gargling: A Randomized Trial
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cough
- S. National Library of Medicine: Cough
- Delsym: Cough+ Chest Congestion DM
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