You don't have to run to your local pharmacy every time you catch a chest cold. There are home remedies that may help you manage the symptom of the condition, and reduce your discomfort. Let's see what these remedies are...
Every year, nearly a billion people suffer from chest colds in the United States. Also known as acute bronchitis, chest cold is caused by the inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. Unlike a common cold or a head cold that affects the nasopharyngeal area of the upper respiratory tract, chest colds affect the lower respiratory tract.
The constriction of these tubes that carry air to the lungs along with the production of mucus can lead to chest pain, wheezing, cough with mucus, mild headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, low-grade fever, and constant fatigue.
Chest colds are most often caused by viruses. This is the reason that many antibiotics fail to work for the chest and even head colds. Touching an infected surface or inhaling the virus containing water droplets when close to an infected person can lead to this form of infection. Certain things like inhaling tobacco smoke, or being exposed to air pollution, dust and dirt, can lead to irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tubes. In rare cases, bacterial infections can also lead to chest colds.
Who is at Risk
Chest colds are more prevalent in children as compared to adults, as their immune systems are not very well-developed. They often occur after a cold or other upper respiratory tract infections. Moreover, close contact with other children affected with a cold and flu at schools and day care centers can further aggravate the problem.
Other people who are at a risk of contacting the infection include the elderly, smokers, and people with lung problems. The symptoms of a cold appear two to three days after the infection, and stay on for a couple of days.
In majority of cases, the symptoms recede on their own, and the only thing that can help is plenty of rest. However, if the symptoms of a chest cold are extremely troubling, then try some simple cures.
Remedies for a Chest Cold
Breathing in steam from a vaporizer or humidifier, hot shower or even a pan of boiling water can reduce the phlegm in the throat and lungs. This needs to be done at least two times everyday for around thirty minutes.
The moist hot air from the humidifier clears up the mucus, and allows you to dispense it out easily. Alternately, add 3 to 4 drops of aromatherapy essential oils, like eucalyptus oil, for instant relief. Keep a hot pack on the chest to ease the congestion and pressure on the chest.
If you do not have a hot pack, then dip a cloth in hot water, wring out all the water, and place it on the chest and throat.
Caution: Humidifiers and vaporizers can harbor bacteria. It is therefore necessary to clean it regularly.
Increase Fluid Intake
We have all heard of how good it is to have lots of water. However, when affected by a chest cold it is absolutely necessary to have excess water.
As the nasal passages go dry due to the inflammation and swelling, it is best to keep the body hydrated with water, juices, clear broth and lemon water with honey. This can help relieve the chest cold by flushing out the phlegm from the system while keeping you from dehydrating.
Eating water enriched foods like cucumber and watermelon can also help in keeping you fresh and free of any dehydration. Switch from caffeinated drinks like teas and coffees to decaffeinated versions of the same.
Caution: Cut down on caffeine, alcohol, and intake of other sugary drinks, as they can lead to dehydration.
One of the most common remedies for a scratchy throat caused by chest cold is saltwater gargles.
Gargling is done by taking in some hot liquid in the mouth, and then tilting the head back so that the liquid reaches the throat. When air is expelled through the lungs, the water in the throat bubbles and there is a distinct gargling sound. To make saltwater gargles, dissolve half-a-teaspoon salt in an 8 ounce glass of warm water and use it for gargling.
The salt water relieves the itchiness in the throat and washes away the mucus. Do this after every three to four hours to relieve the sore throat. It is important to note that gargling with salt water can only help get temporary relief from the scratchy throat.
Reduce the pressure on the chest by applying some menthol vapor rub on it. These vapor rubs are easily available at all chemists and local drugstores.
Alternately make vapor rub at home using eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, beeswax and olive oil. Mix 1 oz. of olive oil with half a teaspoon of beeswax in a container and place it on low heat. Allow the beeswax to melt before taking it off heat, and adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil and thyme oil.
Stir and allow the mixture to cool. Rub this vapor rub on the chest before going off to sleep at night to ease the cough and cold symptoms.
Caution: Vapor Rubs can cause some mild skin irritation in people with sensitive skin. If there is any itching or other discomfort then do not use the vapor rub.
Herbs such as thyme and chamomile are excellent chest cold remedy. Place two tablespoons of fresh thyme into a small cup of boiling water.
Allow it to boil for about four minutes, while keeping it covered. Once done, drink this herbal tea when it is still hot. Thyme tea is a powerful remedy which helps relax the lungs and promotes expectoration of mucus. Some people also prefer echinacea tea to soothe the sore throat and boost the body's ability to fight against infections.
Pour a few drops of echinacea tincture in the tea to cure the chest cold faster.
Caution: Before using any herbal supplements, do contact a health care provider, especially if you are on some other medications or have certain ailments.
Saline Nasal Sprays
Saline nasal sprays can combat stuffiness of the nose. The sprays add a fine mist of saline solution into the nostrils to help clear blocked and irritated nostrils.
Apart from removing the congestion in the nostrils, saline nasal sprays also provide relief from allergic sinus symptoms caused due to dust or pollen. They help in decongestion, especially in babies and toddlers.
The best part of nasal sprays is that they won't leave you with the irritation in the nostrils, commonly associated with chemical nasal decongestants.
To use these nasal sprays, insert the tip of the spray into the nose, and squirt a tiny amount of the solution into the nose. For babies, use nasal bulb syringe to spray the saline water into the nostrils.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe that eating chicken soup helps relieve chest cold and flu symptoms.
It speeds up the mucus movement, and is an excellent anti-inflammatory remedy for reducing of the cold. Vegetarians or vegans, can have any other hot soup instead of chicken soup. The trick here is to have the soup while it is hot, for the steam helps in clearing the mucus while the soup keeps the system hydrated.
Boosting the Immune System
Boost your immune system by taking vitamin C supplements or drinking orange juice. A strong immune system can keep cold, flu and many other common diseases at bay.
A healthy diet including fruits, vegetables and foods that contain adequate vitamins and minerals can also help in fighting off the infection. Some foods like ginger, garlic, turmeric and honey are extremely effective against sore throat.
Caution: Avoid fried foods as they irritate the sore throat. Dairy products can also lead to an increase in mucus production and hence should be avoided.
What to Avoid
✘ Avoid smoking as the excessive tobacco smoke can harm the cilia. These small hair-like growth in the bronchial tubes are responsible for filtering out the dirt and pollutants.
✘ Exposure to dirt and dust should be avoided for a few days as they can aggravate the symptoms of the chest cold.
✘ Do not touch the face with unclean hands as they can lead to the spread of infection.
✘ Avoid food allergens that can increase the mucus production. Certain foods like nuts, eggs, white pasta, processed and preserved foods are believed to aggravate the mucus production.
✘ Avoid over-the-counter cough suppressants for babies and toddlers.
If the natural remedies mentioned above do not help, consult a doctor. Nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some symptom relief. NSAIDs can be used for reducing the inflammation in the lungs. It is important to note that these medications provide relief from certain symptoms but do not prevent a cold or shorten its duration.
It should be noted that antibiotics destroy bacteria and are practically of no help against chest colds caused by viruses. For persistent cough that refuses to go away even after three weeks, along with fever, difficulty in breathing, and traces of blood in the cough, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Minor colds can be very irritating and it is easy to be tempted to try out the latest remedy available, but the best course of action is to get adequate rest. Although it's only a chest cold, it can still leave you feeling immensely tired and worn out. Hence, along with the natural remedies mentioned above, be sure to give your body enough of rest, so that you do not stress your system, and get back on track soon!
Disclaimer:This story is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.