Home Remedies for Acute Bronchitis

Ginger and garlic, as well as humidifiers and salt water, may bring you relief

Bronchitis, also known as a chest cold, occurs when the airways of the lungs become swollen and start producing mucus. These airways are known as the bronchi, and they are responsible for carrying air to the lungs. Common bronchitis symptoms include persistent cough, chest soreness, and fatigue.

Acute bronchitis is often caused by an infection. It usually comes on quickly and resolves after a week or so. Chronic bronchitis is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that develops over time.

Acute bronchitis may be viral or bacterial. A bacterial infection may require a trip to the doctor and antibiotic treatment. Viral bronchitis cannot be treated with antibiotics, and recovery requires time and rest.

Symptoms can last several days to a few weeks, and it’s estimated that most cases of bronchitis are viral and do not require antibiotics. Natural remedies for bronchitis may provide some relief as you recover. 

Young woman coughing

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Bronchitis Symptoms

The most common symptom of bronchitis is a cough. Your cough may be nonproductive, meaning it is dry, or you may cough up mucus, a liquid that is naturally produced in your body. This is your body’s attempt to break up and remove the mucus in your airways.

Other common symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • Chest soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Fortunately, most cases of acute bronchitis resolve on their own and don’t require medical treatment. Home remedies may help alleviate some of your symptoms while you recover. 

Home Remedies

Home remedies do not cure bronchitis and are not a substitute for antibiotics. Work with your doctor to develop the right treatment plan for you and your type of bronchitis. 

Breathing Steam

You may notice that you feel a little better after a hot shower. This is likely because of the steam. Breathing in steam can help gently break up the mucus in your bronchi. This makes it easier to remove the mucus by blowing your nose or coughing it up. 

Gargling Saltwater

If you have been experiencing a sore throat with a bout of bronchitis, try gargling with saltwater. The warm water will hydrate and soothe your throat while breaking up mucus. Avoid hot water, though, since it could be irritating to a sore throat. 

Saline Drops or Spray

A saline nose spray (or drops for kids) can help break up stubborn mucus and make it easier to get it out. The saline spray will clear out mucus from the nose, providing some relief. It will also hydrate your tissues. 

When you have bronchitis, your airways produce mucus, but there is usually a buildup in your nose as well. Saline drops are effective at clearing the nose and helping you feel better while you recover. 

Ginger

Add some ginger to your tea to soothe your cough. Ginger is a proven anti-inflammatory agent. During a bout of bronchitis, your airways are inflamed and irritated. Ginger can reduce the inflammation, helping to ease the cough.

A 2016 study in a journal of alternative medicine found that adding ginger to a diet was effective at reducing cough in tuberculosis patients. Try grating fresh ginger and putting it into your tea or adding it to a recipe. 

Garlic

Reach for fresh garlic to protect yourself from bronchitis. Some complementary medicine practitioners consider this popular spice to have antimicrobial properties.

A 2016 study found that taking garlic regularly may help prevent bronchitis. Having garlic in your system was shown to inhibit the virus’s effects on the body. 

Opt for fresh garlic instead of the powdered form to get all of the health benefits. Try grating some into hot water with lemon, or add it to a plate of steamed vegetables. 

Rest Up

Rest is essential to recovery, since most cases of bronchitis are viral and do not respond to antibiotics. Take time off of school or work if you can, and take plenty of naps throughout the day. Do your best to limit talking as well, as this could irritate your airways and lead to more coughing. 

Drink Broth

Following rest, drinking plenty of fluids is also important. That’s because drinking broth or water can help hydrate you while breaking up mucus, making it easier to cough it up.

Drink warm broth to fight mucus and give your body the nutrients it needs. Keep a water bottle with you as well, and stay away from drinks like coffee or soda that dehydrate you. 

Use a Humidifier

Cold, dry air is irritating to your airways and can trigger a coughing fit when you have bronchitis. Using a humidifier in your home adds moisture to the air, which is soothing to your airways and can break up mucus as you breathe. 

Aim to use your humidifier about 30% to 50% of the time throughout the day. Using it around the clock causes the surfaces in your home to remain damp, which could lead to mold.

Opt for a cool-mist humidifier instead of a hot one to prevent accidental burns. Be sure to drain and clean your humidifier every day to prevent bacteria growth. 

Try Honey

If hot tea with honey was your grandmother’s go-to remedy for a cough, she may have been onto something. Studies have found that eating honey when you have bronchitis can help reduce a cough and improve sleep. It can also soothe a sore throat.

Try swallowing a spoonful of honey or stirring it into your favorite decaffeinated tea. Never give honey to infants younger than 1 year old, however, as it can be dangerous to them.

When to See a Doctor

While many cases of bronchitis can be treated at home, certain signs could indicate that it’s time to see your doctor. If you develop a fever, check in with your doctor’s office and ask if you need to be seen. 

Also see your doctor if your symptoms are not improving after 10 days or they start to worsen. If you develop shortness of breath or notice that you are coughing up bloody mucus, seek care right away. 

Finally, talk with your doctor if you have been experiencing frequent episodes of bronchitis, as you may require further testing and treatment.

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Article Sources
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