Congestion in the upper respiratory system leads to several unpleasant symptoms, including cough and difficulty breathing. Chest congestion typically stems from inflammation in the bronchial tubes, soft passageways that move air in and out of the lungs. Home remedies are often adequate to clear up minor cases of bronchial congestion. Consult your doctor any time you suffer from breathing problems.
The Bronchial Tubes
Inhaled air enters the nose and mouth and then travels into the windpipe, or trachea. The bronchial tubes are large passageways that direct air from the trachea into smaller airways called bronchioles. From there, air travels into the smaller branches and air sacs of the lungs. The bronchial tubes engage several defense mechanisms to battle possible infections. One of these defenses is inflammation of the bronchial lining. This inflammation leads to increased mucus production, congestion and cough.
Bronchitis is a general term for swelling and irritation of the bronchial tubes. A case of bronchitis may be acute or chronic and may result from either a bacterial or viral infection. Air pollution, including cigarette smoke, leads to a condition known as irritative bronchitis. The bronchial tubes in a smoker don't function well, often leading to bouts of acute bronchitis. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that presents symptoms similar to bronchitis, though usually far worse.
Steam and Humidity
A humidifier adds moisture to the air, helping the body to remove mucus from the airways. Dry air leads to dry mucus, which tends to stay in place and exacerbate the symptoms of bronchitis. A steam vaporizer acts fast to soothe wheezing or breathing difficulty. If you don't have such a device, then fill a sink with hot water and hold your face over the vapor. Drape a towel on your head to direct the warm, moist air into your nose and mouth.
Rest and Fluids
Bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids are two of the more obvious home remedies for bronchial inflammation. Fluid intake helps the body effectively move mucus up and out of the airways. Adequate hydration also allows the immune system to function at peak efficiency. Proper amounts of rest ensure that your body has the energy to deal with the cause of your bronchitis. As longs as symptoms persist, keep your overall activity level as low as possible.
Don't suppress the urge to cough. Coughing is your body's way of clearing up mucus and obstructions in your airways. Take regular, deep breaths to encourage the airways to open up. If you feel a lot of congestion, force yourself to cough, if possible. Report any bloody mucus to your doctor. Gently tap your chest several times a day to loosen built-up mucus. Try resting with your head lower then your chest to encourage proper drainage.
Josh Patrick has several years of teaching and training experience, both in the academy and the private sector. He presented original work at the 20th Century Literature Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Patrick worked for three years on the editorial board for "Inscape," his alma mater's literary magazine. He holds a Master of Library and Information Science.