Chest congestion is one of the medical conditions involving inflammation of the lower respiratory tract which causes difficulty in breathing and is mostly accompanied by chest pain and some other discomforting states. Inflammation is one of the body’s immune responses to an infection, a foreign body or even an allergy, virus or bacteria. Due to inflammation, mucus accumulates in the chest region which causes chest congestion.
Causes of Chest Congestion
There are many causes of chest congestion
- Common cold
- Airborne allergies
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Pulmonary edema
- Heart failure
- Lung cancer, and
- Cystic fibrosis
However, the most common cause of chest congestion is common cold. Allergens, bacteria, and fungi can also cause infections that further result into chest congestion.
Symptoms of Chest Congestion
Symptoms of chest congestion are not very difficult to identify. One feels very tired due to the short supply of oxygen and labored breathing. Tightened chest and chest pain along with coughing are the common symptoms of chest congestion. Coughing is the most common and natural response of lungs and throat to clear out the thick mucous deposited in the chest area. This mucous or phlegm is produced to trap pathogens and pollutants. The symptoms of chest congestion can be listed as under
- Shortness of breath
- Labored breathing
- Chest pain
- Runny nose
- Blood in cough
- Loud noises while breathing
Sometimes, chest congestion itself is a symptom of some other disease or medical conditions. If so, it is accompanied by several other symptoms. If chest congestion is due to flu, it will accompany other symptoms too such as fever, chills, body ache and malaise. Therefore, one must always be careful while judging the symptoms of chest congestion. For example, if breathing becomes more and more difficult or blood tinged mucous is noticed while coughing, it could indicate a more serious condition like pneumonia. In such conditions, patients should always see medical practitioner as soon as possible instead of taking chest congestion as a mere symptom of common cold.
Chest Congestion Remedies
Both traditional and alternative medicine is used to cure chest congestion. As an immediate remedy of chest congestion, the patient is given anti-histamine that contains diphenhydramine. However, if the infection is severe, doctors may also prescribe some kind of antibiotics. Chest congestion due to common cold can easily be cured by certain home and herbal remedies. These natural chest congestion remedies make use of simple things that can be found in any kitchen or in neighborhood health stores. Home remedies for chest congestion are nothing but some anti-inflammatory measures that help in dissolving the thick mucous in the chest, making breathing easier for the patient. Some of the home remedies for chest congestion are mentioned here for getting quick relief from discomfort caused by chest congestion.
Steam Inhaling- steam treatment is one of the best chest congestion remedies. Take some really hot water in a bowl and mix some drops of any essential oil from among eucalyptus, clary sage, pine and rosemary. Eucalyptus oil is particularly effective as chest congestion remedy. You can find it in any medical store. Eucalyptus leaves, instead of oil, can also be used. Now incline your face over the bowl in such a way that steam can easily enter your nostrils and cover the head with a towel big enough to cover the bowl too in a way that doesn't lets the steam out. Inhale the aromatic steam for a few seconds or minutes that is tolerable. Inhaling steam loosens up the hardened phlegm to be easily coughed up giving immediate relief from chest congestion.
Hot and Spicy Foods- Spicy foods that contain chili, garlic and ginger paste act as decongestants. Hot foods even kill bacteria. Eating spicy foods like peppers and chilies can help in getting rid of the unwanted bacteria. The heat also helps the congested mucus to become thin. This is why one experiences runny nose whenever spicy food is eaten as it loosens the phlegm that runs through nose.
Herbal Tea- Tea prepared with herbs, especially ginger, is very beneficial in getting relief from chest congestion. Ginger, in fact, is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent that can even be chewed raw with some salt for getting fast relief from chest congestion. Tea brewed with a few drops of chamomile can also help relieve congestion in the chest.
Hot water- Anything hot is beneficial in chest congestion. Drink hot water every time you feel thirsty, more importantly in the morning just after waking up when the mucous is most thick and hardened in the chest. It will help in dissolving the phlegm and will make it easier to cough up. Gargle with tolerable hot salty water three to four times a day in order to loosen up the phlegm.
Preventive Measures for Chest Congestion
There are some people who suffer from chest congestion more often. It is a sign of weak immunity. Every time when the body of such people finds any foreign elements like bacteria, fungi, virus, pollutants etc. entering the body, self defense mechanism is automatically activated resulting in inflammation of the respiratory tract and forming of mucous to trap such foreign bodies which are detrimental to one's health. Such people should take preventive measures so that they do not experience chest congestion so often. They should also work for strengthening their immune system. Here are some ways to do so.
Yoga and Pranayama- Yoga is one of the best exercises for body and mind. There are many yoga asanas that improve body immunity. However, learn these yoga postures from some learned yoga practitioner to get the maximum benefits. Pranayam- one of the breathing exercises within Yoga- can help expand lung capacity and improve the breathing mechanism. The following video shows the yoga for chest congestion. It uses a blanket to achieve the pose required to open up the chest because the exact yoga pose for chest congestion is quite difficult to do for beginners without the help of experts.
Yoga for Chest Congestion Video
Balanced Diet- A balanced diet is important not only for avoiding chest congestion but for overall health and wellness. A diet rich in vitamin C and E can help boost immune system that ultimately takes care of chest congestion. Foods rich in anti-oxidants and beta carotene aid in the correct functioning of lungs. Spinach, papaya, berries are good sources of beta carotene and anti oxidants and should be included in diet on a regular basis. Enzyme rich foods like kiwi and pineapple too can break down phlegm. Garlic is yet another very good immune booster. It helps ward off infections. It can be taken daily- raw or mixed with food preparations and even as an ingredient in food recipes.
Apart from taking the above measures for strengthening immunity, one must also get adequate sleep and should stay away from polluted environments. Polluted environment triggers respiratory infection and causes a relapse of chest congestion.