Chest congestion occurs when excess fluid or mucus gets filled up in the chest. It is often accompanied by cough. The nature and type of cough helps in diagnosing the underlying cause easily.
Common Cold / Flu
Common cold is a mild viral infection characterized by sore throat, cough and runny nose. On the other hand, influenza or flu is a similar condition like that of common cold; but, fairly serious. Symptoms of flu are similar to that of common cold. If suffering from either of these illnesses, one may experience chest congestion that sounds like cracking of the chest.
Treatment: Medicines like cough syrups and decongestants are used to treat cough and nasal congestion respectively. Home remedies like, increasing intake of liquids, taking rest, gargling with salt water, steam inhalation, etc., are equally effective in treating common cold.
As mentioned above, allergy is the most common cause of chest congestion. Allergic reaction can be experienced from various airborne products; resulting in cough, rash and occasional congestion. People allergic to pollen, smoke, dust, mold, etc., experience these symptoms.
Treatment: There are several self-care methods that you can undertake to get rid of allergic cough. For e.g., breathing in moist air by having a hot shower or installing a humidifier, using cough drops and expectorants, drinking lot of fluids, etc., can be helpful. You also need to identify the allergen and try to stay away from it. If the symptoms persist for more than a couple of days, it is recommended to consult the doctor immediately.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder that can be caused due to reasons like being exposed to persistent smoke, having family history, etc. Sometimes, the airways suddenly narrow due to exposure to allergens or cold air. This gives rise to asthma. Wheezing, chest congestion, cough, etc., are the symptoms of asthma.
Treatment: Although, there is no cure for asthma, there are several medications and sprays that help in relieving the symptoms. Asthma cough is usually treated with medicines. Using an asthma inhaler and proper breathing techniques will also help in alleviating the symptoms. Sleeping with head in an elevated position also helps in easy breathing.
Bronchitis is the inflammation of bronchi due to viral or bacterial infection. Chest pain and congestion, cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath are the symptoms of bronchitis. Acute bronchitis, if left untreated, can turn chronic.
Treatment: One should use a cool mist humidifier as it helps in loosening the mucus and congestion. At the same time, using over-the-counter cough suppressants can also be effective for suppressing the symptoms temporarily. It is recommended to consult the doctor in case bronchitis symptoms are observed, as it cannot be treated with home remedies.
Pneumonia is a severe respiratory disease characterized by symptoms similar to that of bronchitis. It is caused due to inflammation of the lungs (excluding the bronchi) due to infection caused either by virus, bacteria or other parasites. One should remember that pneumonia can be fatal, if left untreated.
Treatment: Similar to other conditions, getting sufficient amount of rest and drinking fluids are the primary self-care methods that you can follow. Smoking should be avoided to prevent the condition from deteriorating further. Pneumonia is treated only with proper medical treatment. Therefore, it is wise to consult the doctor.
Dos and Don'ts
If cough and congestion is caused due to common cold, the symptoms should clear within 1-2 days. If not, then the underlying cause may be severe.
✔ It is recommended to take prescription medicines to treat other accompanying symptoms like fever, headache, body ache, pain of any kind, etc.
✔ Antibiotics are required to treat bacterial bronchitis and bacterial pneumonia. However, antibiotics prove ineffective against viral infections.
✔ Over-the-counter medicines just suppress the symptoms and do not completely cure the underlying cause. Therefore, it is essential to get the underlying cause diagnosed properly before opting for any medications.
✔ Consuming hot drinks like chicken soup, ginger tea, herbal tea is also an effective remedy to treat cough.
✔ Natural foods such as ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, honey, turmeric, etc., can help in relieving cough and sore throat.
✘ Cough suppressants, cough sprays should not be used for babies and children.
✘ Avoid having fried food and dairy products as they tend to increase mucus production.
✘ Stop smoking, and getting exposed to dust, mold, smoke, etc., as these factors can aggravate cough and other respiratory symptoms.
Lastly, one should remember that having a balanced diet, a regular exercise, and maintaining hygiene helps in prevention of infectious diseases to a greater extent. Take care!
Disclaimer: This write-up is not to be substituted for medical consultation and treatment. It is meant only to provide information.