No matter how hard you try to avoid it, there is a 100% chance that you’ll have to deal with a chest cold at some point in your life. Luckily this isn’t the most debilitating illness you’re likely to face, but that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying. A chest cold can leave you coughing and sneezing in the middle of a quiet classroom or struggle to catch your breath after a long walk. The worst part is, there isn’t really a concrete way to cure a chest cold or make the symptoms go away. There are different types of medicine and home remedies you can try, but time is the biggest help in fighting a cold.
That’s not to say medicine and natural remedies aren’t worth trying, though. There are a number of treatments people have been using for hundreds of years, most of which work for some people and don’t work for others. The only way you can really figure out which remedies work for you is to try them. That being said, here is what you need to know about getting over a chest cold, including how long it takes and what you can do to speed the process up a bit.
The Basics of Chest Cold
A chest cold happens when your airways become inflamed, and you have trouble getting all of the mucus out of your lungs. The human body produces a lot of mucus whether you’re healthy or not, so having the means to dispose of that mucus properly is integral.
Chest colds usually come with a number of different symptoms, some of which may include a plugged nose, difficulty tasting or smelling things, thick, discolored mucus, bad breath, a cough that becomes worse in the evening, sinus pain or pressure, and pain in the teeth. These symptoms are all a result of having too much mucus in the sinuses and lungs, so your goal with treating a common cold should ultimately be to flush this mucus out.
The problem with flushing mucus out of your body the old-fashioned way is that your airways are blocked by inflammation. The blockage is why you may not be able to produce any mucus when you cough or blow your nose while you have a chest cold. To properly treat a chest cold, you need to treat both issues: the inflammation and the excessive mucus.
Believe it or not, your diet plays a big role in how easily your body can fight off a cold. Not only do the foods you eat have an effect on your immune system, but they can also address the more specific problems of a chest cold including inflammation and the thickness of your mucus.
Immune system boosting foods include oranges, green tea, spinach, ginger, nuts, and fish. Incorporating plenty of these foods into your diet will help make sure your body is ready to tackle even the toughest of colds and get you back on track in no time.
Inflammation-fighting foods include ginger, nuts, broccoli, chia seeds, tomatoes, pineapples, blueberries, and broth. Make sure to eat plenty of these foods, so your airways are as open as possible which allows you to expel the mucus. You may also want to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as sugar, dairy products, refined grains and processed meats.
If you want to thin out your mucus, make sure you drink plenty of water and avoid dairy products. Milk, cheese, and yogurt can make your mucus thicker and harder to expel. Water, on the other hand, works to thin out your mucus and keeps you properly hydrated while you’re losing lots of fluids.
Changing your habits is a big key to getting over a chest cold faster. If you’re the type who usually carries on with normal business when you get sick, you could be making things worse. When your body is in a compromised state, you need to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and avoid doing anything that may irritate your chest, throat, and nose.
If you generally smoke cigarettes, now is the perfect time to stop. Smoking when you have a cold not only makes your symptoms worse, it also guarantees that your cold will last significantly longer. That’s not even the worst part. If you smoke too frequently when you have a cold, the bacteria from the smoke could actually further compromise your immune system and cause a more serious issue like bronchitis.
You’ll also want to abstain from alcohol as it weakens your immune system and causes inflammation. If you like to burn incense or use lots of air fresheners in your home, give your lungs a break from those, too. Anything that irritates your respiratory system can turn your cold into something worse or, at the very least, make the cold last for longer than it should.
Once you’ve got your diet and habits down, the best way to treat a cold is with medicine. There are many different options available when it comes to over-the-counter chest cold medicine, so we’ll help you decide which one is right for you.
There are essentially four main key ingredients in cold medicine: painkillers, cough suppressants, expectorants, and decongestants. Painkillers such as Motrin or Advil reduce inflammation and help you keep your pain in check while expectorants and decongestants help your body get rid of the excess mucus it has. When you find yourself expelling so much mucus that you have an uncomfortable wet cough, a cough suppressant can keep you from feeling like you are coughing up a lung.
When you buy an all-in-one cold medicine like DayQuil or NyQuil, you’re often getting all of these active ingredients rolled into one medicine. There are various types of DayQuil available, some designed for those coughs that are particularly bad and some for extra painful sore throats. In this sense, DayQuil is a nice cold medicine because it gives you numerous choices for your specific needs. If you’re also having trouble sleeping, you can take NyQuil to help you fall asleep and relieve cold symptoms at the same time.
If you don’t have all of these symptoms or you want to simply minimize your intake of medications, you can try generic versions of the active ingredients in cold medicine. Expectorants and decongestants are generally the most common. Expectorants are designed to thin out mucus to make it easier to expel from your chest and sinuses, while decongestants aim to dry up the mucus so you don’t have to expel it at all. Deciding between the two really does come down to personal preference, although decongestants are often preferred for nasal congestion while expectorants are more of a chest congestion remedy.
No matter what you take for your cold, choosing a small dose of an anti-inflammatory drug is never a bad idea. Remember, the main reason you’re feeling ill is that your body is having trouble getting rid of all of the mucus in your lungs and sinuses. This is because your airways sometimes become inflamed. If you want to remedy that situation and get back to your normal self sooner, taking an NSAID to reduce inflammation and ease the mucus flow can be a good way to do that.
Of course, some people aren’t interested in taking medicine, and that’s fine. There are a host of natural remedies that can help you turn your common chest cold into a thing of the past. Or at least make it feel that way. Some of these natural remedies are included in the foods you should be eating while others include surprising solutions.
Hydration is key when it comes to beating a chest cold. Whether you’re talking about actually drinking fluids or simply keeping your sinuses from drying out. Not only should you be drinking lots of water when you have a chest cold, but you should also consider running a humidifier in your room. Or using a sinus rinse to make sure the inside of your nasal passages isn’t too dry. The moisture helps relieve irritation in the sinuses and thins out mucus, so it’s easier to expel.
Menthol products like Fisherman’s Friend cough drops and Vicks Vaporub can also be soothing for your nasal passages. And help relieve congestion. Breathing in strong menthol scents like these can actually help open your airways since the cooling effect provides relief. You can simply pop a cough drop into your mouth every hour. Or rub some Vaporub on your chest to get this effect.
When you lie down at night, make sure you keep your head elevated. This will help the mucus to drain down your sinuses and out of your body. So you won’t wake up feeling particularly plugged up. You may even consider using a hot compress on your chest. This is to relieve some of the congestion and provide a soothing feeling. If your throat is sore or you’re looking for an extra boost to your immune system. A hot cup of green tea with a bit of honey and fresh lemon juice makes a delicious drink that’s great for chest colds.
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