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Home Remedies for Bronchitis

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Home Remedies for Bronchitis

writtenByWritten by: Shannon Chapman
Shannon Chapman

Shannon Chapman

Shannon enjoys breaking down technical subjects and giving others the tools to make informed decisions. Her interests include behavioral economics, sustainable living, meditation, and healthy cooking.

Read more posts by this author.

August 28, 2020 Read Time - 9 minutes

Home Remedies for Bronchitis

Bronchitis Home Remedies: Immune System Boost

The average person reports bronchitis symptoms for 10 to 14 days and misses an average of 2 to 3 days of work.

Since most cases of bronchitis are caused by viral illnesses that do not respond to antibiotics, here are some ways to boost your immune system as your body recovers:

  • Sleep, A LOT – Rest allows the body to recuperate and ensure minimal exposure to irritants in the air. It is arguably the best home remedy for bronchitis.
  • Stay hydrated – Some doctors recommend as many as 12 glasses of water a day to help keep your immune system working and thin out the mucus.
  • Eat healthy meals with garlic or sesame seeds – There is  documented research to suggest that garlic can help strengthen the immune system with some studies even suggesting a link in reducing the risk of colon and stomach cancers. Sesame seeds have been shown in some studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that seem to boost the immune system.

Bronchitis Home Remedies: Symptom Relief

For those searching for a bronchitis home remedy, there are ways to help with symptom relief such as:

  • Avoid dairy products – Dairy products can make mucus thicker. Contrary to popular belief, it does not make you produce more mucus.
  • Gargle warm saltwater – If you have a sore throat, gargling with warm salt water can help relieve pain associated with an inflamed throat. A recommended amount is 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of salt for an 8-ounce glass of warm water.
  • Drink ginger, lemon, or licorice tea with honey – Ginger, lemon and honey have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. There is some documented evidence to support that lemon can help reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel function. While not a cure-all, some studies have shown honey can treat infections and act as cough suppression. Similarly, licorice has some research to suggest it can decrease swelling, coughing or mucus secretions.
  • Take oregano oil – Surprisingly, the same oregano oil to spice delicious meals can be helpful as a medicine. Taking a few drops by the mouth can be helpful with your cough.
  • Take hot showers –The steam can help loosen the mucus and clear the lungs. You can also use a humidifier.
  • Add turmeric – While there is conflicting evidence, there is some research to suggest that the turmeric can help fight infection and inflammation. You can add small amounts, about one teaspoon, to a glass of hot tea or milk. Note – Avoid turmeric if you have gallstones, stomach ulcers, blood thinning issues or bile passage obstruction, as it can worsen the effects.

Essential Oils for Bronchitis

Essential oils are a term that describes a variety of different oils, such as lavender and tea tree oil, used in aromatherapy or applied topically on the body.

While it is not a substitute for standard medical treatment, essential oil has been shown to have some benefits across different illnesses with few negative side effects if used as directed.

The most documented research with aromatherapy and essential oils finds that it can help patients with anxiety and stress to boost their overall quality of life, especially for those with chronic conditions. There is some evidence to support that it could have spillover benefits of improving immune system responses.

As with any medical or home remedy, it is important to watch out for allergic reactions and consult your doctor first before using with young children or if you are pregnant.

Here are a few essential oils for bronchitis and their suggested uses:

  • Breathe in steam with eucalyptus oil – Eucalyptus oil can help loosen phlegm. You can add drops of the oil to boiling water and breathe in the steam. Note – Do not ingest unless recommended by your doctor and never give or apply to the skin of a child younger than 2 as it is toxic.
  • Take a bath with tea tree oil – While there is not conclusive scientific evidence of the benefits, some patients report that tea tree oil helps with bronchial congestion, inflammation or relieving a cough.
  • Use a diffuser or smell certain essential oilsLavender is a commonly suggested oil to help promote relaxation. Orange, lemon, bergamot, rose or sandalwood are also suggested to lower stress and anxiety.

Read: Home Remedies for Nasal Congestion

What Is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs. When the main airways or bronchial tubes become inflamed due to an infection, the inner lining swells and produces extra mucus, triggering coughs as the body attempts to clear the passageways.

In many cases, bronchitis is caused by a virus. That means antibiotics are ineffective and the best treatment is lots of rest, plenty of fluids and healthy meals.

While your body recovers, natural remedies for bronchitis can be helpful in alleviating symptoms.

Read more to understand how these home remedies work, what their limitations are, and when to contact your doctor for more information.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is most often caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold.

On rare occasions it can be caused by bacterial infections or by lung irritants such as chemical fumes or smoking.

The symptoms may include:

  • Chest discomfort – You may feel pressure in your chest in general or certain points as your body works to clear the mucus.
  • Cough – The cough can range in frequency and severity, and will likely bring up green, yellow, clear or white mucus.
  • Shortness of breath – This is caused by the narrowing of the airways and feeling of tightness in your chest. Bronchitis can even cause a wheezing as you breathe.
  • Fatigue – As your body works to fight off the infection, you may feel extremely tired at different points in the day.
  • Nasal congestion – Your nasal passages may be similarly inflamed or irritated as your lungs, which results in a runny nose.
  • Sore throat – Frequent coughing and mucus may irritate the throat.
  • Low fever and chills – A fever is your body’s natural response to an infection as it activates the immune system. However, high and prolonged fever requires immediate medical attention.

Bronchitis is contagious if caused by a viral illnesses or bacterial infection.

Since most cases are, it is important to take necessary precautions to not get others sick.

If the bronchitis is caused by environmental factors and not an infection, then the bronchitis is not contagious.

Diagnosing and Treating Bronchitis

Bronchitis can be diagnosed by your primary care physician or any general practitioner by completing a physical exam and understanding your symptoms.

Depending on the additional symptoms you have, the doctor may also do a series of other tests such as a chest x-ray, Lung function test, sensor test for oxygen, mucus test for whooping cough or a blood test. This is to determine that your symptoms are not caused by any other lung infection or illness.

Since bronchitis can result in shortness of breath and tightness in your chest it may be important for your doctor to check for any other serious conditions.

Can I recover from bronchitis without antibiotics?

In most cases, bronchitis goes away on its own after a couple of weeks, with the most severe symptoms lessening after the first few days. Since most cases are caused by viral infections, antibiotics for bronchitis are not needed.

Thus, the treatment for bronchitis is simply to rest, drink water and eat healthy meals. If it is a rare case of bronchitis caused by bacteria, a doctor can prescribe you antibiotics.

The most likely choices for antibiotics are:

  • amoxicillin
  • doxycycline
  • erythromycin
  • trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

If you have asthma or allergies and contract bronchitis, a doctor may also prescribe an inhaler to counteract the narrowing of the airways and help shortness of breath.

Read: Should You Take Antibiotics for Bronchitis?

Does Mucinex Help With Bronchitis?

Talk to a doctor before using cough or cold medicine.

Cough medicine allows the body to be less irritated by mucus, but this inhibits the body from coughing the mucus and getting it out of your system.

Over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with the pain and any feverish symptoms.

Why Does My Bronchitis Keep Coming Back?

Chronic bronchitis is not a sign of a viral or bacterial infection. Instead, chronic bronchitis occurs a result of long-term exposure to stimulants that irritate the lungs.

Things that may cause chronic bronchitis include:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Air pollution
  • Exposure to chemical fumes
  • Dust

The treatment for chronic bronchitis is similar to acute cases. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis other than addressing the underlying causes.

In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator inhaler, which helps clear airways, or corticosteroids, which contain steroid hormones to decrease inflammation in the lungs.

If damage to the lungs is too great, oxygen therapy may be necessary to regulate oxygen intake.

How Long Does Bronchitis Last?

Acute bronchitis usually forms three to four days following a viral illness, like a cold or flu. It may begin with a dry cough and then a cough with mucus after a few days. Other symptoms usually lessen after the three to four days.

The cough, which is the most common and persistent symptom of bronchitis, usually lasts for 2-3 weeks.

However, 50% of patients report the cough lasting for more than 3 weeks and 25% of patients report it lasting more than 1 month.

Chronic bronchitis results in a similar cough with mucus that lasts for most days in a month, for three months or more over two consecutive years.

For those with chronic bronchitis, how long it lasts depends on working with a doctor on your treatment plan.

Since most cases of chronic bronchitis are caused by smoking or constant exposure to a harsh environment, removing the person from that environment can make it possible to prevent future flare-ups.

How chronic bronchitis manifests itself depends on the patient, conditions, length of exposure and many other factors.

Read: Lung Infection

When to Contact a Doctor

If you are experiencing bronchitis, it is very important to give your body ample rest, water and healthy meals to get better. However, this may not be enough.

It is important to call your doctor if you:

  • Cough blood
  • Cough thick, dark mucus
  • Cannot sleep due to coughing
  • Cough for longer than 3 weeks
  • Lose weight suddenly
  • Have a high fever
  • Have trouble breathing

Should any of these symptoms arise consider making an appointment with your primary care physician or seeing an urgent care to confirm the diagnosis and discuss a treatment plan.

Read More about Bronchitis

Sources: Bronchitis. Access on August 28, 2020. Acute Bronchitis. Accessed on August 28, 2020. Bronchitis Home Remedies. Accessed on August 28, 2020.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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