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How to Treat Bronchitis

Three Parts:Get Immediate ReliefTreat with Medicines at HomeSeek Treatment from a Doctor

Acute bronchitis is an infection of the major bronchial tubes that lead to the lungs. It usually follows the cold or flu virus, when your immune system is weakened and your lungs are already irritated. Learn how to get immediate relief from bronchitis, treat it with medicine and know when it's time to go to the doctor.

Part 1
Get Immediate Relief

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    Get plenty of rest. Since bronchitis is an infection in your lungs, it can make you feel extremely tired. Listen to your body and take a rest, especially in the first few days of the infection, when your chest feels heavy and it's difficult to breathe. Your lungs need time to heal.[1]
    • At the beginning of the infection, when it's at its worst, take a few days off of work or school. Rest in bed or on the couch, and try not to go anywhere that will require you to exert yourself.
    • Exercising while you have a lung infection can make it worse. Avoid running, swimming, biking, and other exercises that lead to heavy breathing while you have bronchitis.
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    Drink warm fluids. Keeping yourself hydrated is important while your body is fighting infection, and drinking fluids with a warm temperature can help soothe your sore throat and keep the phlegm, the substance you cough up when you have bronchitis, loose and easier to expel.[2] Try these warm fluids to help you get through bronchitis:
    • Warm water with lemon and honey. Heat up a mug of warm water and add lemon juice and honey to taste. The honey coats and soothes your throat, and the lemon provides vitamin C and other nutrients.
    • Chamomile, peppermint, or another herbal tea. Herbal teas, especially those made to help treat sore throats, serve the dual purpose of hydrating your body and treating your symptoms.
    • Warm soup. Chicken broth or soup is nourishing and soothing. Garlic soup is another healing option that helps treat the symptoms of bronchitis. Sauté minced garlic in a little olive oil, add chicken or vegetable broth, heat it to a simmer, and drink it hot.
    • Saltwater. You don't want to drink saltwater, but gargling warm saltwater can help soothe your irritated throat membranes. Stir a teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle the water and spit it out.
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    Use a hot compress on your chest. Bronchitis can make your chest feel heavy and painful, especially when you're coughing frequently. Applying heat can help ease the pressure. Try one of the following methods of heating your chest:
    • Fill a hot water bottle with water and lay it on your chest.
    • Use a heating pad on your chest. Place it over your clothing so it doesn't overheat your skin.
    • Cover yourself with an electric blanket.
    • Take a warm bath or shower.
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    Breathe warm, moist air. When your lungs are irritated, hydrating them with warm, moist air helps sooth your bronchial passageways.[3] If you allow your throat to dry out, your lungs can become more irritated, prolonging the infection. Try the following methods for breathing humid air:
    • Use a humidifier. Humidifiers are machines that add moisture to the air in a room. They're available for purchase at drugstores.
    • Boil a pot of water on the stove. The steam produced from the boiling water can increase the room's humidity.
    • Use a nebulizer to breath in saline and purified water mists.
    • Place a bowl of water on the radiator. The heat from the radiator causes the water to evaporate and humidify the air.
    • Take a steamy shower or bath. Make sure the bathroom door is closed so you get the benefits of breathing in the moist air.
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    Avoid smoke and other lung irritants. Inhaling smoke can bring on painful coughing fits when you have bronchitis. It can also delay your lungs' healing process. Avoid smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke. Stay away from these lung irritants, too:
    • Areas with excessive pollution, such as streets with high traffic volume.
    • Areas with a strong chemical smell, like the inside of factories, hair salons, and gas stations.
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    Let yourself cough. The act of coughing when you have bronchitis helps expel the infection from your lungs. Coughing up phlegm is a normal symptom. If you take an over-the-counter cough suppressant, you prevent your lungs from healing.
    • If your coughing is extremely painful or constant, you should see a doctor to make sure you aren't experiencing symptoms for something other than bronchitis. Often times pneumonia and bronchitis have similar symptoms. It is important to see a doctor in order to differentiate the two.
    • Never take an over-the counter suppressant without first consulting a doctor.

Part 2
Treat with Medicines at Home

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    Take an over-the-counter pain medicine. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) containing aspirin or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain caused by the infection in your chest. Be sure to not to take more than the recommended dosage.[4]
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    Try medicines that soothe your throat. You should avoid taking cough suppressants if possible, but there's nothing wrong with taking medicine meant to treat your sore throat.
    • Look for an over-the-counter medicine containing benzocaine, with helps soothe irritated throat tissue. It comes in syrup and cough drop form.
    • Use natural cough drops. Cough drops made with simple ingredients like honey and lemon are available at health food stores. If you feel up to it, make your own cough drops following these steps:
      • Pour a half cup of honey and a few drops of peppermint extract or eucalyptus oil into a small pot.
      • Place the pot over medium high heat. Stir it constantly as it comes to a boil.
      • Monitor the temperature of the honey with a candy thermometer. Remove it from heat when it reaches 300 degrees F (149 degrees C), the the temperature at which the honey will harden when it cools.
      • Use a spoon to scoop drops of honey onto a baking sheet lined with oiled parchment or wax paper. Wait for the drops to harden, then suck on them to soothe your throat.

Part 3
Seek Treatment from a Doctor

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    Know when it's time to seek professional care. Your body usually heals itself from bronchitis after a week or so. However, there are cases in which the lungs are unable to expel the infection.[5] Make a doctor's appointment if you experience the following:
    • You have a pre-existing condition that could affect your body's ability to take care of the infection on its own.
    • You cough so much you can't sleep at night.
    • You cough up blood.
    • It feels weak to cough.
    • You keep coughing, yet hardly any/no mucous comes up.
    • You notice an increase in the amount or thickness of the phlegm you cough up.
    • Your coughing lasts more than a week, and doesn't seem to be going away.
    • You have a fever that lasts more than a couple of days.
    • You feel light-headed or have trouble getting enough oxygen.
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    Take a cough suppressant if you can't sleep. If your cough keeps you from sleeping at night, or causes extreme pain, your doctor may prescribe or recommend an over-the-counter cough suppressant. Coughing constantly over a long period of time can be hard on your body, and your doctor may decide that a cough suppressant would be beneficial to your health.[6]
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    Determine whether you have a bacterial infection. Bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, but since it irritates the lungs, it makes the body more susceptible to getting a bacterial infection at the same time.
    • If your doctor determines you have a bacterial infection, you may be prescribed an antibiotic. The antibiotics will help heal the bacterial infection, but will not treat the underlying case of bronchitis.
    • Smoking increases the chances of getting a bacterial infection in your lungs.
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    Determine whether you have chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a lung infection that persists over the course of several years, with symptoms that ebb and flow over time. It is usually caused by smoking or the continual inhalation of another lung irritant.[7]
    • If you have chronic bronchitis, your doctor may prescribe an anticholinergic bronchodilator or steroids to help open up the lungs' constricted airways.
    • If your body is having trouble delivering oxygen to your bloodstream, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy, such as the use of an oxygen tank at home.
    • You may also benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, a breathing exercise program facilitated by a therapist.[8]
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    Try natural remedies to fight chronic bronchitis: Natural remedies might be handy in chronic cases of bronchitis as the problem is persistent. In such cases herbs such as Adhatoda vasica, Hedychium spicatum, Curcuma longa, Terminalia belerica, Ocimum sanctum, and Glycyrrhiza glabra might help to soothe the bronchial linings, liquefy the mucus, helps to get it expelled from the lungs and provide relief from the symptoms of constant irritant coughing etc. Herbs such as zingiber officinale, Piper nigrum, Piper longum,Tinospora cordifolia might help to improve the immunity of the patient suffering from chronic bronchitis. These herbs help to prevent the frequent attacks of bronchitis. Natural remedies are not subject to the same testing regime as medicines and may not contain the ingredients listed on the label.


  • Don't use cough syrup for a child under 6 years old without the permission of your child's doctor.
  • Don't mix drugs, especially painkillers, with alcohol. This can cause severe liver damage.
  • Don't use any NSAID if you have any heart, kidney or liver problems.

Article Info

Categories: Respiratory Health