Locations:
Search IconSearch

Do Any Bronchitis Home Remedies Actually Work?

7 ways to calm your cough

woman breathing steam to help lungs function

You have a miserable case of bronchitis, and your cough could wake the dead. Your family members and coworkers are losing patience. Even your pets are getting annoyed by your constant hacking.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Is there anything you can do to calm your agitated airways? Family physician Donald Ford, MD, shares his advice for treating bronchitis at home.

Proven remedies to treat bronchitis

Bronchitis is especially annoying because the cough can last for weeks, even after the infection is gone. So what can you do?

First, make sure you actually have bronchitis. If you’re unsure or you have a high fever, see your doctor to rule out more serious problems like pneumonia, Dr. Ford advises.

If you are battling bronchitis, expect your cough to last several frustrating weeks. Bronchitis is almost always caused by a virus. That means antibiotics won’t help, and there’s not much you can do to speed up the recovery process.

While you’ll have to practice patience as you recover, though, these tricks might help you at least feel a little better while you wait.

1. Over-the-counter medication

While there’s no cure for bronchitis, medicine can help ease symptoms, Dr. Ford says:

  • Cough expectorant: Look for meds with guaifenesin, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicines. It’s an expectorant, meaning it helps loosen mucus.
  • Cough suppressant: Other OTC cough medicines can suppress your hacking — an especially useful trick if your cough is keeping you up at night. For really stubborn coughs, doctors can prescribe prescription cough medicines.
  • Steroid medications: Some patients benefit from prescription steroid medications, which ease inflammation in the airways.

Advertisement

2. Water

Swallow plenty of it to help loosen mucus so that you can cough it up and out (gross, but gratifying). Unfortunately, wine and coffee don’t have the same hydration benefit, so stick to H2O, herbal tea and broths.

3. Steam

When you have a deep cough, it feels like you can’t clear the gunk from your lungs. Steam helps loosen the mucus so you can get rid of it. If you belong to a health club, this is definitely your chance to hit up the sauna. Or just turn on the shower in your own bathroom and let the room get steamy.

You can also fill a pan or pot with boiling water and lean over it to inhale the steam. “But be careful,” Dr. Ford cautions. “Don’t cover your head with a towel to trap the steam, because it can get too hot and burn your airways.”

4. Saline sprays and salt water gargles

Use a saline nasal spray or neti pot to flush your sinuses. “Even if symptoms are in the chest, most people have some congestion as well. Nasal saline helps clear out mucus and also hydrates your tissues,” Dr. Ford says. Gargling with salt water can also soothe and hydrate a sore throat.

5. Honey

Tea with honey is an old classic for treating colds. Mother Nature’s favorite sweetener probably won’t do much to clear your cough, Dr. Ford says, but it can soothe the sore throat that often goes along with it.

6. Cough drops

Despite the name, they don’t do much to clear up mucus. But like honey, they can soothe a raw throat, suppress your cough and help you feel better.

7. Essential oils

While there’s no evidence that essential oils can help with bronchitis symptoms, some people find breathing steam spiked with menthol oil is especially soothing, Dr. Ford says. “It doesn’t necessarily work better than plain steam, but it can feel good.”

What to avoid when you have bronchitis

One of the most important things to do when you have bronchitis is to avoid things that will irritate your lungs.

  • No smoking. You should steer clear of smoking of any kind (including vaping) anyway but especially with bronchitis or other conditions that affect your lungs.
  • Fires. Whether it’s a cozy fire in your fireplace, a camp fire or being in an area where there are controlled burns or wildfires, smoke will definitely worsen your condition.
  • Dust. Inhaling dust and other allergens around your home can stir up trouble so keep your windows closed and keep your house clean, dusted and vacuumed. Wear a mask while cleaning and consider an air filter for your home.

Keep an eye on your local weather, too. Local news and other outlets, like the National Weather Service, will often report your local air quality index, which tracks the level of pollution in the air in your community. The higher the index number, the worse the air quality is, meaning you should stay inside with an air filter on and windows closed.

When to see a doctor

Because there’s no real cure for bronchitis, the illness can sometimes linger. If it does, look for these signs to know when you should consult your health care provider.

  • If your coughing persists for several weeks.
  • If you develop a cold that lasts longer than two weeks.
  • If you develop a fever that lasts longer than five days or climbs above 102F.
  • If coughing becomes painful or produces blood.
  • If you develop shortness of breath or wheezing.

Advertisement

Your doctor can develop a treatment plan that works best for you.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

woman sick in bed and sneezing
August 1, 2023/Primary Care
6 Common Illnesses and How You Can Avoid Spreading Them

Untreated, some infections can be contagious for up to four weeks!

bronchitis or pneumonia
November 9, 2021/Lung
Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia: How To Tell the Difference

Understand the symptoms and causes of these respiratory infections

Man coughing and sneezing while sitting on couch at home
Think It Might Be Bronchitis? When to See a Doctor

Here's when to see a doctor about that persistent cough

How You Can Best Combat the Effects of Dry Winter Air
February 17, 2019/Lung
How Dry Winter Air Can Cause Respiratory Problems— From Bronchitis to Nosebleeds

Tips for protecting yourself from common illnesses

Jar of honey and fresh garlic on cutting board
Is Fermented Garlic Honey Good for Colds?

On their own, honey can help soothe a sore throat and garlic has immunity-boosting properties, but you don’t need to go the fermented route

fire cider in a mason jar
Fire Cider: What Is It? And Can It Prevent Illness?

This spicy concoction can do more harm than good, upsetting your stomach and causing painful acid reflux

Sick person on couch using tissue on nose with medication bottles on coffee table
How To Know if It’s COVID-19, a Cold or Allergies

Symptoms can overlap and be hard to distinguish, but there are some telltale differences

female with fingers pressing on bridge of nose in distress
Got a Sinus Infection That Won’t Quit? When To Worry

Give it seven to 10 days, but if your symptoms linger or get worse, it’s time to see a healthcare provider

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad