Do Any Bronchitis Home Remedies Actually Work?

7 ways to calm your cough
Tea with lemon and honey

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.

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

Bronchitis treatment

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.

Still, people try all sorts of things to help ease symptoms. Some work well. Others, not as much. Here’s the scoop on 7 common remedies for your lingering cough.

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1. Medicine

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.

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 saltwater 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.

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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 and help you feel better.

7. Essential oils

Yes, they’re on trend, but there’s no evidence that essential oils can help with bronchitis symptoms. However, 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.” 

Unfortunately, you’ll still have to practice patience as you recover from bronchitis. But with these tricks, you’ll feel at least a little better while you wait.

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