A cough that includes chest congestion may be a symptom of the common cold or the flu, which does not usually require medical attention, says the Mayo Clinic. A congested cough may also be the cause of a more serious illness, like lung cancer, asthma or tuberculosis. If you notice any severe symptoms, like neck stiffness, hives, swelling or difficulty breathing, consult a doctor. Otherwise, you can treat cough and congestion using home remedies.
Drinking chicken soup may help reduce congestion because it increases mucus movement in the body, says the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, chicken soup may reduce inflammation in the lungs because it reduces the movement of neutrophils. Neutrophils are cells in the body that respond to illness by creating inflammation in the body. Heat either store-bought or homemade chicken soup until it is very warm, then carefully inhale the steam from the soup while drinking it to help loosen chest congestion and soothe a cough.
Honey is a natural cough suppressant and may be as effective as over-the-counter cough suppressants, like dextromethorphan, says Mayo Clinic internist James M. Steckelberg, M.D. Adding honey to a warm drink, like tea or hot water, or taking honey by the spoonful may help reduce a cough and congestion for several hours. Take 2 tbsp. of honey before bed to help coat the throat and clear congestion. Do not give honey to children under the age of 1, because it may cause infantile botulism, a dangerous form of food poisoning that can cause death.
To help keep your house more humid, turn down the thermostat at night, says Naomi Grobstein, M.D., a family physician in Montclair, New Jersey. Although shutting off the heat may seem counterintuitive for healing your chest congestion, turning the heat down a few degrees will help maintain humidity levels in the home. To add more humidity, sit in the bathroom with the bathtub or shower running on hot. This will release steam into the air, creating more humidity to help you breathe more clearly. As water vapor is released into the air, it is absorbed into the lungs, which thins out mucus and helps loosen congestion in the airways, says the Mayo Clinic.
Drink lots of liquids, including clear broths and water, suggests Robert C. Beckerman, M.D., professor of pediatrics and physiology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Drinking fluids will help thin out the congestion in the chest and make it easier to expectorate, or cough up the mucus in the chest. Without adequate hydration, the cough will become dry and breathing will become more difficult. Stay as hydrated as possible throughout the day to reduce your symptoms.