Drinking Milk & Honey as a Chest Decongestant

woman lying in a bed reaching for a tissue on the bed side table
A 2007 study on children ages 2 to 18 indicates honey may help relieve chest congestion. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Chest congestion is often a symptom of an upper respiratory infection. Air flows to your lungs through bronchial tubes, which contain membranes that produce mucus to protect against irritation. If your bronchial tubes become inflamed, the membranes produce excess mucus, which causes chest congestion. Different over-the-counter medications help treat chest congestion, or you can try a home remedy, such as honey. Milk does not relieve congestion, but it doesn't worsen symptoms either.

Honey

A 2007 study indicates that honey may help relieve symptoms associated with chest congestion. The study, which was published in the “Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,” examined the effects of honey on cough compared to over-the-counter cough relievers. Children ages 2 to 18 were either given a single dose of honey or honey-flavored dextromethorphan, or they did not receive any treatment. Researchers found that the children who were treated with honey had the most relief from their symptoms.

Milk

The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that there is no evidence to suggest that milk or other dairy products increase or worsen mucus associated with chest congestion. However, milk does not relieve the symptoms either. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps aid in sleep. If your chest congestion is causing you to have difficulty sleeping, a glass of warm milk may help.

Recommendations

Mixing honey with warm lemon juice can help ease the sore throat that may accompany your chest congestion. Nighttime coughs are a common symptom of chest congestion. Taking 2 teaspoons of honey before bed may help relieve coughing. You can also mix the 2 teaspoons of honey into a warm beverage, such as milk, if you are unable to take the honey plain. Warm beverages can help ease chest congestion because of the hot steam.

Precautions

Consult your physician if you have chest congestion. Although chest congestion is often a symptom of an upper respiratory infection, it can also be a sign of more serious respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or lung cancer. Heart disease can also cause chest congestion. Milk and honey can be an effective home remedy; however, don’t give honey to children under the age of 1. A rare, but serious form of food poisoning known as infant botulism can occur in infants who ingest honey.

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