Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the large airways of the lungs, says Wassim Labaki, MD, a pulmonologist at the University of Michigan Pulmonary Clinic. It’s usually caused by a viral infection, and aside from coughing, congestion, and sputum, it can also be accompanied by headaches, a sore or itchy throat, fatigue, and muscle aches.
But the truth is, if you visit your doctor for treatment of your bronchitis, he or she is likely to point you right back to your medicine cabinet at home since antibiotics don’t help treat viral infections, says Dr. Barr.
However, it’s still a good idea to visit your doc if you’re experiencing bronchitis-like symptoms, since he or she will need to consider other non-viral causes, such as bacteria and non-infectious causes, says Dr. Barr. But chances are, you can treat the symptoms right from the comfort of your own bed.
Here, 5 home remedies for bronchitis that will have you feeling better in no time.
Take cough medicine with expectorant
There are two types of cough medicine: cough suppressants, which are used for a dry cough, and expectorants, which are used for a wet cough that brings up mucus, says Dr. Parsons. For something like bronchitis, you’re going to want to find a cough medicine with expectorant since that will help “bring up” mucus.
Just keep in mind that a typical cold medicine won’t cure your bronchitis, but it will still definitely help curb the symptoms.
Drink lots of fluids
This is one doctors say is key to overcoming bronchitis. Drinking eight or more glasses of water daily is helpful. The thought is that by drinking water, you’re able to replace fluids you might’ve lost because of rapid breathing, and it can help treat dehydration and reduce the viscosity of your mucus, according to a review by Cochrane.
Sip hot tea with honey
If your mum ever gave you tea with honey before bed to help ease your cough, she was on the right track. Tea helps you stay hydrated and honey has some research backing its benefits for coughs.
In one study, children with respiratory infections were given honey before bed, and it significantly improved their ability to sleep while experiencing coughing. Plus, if nothing else, the honey can give your tea a sweet kick.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is core to getting over any illness, bronchitis included. As for the amount? “At least seven to eight hours a day.
A lack of sleep—in other words, sleeping less than 5 hours per night—has been associated with an increased likelihood of developing a respiratory infection, according to a 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, potentially due to the effect inadequate sleep has on your immune system. Notably, there was no association with those who slept more than 9 hours a night, the researchers found.
Do light exercise
It might sound counterintuitive—especially if you’re super tired and coughing constantly—but light exercise can be helpful in combating bronchitis. Just make sure you’re not doing anything super strenuous.
When should you go to a doctor?
Bronchitis requires professional medical attention when:
- Your cough is getting worse after a week
- You have a fever or are coughing up blood
- You are older and get a hacking cough on top of another illness
- You are short of breath and also have a very profuse cough
- You have heart or lung disease