There are different types of congestion that you can suffer from, the most common type being chest congestion. Most of us have suffered from this problem at some point or the other, especially by the time we reach adulthood. It can be described as the accumulation of excessive fluid and mucus in your lungs. This problem could cause you to suffer from a bad cough, pain in the chest area as well as breathing difficulties. Fortunately, in most cases, chest congestion lasts for a short period of time, - a couple of days or weeks at the most. However, there are instances of people suffering from this congestion for a longer period of time, or even cases where the congestion in the chest is recurrent.

While anyone can get chest congestion, this problem occurs more commonly in younger children and the elderly, mainly due to the fact that their immune systems are comparatively weaker. Even teenagers and young adults who suffer from a weakened or compromised immune system are more prone to chest congestion problems, as compared to others.

Congestion Picture

For most people, chest congestion is not really a serious problem. You may just regard it as a minor inconvenience more than anything else. However, some of the symptoms of this problem can be quite severe and therefore, it is common for people to seek medical assistance for faster relief. In many cases, chest congestion is not a condition on its own, but more like the symptom of an underlying health problem. Therefore, chest congestion should not be left unchecked.

This is particularly true in situations where the congestions is present for prolonged periods or if persistent, as it could be indicative of a more serious health condition. Unfortunately there are some conditions that are rather serious, but the symptoms are usually similar to those of more minor conditions. A self diagnosis of chest congestion can often result in such a misdiagnosis. For example, serious health conditions like asthma can cause tightness in the chest, which is sometimes mistaken for chest congestion. However, while chest congestion usually clears up after a while, asthma symptoms are more long lasting. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor immediately, if chest congestion lasts for a long period of time.

Symptoms of Congestion

There are several symptoms that accompany a congested chest and they could vary in intensity, depending on the factors that have led to the problem. Most of the symptoms of chest condition are fairly mild and insignificant, which is why they are often ignored by most people. However, if they are left unchecked the condition could rapidly worsen and can also become fatal. Therefore, it is important be aware of what the various symptoms of chest congestion are, so that you can treat them in time. In case the chest congestion is not caused by any serious underlying factors, the symptoms that are evident include:

  • Deep chested coughing
  • The urge to clear the throat over and over
  • Tickling sensation at the back of the throat, caused by excess mucus
  • Severe headaches
  • Tightness in the chest area
  • Difficulties in talking as well as swallowing
  • Labored breathing
  • Wheezing

You may notice one or more of the symptoms at a time, as it is not necessary as all will be present. The symptom that is the most common in case of chest congestion is a cough, which may or may not be productive. A productive cough is where sputum or phlegm is present; in an unproductive cough, these are absent.

Some of the symptoms that accompany chest congestion are a cause for concern and should receive emergency medical attention. You need to take immediate action in case you notice symptoms like:

  • Hemoptysis, which means coughing up blood
  • Severe pain in the chest
  • Crackling sounds from the chest, which are quite audible
  • High fever
  • Changes in the color of the fingernails and the area around the mouth
  • Skin rash
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Chills and shaking

It is absolutely essential for you to make a note of the symptoms that are evident, as they need to be described to the doctor as accurately as possible, for a proper diagnosis.

Causes of Congestion

There are several factors that could lead to chest congestion and not all of them are serious. For example, you may suffer from congestion in the chest because of a common cold, allergies, post-nasal drip or flu, but in this case, the symptom usually lasts for no more than a week. However, some of the more serious causes of congestion in the chest include:

  • Asthma: This is a respiratory condition, which causes the airways to swell up and become narrow. They in turn produce extra mucus, which could make it difficult to breathe. Unfortunately, this condition cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with the help of medication, home remedies, therapies and lifestyle changes.
  • Bronchitis: There are two types of Bronchitis, which include bacterial bronchitis and viral bronchitis. This condition occurs when there is an inflammation in the bronchial tube lining. The main symptom of this condition is coughing up greenish colored sputum that had accumulated in the chest or respiratory airways. Antibiotics can be prescribed for bacterial bronchitis, but for the viral one, only the symptoms can be treated.
  • Pertussis: More commonly referred to as a whooping cough, pertussis is a highly contagious infection in the respiratory tract. The main symptom of this condition is a hacking cough, followed by a high-pitched intake of breath, which sounds like a whoop. This condition is a fairly serious one, mainly prevalent in younger children.
  • Pneumonia: This condition occurs when there is an inflammation in the lungs, caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection. Apart from chest congestion, this condition can be accompanied by decreased appetite, aches, fever and a severe cough. Some types of pneumonia can be treated with the help of antibiotics
  • Tuberculosis: Also known as TB, this infectious disease affects the lungs and is highly contagious. The treatment of this condition is quite lengthy and could take months.

Some of the causes of congestion in the chest could also be a lot more serious, as they include lung cancer, heart-valve malfunctions and pulmonary edema.

Remedies for Congestion

Before using any over the counter medication or home remedy to clear chest congestion, it is best to undergo a checkup and identify the cause of the problem. If your doctor tells you that you do not need to follow any specific course of treatment and if hospitalization is not required, then you could try home treatment options. Given below are a few commonly recommended home remedies for congestion in the chest, caused by the flu, cold or allergies:

  • Add a pinch of salt to a glass of warm water to do a salt water gargle. Take a glass of warm water and add a teaspoon of salt to it. Use the entire solution to gargle at one time and repeat this exercise at least twice or thrice a day.
  • Make it a point to do steam inhalation at least once a day. Boil some water and for better results, add eucalyptus essential oils to it. Allow the water to cool for a few minutes before bending your head over the pot. Cover your head with a thick towel so that you can trap the steam within. Inhale the steam as deeply as possible, for at least 5 minutes or even longer if you can.
  • Apply some essential oils (preferably diluted) to the chest and massage the area for a few minutes.
  • Drink some herbal tea throughout the day, to loosen the mucus in the chest, making it easier for the body to get rid of it.
  • Many alternate healers claim that yoga and aromatherapy are very effective in getting rid of chest congestion problems. However, there aren’t sufficient clinical studies to support these claims.
  • Although most of the remedies for congestion mentioned above are quite safe if used correctly, it is best to consult a doctor before trying any of them.

Diet for Congestion

While a diet may not be able to cure chest congestion problems, there are certain foods that can alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms. Therefore, it is best to increase the consumption of such foods. At the same time, certain foods should be strictly avoided by patients who have chest congestion, as they aggravate the problem.

Increasing the consumption of liquids that are warm is one of the best ways to deal with chest congestion. This not only helps to loosen the congestion, but also soothes the throat and reduces coughing. You can have some warm water; simply add a few drops of lemon juice or honey to the glass of water. Having tea, warm milk or broth can be just as beneficial, but coffee should be strictly avoided.

Spicy foods help your body to get rid of the excessive accumulation of phlegm and mucus and therefore should be included in a diet for congestion. Jalapenos, peppers and chilies act as natural decongestants. Some of the other spices that are very helpful include onions, garlic, cloves and ginger.

You also need to increase your intake of any foods containing Vitamin C and Vitamin E, as they boost the immune system and help the body recover from most types of infections a lot more swiftly. You could either have slices of warm oranges or you could dilute orange juice with warm water for this purpose.

Vitamins and minerals help improving your overall health and therefore are an essential part of a diet, especially when you are trying to recovering from any health problems. Therefore, you need to ensure that you consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially broccoli, spinach, papaya, kiwi, grapefruit, pineapples and so on.

Suggestion for Congestion

In case you are prone to respiratory problems or suffer from chest congestion on a regular basis, it may be best for you to consult a doctor for preventative steps that you can take. In order to improve your overall health and minimize the risks of chest congestion problems, you need to eat a healthy diet, drink a lot of water, get plenty of rest, sleep well and follow a proper exercise routine.

Congestion - Frequently asked questions