We’ve all gone through the horrible process of getting over a cold only to have it develop into a persistent cough. This is the signal of acute bronchitis, a condition in which the bronchial tubes (which carry air from the windpipe into the lungs) becomes inflamed and produce excess mucus. To speed your recovery, you want to thin the mucus as much as possible, which will allow you to cough it up and out—good riddance. Additionally, you also want to give your immune system the support it needs to fight off whatever infection is irritating your bronchial tubes.
Enjoy some Steam
The easiest way to loosen up the mucus that’s plaguing you is to inhale moist, hot air. You can take a hot shower, use a towel to cover your head and a steaming bowl of water, or use a humidifier (especially while you’re sleeping). If you opt for any of the standing-water methods, consider adding a drop or two of eucalyptus and/or pine oil. These essences will help get your mucus moving, and eucalyptus can help to eliminate any bacteria that may be causing your bronchitis. If you have eucalyptus leaves handy, you can boil those to the same effect.
Eat Spicy Foods
Cayenne, jalapeno, habanero—take your pick, the spicier the better. The same chemical that makes your mouth feel like a blast furnace, capsaicin, also acts on your mucus membranes, inflaming them and causing them to secrete more mucus while simultaneously thinning that mucus. This is why your nose runs when you eat spicy salsa, and it can help to get things moving in your bronchial tubes. If you’re strongly averse to peppers, you can also try mustard, radishes, and wasabi; these contain allyl isothiocyanate, which has the same effect as capsaicin.
Watch What You Drink
After all that spicy food, you’re probably going to reach for a glass of milk—but you absolutely shouldn’t. Dairy contains lactalbumin, which promotes mucus production without thinning it. More and thicker mucus in your body means more trouble breathing and more room for your infection to grow. Instead, drink lots of water, about eight glasses each day (just not all at once). Staying hydrated will make the mucus moister, looser and easier to expel. Avoid alcohol and caffeine; in addition to suppressing the immune system, they’ll also dehydrate you, which is the opposite of what you’re striving for.
This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: your airways are already inflamed, so don’t inflame them anymore. Smoking cigarettes while suffering acute bronchitis will hinder your ability to move mucus through your airways. This means you’ll suffer worse and for longer than if you weren’t working against your body’s own natural means of overcoming the ailment.
Boost Your Immune System
Acute bronchitis is caused by an infection, often viral, and as such, your autoimmune system will be working overtime to eliminate the intrusive bodies. You can help it along by taking supplements like Echinacea, zinc, astagalus, and a whole host of others that maintain immune health. Vitamin C is great for fighting off respiratory infections, but be careful not to take too much—it can cause diarrhea, which undo all that hard work and effort you put into drinking those eight glasses of water.All of the options discussed above are great ways to treat acute bronchitis on your own, since they all act directly on the affected airways and your body’s own natural defenses against infection. Most importantly, they’ll save you from the cost of a doctor’s visit and the inevitable medication. However, if your symptoms persist or worsen, you should seek professional medical diagnosis and treatment before your condition becomes more serious.