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How to Clear Chest Congestion

Five Methods:Helpful actionsDrinksFoodOver-the-counter medicationMedical help

Chest congestion is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant, but can cause hazardous health issues like bronchitis or pneumonia if not cleared up. It is wise to do all you can do to relieve and clear up congestion before it worsens. This article will help you learn how to clear chest congestion using standard common sense methods or herbal remedies and, if necessary, seeking medical treatment.

Method 1
Helpful actions

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    Do a gargle. Gargles aren’t always the most appealing, but they help to break apart mucus in your airways. Mix half a cup of warm water with 1-2 tablespoons of salt, and a pinch of turmeric. Stir the mixture to dissolve the salt a bit, and then take a swig. Gargle it as far down your throat as you are able for 1-2 minutes, 3-4 times a day.
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    Steam it out. Similar to drinking hot liquids, the heat and moisture of steam help to break up and dissolve mucus deep in your lungs and throat. Take a hot shower, or fill a bowl with very hot water. Place your face over the bowl and a towel over your head to trap in the steam. Hold your face there for as long as you are able, and breath deeply as you do.
    • You can choose to add in a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil, which may aid in breaking up the mucus.
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    Elevate your head. This tip applies primarily to sleeping; keeping your head elevated will help promote drainage of mucus, rather than a build-up overnight. Use several pillows to try to keep your head raised a bit higher than your torso.
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    Do a bit of yoga. Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you’re sick, but certain yoga positions can help to open up your airways and drain out mucus. Try the reclining bound angle pose, in which you lay a pillow/bolster along the length of your spine on the floor. Lay down on the pillow so that your torso/head are raised above your legs, and then bend your knees. Lay your knees/legs flat on the ground with your knees still bent and the soles of your feet touching.
    • Maintain this pose for 10-15 minutes for the best results.[1]
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    Try a hot pack. Applying a hot pack or steaming hot cloth on your throat and chest will help soothe congestion and warm the airways externally. Lay down with your head elevated, and allow the heat to soak in through your skin for 10-15 minutes. It may be helpful to follow this up with a steam treatment to empty your body of the liquefied mucus.
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    Use a humidifier at night while you are sleeping. This can help to open your nasal passages so you can breathe much easier. On certain models there is a slot on front where you can add nasal medication for extra power.

Method 2

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    Keep well hydrated. Drinking plenty of water when you are ill is a must, but is especially helpful in clearing out chest congestion. Not drinking enough liquids will cause the mucus in your chest and throat to coagulate and thicken, making it stickier and harder to get rid of. Drink water (warm is preferable) throughout the day to thin out the mucus in your body.
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    Drink plenty of Gatorade and juice to help increase your electrolyte production. When you are sick your body is working very hard to kill your infection and this can significantly hamper electrolytes without restoring them.
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    Drink tea. Hot liquids in general help to dissolve the mucus that causes chest congestion, but tea offers a double punch by adding in helpful herbs and spices that can ease chest pain and congestion. Brew up a cup of peppermint, ginger, chamomile, rosemary, or ginseng tea to drink several times a day. Add a bit of honey for sweetness and extra mucus-fighting power.
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    Make an herbal congestion clearer. Add a little saffron to a cup of milk. Stir and heat it up. Add a teaspoon of honey and a few drops of lemon juice. Drink while very hot and stir every few minutes.[citation needed]

Method 3

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    Avoid problem foods. Although food doesn’t seem to be directly related to mucus and phlegm, there is a correlation between the two. Dairy products, salt, sugar, and fried foods all increase mucus production. Cut these items out of your diet until your chest has cleared.
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    Eat beneficial foods. On the flip side, there are certain foods that can help to clear out the mucus in your chest and lessen its production. Eat spicy foods, citrus fruits, garlic, and ginger for easy chest congestion relief. In particular, asparagus and pineapple have shown to have chest-clearing benefits as well.
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    Try garlic and lime soup. Both ingredients can help to clear congestion. Add soda crackers to the mix to help even more.[citation needed]
    • Add juice from 3 lemons to a cup of very hot water.
    • Crush some garlic (1- 2). Add this to the water.
    • Add some salt and a lot of crushed black pepper.
    • Gulp it all down and you will instantly feel better.

Method 4
Over-the-counter medication

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    Take an expectorant. Expectorants are medications that break apart mucus and make it easier to cough up and expel from your body. There are many over-the-counter expectorants available at drug stores, but you can go to your doctor for a prescription as well.
    • Expectorants aren’t safe for children younger than six years old, so check with your doctor for a child-safe alternative.
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    Avoid suppressants. Suppressants are used to minimize coughing, but unfortunately they can thicken mucus in your chest. Avoid taking a suppressant or suppressant/expectorant combo, as you may worsen your chest congestion. Remember that coughing is normal and healthy when you have chest congestion, so you don’t need to minimize/stop it.
    • If your coughing is really making your uncomfortable, try taking ginger cough drops instead of a suppressant. The ginger will help to break up your mucus while the cough drop will help to soothe a sore throat. Strong eucalyptus flavored ones can also be soothing.
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    Treat congestion with mentholated cream. These thick creams give off a strong scent that helps you to breathe easier. Although it may not help with breaking up the mucus, it should make breathing much easier. Place this over-the-counter remedy on your chest before you go to sleep and it should open up some of the passageways.[2]
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    Try Zicam. Used at the first sign of a cold such as sneezing or a fever, this oral spray can help attack your congestion and cold and you will hopefully feel better faster.
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    Use non-prescription drugs such as Ibuprofen, Advil, and Nyquil to make you feel more comfortable while you are resting and trying to get better.

Method 5
Medical help

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    See your doctor to get prescription medication. If symptoms do not improve with any of these methods, inquire with your doctor about an antibiotic shot, nasal spray, pills or prescription vitamin therapy to clear up stubborn or deep chest congestion. As the old adage goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.
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    Use an inhaler. Ask your doctor about inhalers or nebulizers with which you can administer your own breathing treatments. These are necessary primarily for bad cases of chest congestion, but if you are sick and tired of dealing with mucus you can try one out at any time.


  • Chest congestion can turn into pneumonia if not taken care of early. See your doctor!
  • When you cough, if any mucus comes up (meaning it's a productive cough) then do not take any antihistamines as this could make the secretions dry and harder to come up. Some cough meds have antihistamines so be sure and read the label. It is quite normal for drainage to be yellow or light green if you have a cold or flu. However, if it is any other colour, see a doctor.
  • While in a steamy shower, have someone tap on your back around the lung area. A thumping action will loosen the mucus. This will make it easier to expel.
  • There are two places to open palm 'slap;' on either side of the chest to help break up congestion and two on the upper back. They used to use this method for kids with CF to help them cough up lung congestion.


  • Avoid smoking. If you are a smoker and aren’t able to quit, take a hiatus from tobacco while you’re trying to clear out chest congestion. Smoking while ill with too much mucus can significantly worsen your predicament.
  • Do not drive after taking a strong oral medication such as Nyquil. This is only meant to be taken before bedtime so you can sleep better through the night.
  • Although spicy foods are good to consume while having a cold, don't overdo it. Eat only as much spiciness as you can tolerate. If it is unbearably hot you will wind up doing more harm than good.
  • If your infant or toddler suffers from chest congestion, refrain from using any methods to clear the congestion that involve ingesting anything other than natural clear liquids like water or juice until consulting with a physician.

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Categories: Colds and Viruses | Articles in Need of Sources