If you have a hacking cough along with the symptoms of a cold or sinusitis, you may have a chest infection called bronchitis.
Acute bronchitis typically lasts up to three weeks, and can affect anyone – though it’s more common in young children up to the age of five1, but can also affect adults, especially if they are smokers.
According to the NHS, a bout of acute bronchitis is also more common in winter, since it often develops after you’ve had a cold, sore throat or flu (the condition is caused by the large airways in the lungs – called the bronchi – becoming infected).
But the good news is most cases of acute bronchitis don’t need any treatment, as they clear up by themselves within a few weeks. There are lots of things you can do to ease your symptoms in the meantime, including the following:
If your temperature is on the high side, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, as having a fever can make you more susceptible to dehydration. Drinking lots of fluids can also help thin the mucus in your chest, making it easier to cough up. You may also have a sore throat when you have bronchitis, and drinking plenty of fluids can help make it feel better. Try to stick to healthy drinks such as water, herbal teas, fruit juices, vegetable juices or try hot water honey and lemon.
Eat super healthily
Make sure plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are on the menu – the nutrients help support your body while you’re feeling poorly. Now’s also a good time to have lots of soups and stews, as the extra liquids can guard against dehydration and help clear your chest. If you like spicy foods, try having some dishes made with chillies or cayenne pepper, as these spices are thought to help make mucus thinner.
You don’t have to stay at home on the sofa all day, but try to take things easy when you’re feeling poorly with bronchitis. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep – prop yourself up in bed with an extra pillow or two to make breathing easier – and take a nap during the daytime if you need to. Once you feel a bit better, try to do some gentle exercise to get yourself moving, as any type of physical activity should make you breathe more deeply and help get your chest clear of mucus.
During the few days when you don’t feel like exercising, try to take some deep breaths every so often. This helps to keep the mucus in your chest moving, which means you may be able to cough it up more easily. Try to remember to do four or five deep breaths once and hour or so, followed by a big cough to clear your chest.
Drinking lots of liquids can help make mucus thinner and your chest feel clearer, but so can breathing in steam. If you have one, use a vaporiser. If not, put some hot – but not boiling – water in a bowl, lean over it and breathe in the steam. You can put a towel over your head to make a steam ‘tent’, but take care not to scald yourself.