Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, which causes mucus build-up. Your goal is to loosen phlegm and get it moving so that you can cough it up and out.
The most direct approach to your lungs is the air you breathe, so inhalation treatments are the first step. Different foods and drink can also keep mucus on the move, and getting germ-fighters into your system will also discourage the bacteria adhering to the mucus. Here's what to do.
Eat chillies, spicy salsa or dishes flavoured with cayenne pepper. Fiery foods thin the mucus in your lungs, thereby helping you to cough more productively.
To thin mucus and help you cough it up more easily, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which tend to dehydrate and make mucus tougher to dislodge.
Drink mullein tea. Mullein is a traditional remedy for respiratory ailments and is used to make expectorant cough syrups. Put 2 teaspoons dried mullein flowers into a cup of boiling water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, then strain and drink. You can drink up to 3 cups a day.
Dried marshmallow root also contains mucilage, and has a soft, sweet flavour, making it a soothing drink for an irritated throat. Pour 250ml boiling water over 2-3 teaspoons dried marshmallow root. Allow to steep for 10 minutes, then strain before drinking.
For an acute attack of bronchitis, drink thyme tea to thin mucus secretions. Use 1 or 2 teaspoons per 250ml boiling water and add honey to taste. Drink 3 or 4 cups a day. Other herbs that can be combined with thyme or used as alternatives are elecampane, hyssop, plantain and angelica.
Breathe steam by taking a hot shower, or pour steaming-hot water into a bowl and leaning over it, draping a towel over your head. If you use water from the kettle, wait for a minute or two before leaning over it, to avoid scalding your face. Inhaling the steam will help to loosen the secretions in your lungs. Many pharmacies sell a simple, cheap and safe steam inhaler–a 2-handled beaker with a face-mask attachment.
To make the steam treatment even more effective, add a few drops of eucalyptus or pine oil to the water. Fresh-smelling eucalyptus helps to soften mucus in obstructed airways and also has some antibacterial properties into the bargain. Pine oil acts as an expectorant, so it will also help you to cough up phlegm from the bronchial tubes.
Run a humidifier in your bedroom when you sleep to moisten the air you breathe. Make sure you follow the manufacturer's directions for cleaning the humidifier as bacteria and mould can build up inside
N-acetylcysteine is a form of the amino acid cysteine and has been found to help thin and loosen mucus and reduce the recurrence of bronchitis. It is most often found as part of an amino acid complex in supplements sold by sports nutrition specialists. Look for amino acid formulas in health food shops or online. If you're treating short-lived bronchitis, continue taking N-acetylcysteine for a few weeks after the cough has cleared up.
Echinacea and astragalus will help you fight off bacteria and viruses, and are immune-boosting herbs. Take 200mg of either herb 4 times a day for acute bronchitis or twice a day for chronic bronchitis.
When you're coughing, it can be very tempting to take a cough suppressant. But if you have a wet, productive cough, you shouldn't try to suppress it because your lungs are expelling bad mucus. You could try an expectorant cough syrup instead. These claim to loosen mucus, so the coughing clears out your bronchial passages.
To prevent chronic bronchitis, the best advice is don't smoke. Second-hand smoke is just as bad, so avoid smoky venues, and ask friends who smoke to do so away from you.
If your job exposes you to lots of dust, fumes or pollutants, wear an efficient mask or respirator to filter the impurities from the air you breathe.
To reduce your risk of getting viral bronchitis, wash your hands regularly and keep them away from your face, especially when you've been near someone who has a cold.
Clean your nose and sinuses with a saline solution to help prevent allergens and infectious agents from getting into your lungs.
Vitamin C helps you to fight off respiratory viruses, and is more effective with supplementary flavonoids. Take up to 500mg of vitamin C and 250mg of flavonoids twice a day.
To drink or not to drink milk? One school of thought claims that milk stimulates the production of mucus in the upper and lower respiratory tract and in the intestines. But other authorities say that there is almost no evidence of any link between milk and mucus, and that people actually do more harm than good by cutting out milk because they prejudice their calcium intake.