Consider bronchitis the Mount St. Helens of respiratory ills: It starts with a few quiet rumblings–a tickle in your throat here, some discomfort there. Then the coughing gets louder. Deeper. More severe. Until…ERUPTION! Phlegm emerges from the depths of your lungs making you sound like a skid-row bum in need of an iron lung. In fact, sometimes the only way to distinguish bronchitis from pneumonia is with an X-ray. But if you do have bronchitis, here are the faster ways to end the eruption.
Keep coughing. The cough may be ugly, but it’s effective–and necessary. The best way to treat bronchitis is to cough up the stuff that’s down there in your lungs. You don’t want it to settle down there, because it can cause lung collapse of further bronchitis and you could develop pneumonia.
Liquefy the problem. From Mom’s hot chicken soup to a cold glass of water or juice, drinking plenty of nonalcoholic fluids is one of the best and most time-efficient ways to thin out the secretions and bring up phlegm. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is, the opinion that hot beverages are more effective at breaking up mucus and relieving congestion is nonsense. Whether they are 120 degrees or 60 degrees, all beverages is the same temperature inside your body. Just be sure to drink plenty of liquids.
It usually takes about two weeks to relieve acute bronchitis–but you could have a quicker fix by ingesting more than 10 glasses of fluids a day. Water is the main thing in treating bronchitis. The more the better.
Reach for the red pepper. Congestion is to bronchitis as weddings are to Zsa Zsa Gabor. And one quick, inexpensive, and tasty remedy is to consume foods rich in capsaicin–the “hot” in hot peppers and other foods. If it makes your eyes water, it’s going to trigger the nose and lungs to water, too.
The hot sensation from spicy foods like hot pepper or mustard, curry, or garlic stimulates a reflex in the tongue, throat, stomach, and most likely also in the lungs that causes mucus to lose its stickiness, making it more readily expectorated. Actually, these foods cause the very same reflex actions in the very same way as popular expectorants like Robitussin.
Best of all, this occurs immediately upon eating the food–hot or chili peppers, horseradish, Tabasco, or curry, to name a few. However, those with gastrointestinal problems should check with their physician before trying this remedy.
Get a checkup. Speaking of doctors, it’s wise to speak with yours if you think you have bronchitis or pneumonia. True, most cases are caused by viral infections (like a cold or flu), so antibiotics don’t do much good. But some cases of bronchitis are the result of a bacterial infection–and are relieved in about two weeks with antibiotics.
Bundle up. Temperature changes may influence lung defense mechanisms that could affect bronchitis sufferers. We know that a sudden rush of cold air can cause asthma attacks in asthmatics. They learn to take a few extra minutes to put a scarf around their mouth and nose to better avoid a rush of cold air. I would advise those with bronchitis to do the same.
Most folks don’t seem to mind spending the few minutes it takes to dress accordingly when leaving a nice warm house to face winter’s cold wrath. But in the summertime? People who go on cruises–where they’re going from cool air conditioning to the hot weather frequently and suddenly, or vice versa–ten to develop upper respiratory infections; most frequently bronchitis. So be careful in the summer, too.
Ban the butts. We said it before and we’ll say it again: Stop smoking now! The best thing you could do to either treat bronchitis or avoid it is not smoke. The vast majority of chronic bronchitis is directly caused by smoking. If you have bronchitis now and you stop smoking, you’ll still have it–especially if you’ve been smoking for decades. But your condition will improve.