Bronchitis Home Remedies: What Helps You Feel Better?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 03, 2024
6 min read

Your bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs, can get infected and swollen. This is called bronchitis. When you've got it, you probably have a bad cough, lots of mucus, and maybe some general cold symptoms such as body aches or chills. There are ways to feel better with home remedies. You can start with these basic steps:

  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water. Try 8-12 glasses a day to help thin out that mucus and make coughing easier. If you have kidney or heart failure, your doctor may be restricting your fluids. Talk to them first before drinking extra water.
  • Get plenty of rest.

Saltwater gargling

This can get rid of some of the mucus that coats and irritates your throat. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Spit it out after gargling. You can do this several times a day to make your throat feel better.

Use saline drops or spray

Bronchitis can cause congestion. Saline nasal spray helps get rid of mucus and hydrate tissues.

Include garlic in diet

One study found that people who took garlic had significantly fewer colds than those who took a placebo, and they got better faster. Avoid garlic if you take blood thinners and some medicines that treat HIV/AIDS.

Try honey

Try a mixture of honey and lemon or a spoonful of honey. (Don't give honey to children younger than 1 year).

Use a humidifier

When you have bronchitis, it may be hard to get rid of mucus, or the air in your home might be dry. Try using a humidifier, inhaling steam from a bowl, or taking a hot shower to loosen mucus. Be sure to properly clean your humidifier every few days and change the filter to avoid the growth of bacteria and microbes.

It's best to stay away from cough medicine unless your cough keeps you awake at night. Your cough helps clear that gunk out of your lungs. When it comes to kids, avoid cough medicine for those younger than 4 years and check with your doctor about giving it to older children.

Instead of cough medicine, you can:

  • Take throat lozenges that don't have medicine in them. (Avoid these with young children, as they could cause choking.)
  • Try guaifenesin, which you can get over the counter (it comes as a pill or liquid), if you have trouble getting the phlegm out.

Use over-the-counter pain relievers with ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin to help with pain. (Don't give aspirin to children.) Read warning labels and talk to your doctor before you take these if you have peptic ulcers or kidney disease. You can use acetaminophen to help with pain and fever.

Chronic bronchitis is long-term inflammation of the bronchi and is common among smokers. While you can't treat it with home remedies, you can manage your symptoms. In addition to quitting smoking, you can get relief by making some lifestyle changes, focusing on your breathing, and doing your best not to get colds or the flu. Here are some things you can do:

Change your diet

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also eat low-fat meats, chicken, fish, and low-fat or nonfat dairy.

Stay physically active

Along with a good diet, exercise will keep your weight in check. This is a big deal because more weight makes it harder to breathe. Also, the muscles you use for breathing get stronger when you exercise. You can start with a slow, 15-minute walk three times a week, then do a little more at a time. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan that works for you.

Try pursed-lip breathing

This can help slow down the fast breathing that sometimes comes with chronic bronchitis. First, take a deep breath in. Then, purse your lips like you're about to kiss someone and breathe out slowly through your mouth. This type of breathing props your airways open and may make it easier for you to clear out thick mucus with a good cough.

Try to avoid colds and the flu

Stay away from people with colds or the flu, wash your hands often, get a flu shot every year, and stay up to date with your COVID boosters.

Avoid secondhand smoke

Stay away from secondhand smoke and other things that irritate your lungs, such as dust and chemical fumes. If you can't avoid these things, try wearing a mask.

There are two types of bronchitis : “acute” and “chronic.” Acute bronchitis is more common and usually goes away on its own within a few weeks. Chronic bronchitis keeps coming back or doesn't go away at all. Smoking almost always causes it. The following remedies may help both acute and chronic bronchitis symptoms:

Avoid lung irritants

With either type of bronchitis, the best approach is to avoid things that irritate your lungs:

  • If you smoke, the most important thing you can do is stop. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about what might work best for you.
  • Wear a mask if cold air triggers your cough or makes you short of breath.
  • If you have seasonal allergies, take an antihistamine when your allergies are bad.

Bronchitis sleep tips

The infection and cough that come with bronchitis can make you very tired. Also, bronchitis cough gets worse at night. Listen to your body and rest as much as possible, especially over the first few days. If a nighttime cough keeps you awake, use an extra pillow to prop up your head and keep mucus from settling in the back of your throat.

Best foods to eat when sick with bronchitis

Chicken soup can help ease a sore throat and loosen mucus when you're sick with bronchitis. Add spices such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic to soothe throat and chest irritation.

Golden milk, also known as turmeric milk, is a traditional drink in Ayurvedic medicine. You drink it to boost immunity and recover from infections that affect your sinuses and throat, such as bronchitis.

Bronchitis home remedies for babies are similar to the ones for adults. They include:

  • Lots of rest
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat fever and mild pain
  • Cough medicine
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Humidifier

Avoid giving cough medicine to kids younger than 4, and for children between ages 4 and 6, talk to your child's doctor.

In some cases, you might get medicine from your doctor. Since most bronchitis is caused by viruses that do not respond to antibiotics, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to treat your symptoms. But more often you'll just have to ride it out. As you do that, some good old-fashioned self-care can help you feel better.

Call your doctor if your cough:

  • Turns up mucus that's yellow or green
  • Keeps you awake at night
  • Lasts more than 3 weeks
  • Produces blood

You'll also want to call your doctor if you have a cough and:

  • A foul-tasting fluid in your mouth (this could be reflux)
  • A fever over 100.4 F
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

If you have chronic bronchitis, your cough will go on for months. It's best to check in with your doctor regularly.

Sometimes, your symptoms may get worse. If you have chronic bronchitis, you can still get acute bronchitis with worsening cough and mucus. You'll want to see your doctor then as well, to see if you need an antibiotic.

To feel better when you have bronchitis, try these steps: drink plenty of fluids to thin mucus, use a humidifier or inhale steam to ease breathing, and avoid lung irritants such as smoke and dust. Honey and cough drops can soothe a sore throat, and saline sprays can help clear nasal congestion. Rest and avoid strenuous activities. If your symptoms continue, get worse, or include high fever or coughing up blood, see a doctor.

How long should a bronchitis cough last?

A cough from acute bronchitis can stay with you for up to 8 weeks, while chronic bronchitis lasts a long time.