We’re all familiar with the symptoms of the common cold. The coughing is incessant, the airways are stuffy, and everything feels uncomfortable. But can it be more serious than that? Chest congestion might just be the beginning. The accumulation of phlegm is a signal that something more severe might be afoot.
In such situations, it’s important to know what you are dealing with, as well as what you can do for some chest congestion relief. Not only is the definition important, but also its causes and symptoms, as well as prevention or treatment methods. Let’s begin.
Chest congestion is generally caused by an excess of mucus and other fluids in the lungs. Their walls are naturally lined with it because it contains disease-fighting antiseptic enzymes and immunoglobulins. However, when we fall ill these are produced in larger quantities, which results in an accumulation of phlegm.
Chest congestion is not a standalone condition, but rather a consequence of several more serious afflictions. Thus, various viral or bacterial infections lead to its onset, as well as that of other complications. Here are the main causes of mucus buildup, complete with a short presentation of each disease.
- Caused by viruses, bacteria or funguses, pneumonia is a type of infection which combines chest congestions with fatigue, fever, and a stuffy nose. Although most cases are mild, the situation can become much worse if your immune system is weak.
- When bacteria or viruses attack the bronchial tubes, bronchitis occurs. These are the main airways of the lungs, which is why the most noticeable effect consists of a difficulty in breathing.
- This more serious illness is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is why seeing a doctor immediately is essential in its case. When left untreated, it can be fatal. However, if attacked right away, it is gone in no time at all.
- Congestive heart failure. When the heart fails to pump blood effectively, the lungs fill up with fluid. Thus, chest congestion can potentially be caused by this as well. If the other symptoms of an infection are missing, then this might be the situation.
If you’ve ever been confronted with this situation, then you know that coughing up the phlegm is an unpleasant, yet natural occurrence. This is the main symptom of chest congestion, and it is your body’s way of cleansing the lungs of bacteria and dead immune cells. Depending on the type and severity of the underlying cause, the cough can be dry as well.
Regardless of whether you expectorate or not, you will also experience pain or tightness in the chest area, accompanied by shortness of breath and wheezing. Extreme cases might even result in the coughing up of blood. If this happens, go to the hospital immediately. While it’s normal for the phlegm to come out, bleeding from the inside is never a good sign.
The best way to prevent the onset of any kind of infection is by ensuring that your immune system is as strong as possible. This can be achieved through the right nutrition. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables daily plays a huge role in this. In addition, regular exercise is also a viable way to strengthen your health.
Still, the most important thing you can do for your lungs is avoid smoking at all costs. There’s nothing more damaging for them than this, which is why you need to quit this vice if you’ve already fallen prey to it. Not only does tobacco favor the onset of illness, but it also delays the healing process once you get sick.
When attempting to treat chest congestion, it’s important to remember that you also need to address the underlying cause. Alleviating this symptom is possible through both natural and medicinal remedies. To achieve the former, first of all you must drink lots of warm fluids. Chicken soup, tea, or hot apple juice are all excellent choices.
Taking honey in lieu of cough medicine is also an option, as are essential oil infusions. However, if you are interested in pharmaceutical treatment only, there are plenty of over the counter decongestants that will alleviate the discomfort. For example, the oxymetazoline is particularly efficient, as is the pseudoephedrine in Sudafed.
Chest congestion isn’t uncommon, but its causes can be a lot more serious than the common cold. Fortunately, with some prevention and the appropriate treatment, discomfort can be relieved in no time at all. As always, when you feel like things are getting a bit out of hand, consult with your doctor immediately.