Chronic bronchitis is more severe and difficult to treat.
Some people find the following home remedies and lifestyle changes helpful for bronchitis:
1. Getting plenty of rest
A good night's sleep can repair tissue damage, increase energy levels, and assist recovery from bronchitis.
One of the main symptoms of bronchitis is fatigue. The infection and the persistent cough that comes with it can cause extreme tiredness.
Research has shown that sleeping may boost the immune system and aid recovery from infection.
Sleep helps the body to repair tissue damage and generate new tissue, release important hormones, and renew energy.
To assist sleeping, use more pillows to raise the head. This sleeping position can help to soothe breathing and clear mucus from the chest.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per day and children around 10-12 hours per day. Getting enough sleep will help fight infection and assist recovery from bronchitis.
2. Drinking enough fluid
Bronchitis is a lower respiratory tract infection of the airways and lungs. Doctors often advise people with respiratory infections to increase their fluid intake.
People with bronchitis can become dehydrated due to increased fluid loss from fever, rapid breathing, runny nose, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, confusion, headache, and more discomfort in the mouth and throat.
Drinking enough fluid with bronchitis can help:
- avoid dehydration
- reduce mucus thickness
- loosen nasal mucus
- moisten the throat
Fluid can include water, juice, herbal tea, soup, and the water in foods.
However, research has not proved or disproved the recommendation to increase fluids for respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. However, hydration does compensate for lost fluid.
3. Using a humidifier
Humidifiers increase moisture levels in a room by emitting water vapor or steam.
Low humidity and cold temperatures have been connected with an increase in respiratory tract infections. Low humidity can also irritate nasal passages and the throat, and cause itchy eyes and dry skin.
Inhaling heated and humidified air may help loosen mucus and encourage it to drain away.
Various humidifiers are available to purchase online.
People using a humidifier should make sure the unit is properly maintained and humidity levels are monitored. Dirty humidifiers are a breeding ground for mold or bacteria. Too high humidity can cause respiratory problems as well as triggering allergy and asthma flare-ups.
People without a humidifier can increase water in the air by boiling it on the stove for 5 minutes every hour. They can also add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oils and hang their head over the bowl or pan of boiling water for a few minutes to relieve symptoms. Placing a towel over the head helps keep in moisture.
4. Quitting smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of chronic bronchitis. Stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke may improve a person's quality of life.
Smoking damages the bronchial tubes and breaks down the body's defense against infection. Inhaling smoke can trigger severe fits of coughing if a person has bronchitis.
Quitting smoking altogether or cutting down limits damage to the bronchial tubes and helps faster healing. A person who quits smoking is less likely to get acute bronchitis in the future.
People should also stay away from other irritants that may trigger bronchitis, such as dust, chemicals in household products, and air pollution. Filters in air conditioning and heating systems should be changed as recommended by manufacturers.
5. Following a healthful diet
To alleviate symptoms of bronchitis and manage the condition, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend lifestyle changes that include following a healthful diet.
A healthful diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. It also includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
Eating a healthful diet keeps a person's immune system working. Not eating a balanced diet can lead to a person's immune functions being impaired. This damage is caused by an insufficient intake of energy and macronutrients, as well as a lack of specific micronutrients.
6. Treating body aches and pains
Taking over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can help relieve symptoms of bronchitis, such as fever, headache, and aches and pains.
Aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers, unless advised by a doctor, due to the associated risk of Reye's syndrome.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can be hazardous for people with asthma and should be avoided.
7. Avoiding over-the-counter cough suppressants
Honey and lemon tea may be equally as effective as over-the-counter cough medicines in reducing a dry cough.
There are two main types of over-the-counter cough medicines:
- Cough suppressants, which reduce a dry cough by blocking the coughing reflex.
- Cough expectorants, which help thin and bring up mucus from a wet cough and lubricate the respiratory tract.
It is not recommended that people use cough suppressants for a cough that brings up mucus. When the lining of the bronchial tubes is inflamed by irritants, excess mucus is produced, causing frequent coughing. Coughing up the mucus helps to remove the irritants from the lungs and airways.
A 2014 Cochrane review found no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of over-the-counter cough medicines.
There is little evidence to suggest that cough medicines are any more effective than home remedies. A home remedy of honey and lemon is likely to have the same outcome.
It is not recommended to give infants up to 12 months of age honey due to the risk of infant botulism.
8. Using pursed-lip breathing
People with chronic bronchitis often breathe fast. A breathing method called pursed-lip breathing may help slow down the breathing pace and control shortness of breath.
The method works by reducing how often a breath is taken, which keeps the airways open for a longer period. Since pursed-lip breathing lets more air flow in and out of the lungs, it allows the person to be more physically active.
To do pursed-lip breathing, a person should first take a breath in through the nostrils for two counts. They should then breathe out slowly and gently through slightly pursed lips, as if going to kiss someone, while counting to four.
9. Soothing a sore throat
A common symptom of bronchitis is a sore throat. There are many ways to soothe a sore throat including:
- gargling saltwater
- drinking cool or warm fluids
- eating cool and soft foods
- sucking lozenges, hard candy, ice cubes, or ice pops. Lozenges can be purchased in pharmacies or online.
- using over-the-counter lozenges and sprays, which can be purchased online.
- taking over-the-counter pain relievers
Caregivers should not give children under 4 years anything small and hard to suck due to the risk of choking.
10. Taking nutrition and dietary supplements
Probiotics may replenish helpful bacteria in the digestive system.
There is some evidence that supplements may benefit people with bronchitis. People should get advice from a healthcare provider when considering supplements. Some supplements interact with medicines or have side effects.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine. One review found that NAC could help prevent sudden worsening of chronic bronchitis symptoms.
Probiotics are live microorganisms. When consumed as food or supplements, they are thought to maintain or restore beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
Probiotics may regulate the immune system. Probiotics have been shown to be better than placebo in preventing respiratory tract infections and may have a beneficial effect on the duration and severity of symptoms in acute bronchitis.
Different probiotic supplements are available to purchase in health food stores and online.
When to see a doctor
Acute bronchitis will usually go away on its own and can be treated at home with rest, NSAIDS, and enough fluids. Acute bronchitis usually lasts for up to 3 weeks.
It is important to see a doctor if:
- a cough is severe and lasts more than 3 weeks
- mucus contains blood
- breathing is rapid or there are chest pains
- drowsiness and confusion occur
Having a fever for more than 3 days in a row could indicate a more serious condition, such as pneumonia.
Someone with both chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may need bronchodilators and steroids to open their airways and help clear mucus. Oxygen therapy may also make breathing easier.
Acute or chronic bronchitis cannot always be prevented. However, not smoking, avoiding lung irritants, and frequently washing hands may lower the risk of developing both conditions.