Chest congestion is another term for mucus building up in the human lungs. The ailment is usually followed by a cold or a respiratory tract infection.
The filmy green substance in your nose is mucus and it builds up to act as a protector for your body to combat irritants. Mucus may look and feel slimy, but it does a good job of blocking viruses, mites, and other bacteria.
With the help of mucus, these irritants can be easily swallowed or coughed out. This congestion can also produce dry cough.
Once your mucus membranes get more aggravated than necessary, they will have a tendency to create more mucus than normal. Too much mucus will eventually lead to congestion in the lungs.
It will be made up of plenty of fluids and will affect your breathing, giving you discomfort. You further experience feelings of chest tenderness to pain. Chest congestion for a short period is harmless and can be treated with over-the-counter medication.
However, when experienced for a longer duration, this may be a precursor to something more serious such as a lung illness or heart condition that will require surgery.
Chest congestion is diagnosed through X-ray imaging tests and breathing patterns and sounds when checked by your physician. Learn more about chest congestion, its common causes and how it can be treated.
Causes of Chest Congestion
The most common causes of chest congestion are viruses, bacteria and airborne particles that lead to infections in the upper respiratory tract. Airborne particles are those particles that could be dust or allergens.
When inhaled, these irritants can get trapped inside the mucous membrane which then travels to the throat accompanied by mucus. It will later cause your chest to be congested.
In the meantime, viruses and bacteria can be another cause for concern. They enter your body through the mucous membrane with the help of cilia, the organelle responsible for helping us breathe more easily and clear away dirt and mucus found in the lungs.
Chest congestion happens when these bacteria or viruses cause the body to create more mucus in the airways as they try to be removed. As a result, thick mucus can build up and stick to the lungs.
Below are symptoms of chest congestion. When you begin to notice any one of these, it would be time to take a remedy before these symptoms worsen.
Excess mucus or phlegm – Having mucus in your body is not a bad thing; in fact, it is a sign that your body is fighting against irritants, removing them from your airways. The color or texture of mucus can change from clear, yellow to light green as a cold develops.
Phlegm is similar to mucus and originates from the lower airways. It acts against inflammation. It can be colored clear, brown or green. Excess phlegm or mucus is usually easily treatable.
However, black mucus is a sign of a more serious ailment and you should see your physician for a remedy fast.
Coughing – If there is excess phlegm production inside your chest, this causes a cough reflex. Phlegm coughed out is called sputum, and is not necessarily bad as it is a good way to take away germs to keep your airways strong and guarded.
Shortness of breath – As your body defends your airways from viruses, germs, and inflammation, excess buildup of phlegm inside your lungs will cause you to feel shortness of breath. Shortness of breath may also be a sign of bronchitis. If it persists, consult your physician.
Chest Congestion Remedies
There are natural methods to alleviate chest congestion, including over-the-counter medication. Below are some best ways.
Water – It is a universal element that we all need for hydration, cleansing or simply enjoy in. As a natural remedy, drinking plenty of water has always been one of the best ways for healing because our bodies need plenty of it to survive.
Drinking lots of water softens out the mucus or phlegm buildup inside our lungs, allowing for easy coughing out.
Steam – It is another moistener that thins out mucus or phlegm in our airways especially toward the dried up ones. A store-bought humidifier softens the mucus/phlegm and enables you to cough it out
easier. You may also take a warm shower or simply make use of a towel and some amounts of hot water to steam in front of your face and inhale deeply until you feel better.
Cough syrup – Cures your persistent coughing fast and assuredly. Cough syrup with an expectorant is more effective, so look out for that kind. Look out specifically for the glyceryl guaiacolate or guaifenesin components.
Cough or cold pills – They are also highly effective in curing chest congestion as they contain guaifenesin. They quickly relieve symptoms and expel out the mucus or phlegm.
Serious Chest Congestion Ailments
There are more serious symptoms of chest congestion that could be a sign of a more severe illness. Read and be aware of some of them below.
Bronchitis – Bronchitis develops when untreated from an infection in the respiratory tract and a more chronic one develops due to lung irritation caused by smoking. Bronchitis is a viral inflammation stemming from the bronchial tubes.
Once contracted, they begin to create plenty of mucus. This will hinder your respiration process and cause your chest to congest.
Tuberculosis – Tuberculosis is a lung infection worsened by bacteria. If left untreated, it could attack the lungs, brain, spine, kidneys, or spine. This will result in lung pain, severe coughs, chest congestions, and breathing problems. Seek your doctor right away.
Congestive Heart Failure – Heart congestive failure occurs once your heart is unable to pump blood efficiently through your body. One of the main symptoms is lung congestion and may later affect the heart. Watch out and seek your doctor fast.
See a doctor immediately if you have this signs:
- Breathing problems
- Shortness of breath
- Black mucus
- Fever of above 100° F
- Blood when you cough
- Chest cold is persistent especially at night
- Cold does not improve in 10 days
Chest congestion is not a serious ailment to be worried about and is easily treatable in the first few days. But remember to seek a doctor when you notice these symptoms worsen.