How To Cure Bronchitis Fast

Having bronchitis can be frustrating at best. Even once you’re free of a runny nose and body aches, the cough seems to last forever. Over-the-counter medicines and even home remedies, like honey, can help get you through until you feel better. If you’re having trouble managing your symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.

10 Home Remedies for Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a common respiratory disease caused by viruses, bacteria, irritants like smoke, and other particles that aggravate the bronchial tubes. These are tubes that bring air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.

You may be able to treat acute bronchitis on your own without medical treatment. In many causes, acute bronchitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection symptoms improve within a few weeks.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is usually caused by long-term exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke. Treating chronic bronchitis is a bit more complicated and usually requires some significant lifestyle changes.

It’s important to treat your symptoms right away to ensure a speedy recovery if you have acute bronchitis. With proper self-care, you should be able to bounce back quickly.

But if the bronchitis worsens, doesn’t go away after a few weeks, or your lungs sound congested, you should see a doctor.

It’s possible to treat acute bronchitis at home using natural remedies. Many of these methods may provide additional health benefits, as well.

1. Ginger

Some researchers have found evidence that ginger can have an anti-inflammatory effect against respiratory infection. You can take ginger in several ways:

  • Chew dried, crystallized ginger.
  • Use fresh ginger to make tea.
  • Eat it raw or add it to food.
  • Take it in capsule form as directed.

It’s safest to use ginger in a natural form, rather than in capsules or supplements. You may be sensitive to ginger, so take it in small amounts if you’re not used to it. Eating occasional ginger is safe for everyone, but do not take ginger as a supplement or medication if you:

  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have diabetes
  • have heart problems
  • have any type of blood disorder

2. Garlic

Garlic is believed to have a number of healing properties. Results of a 2016 study show that garlic effectively inhibited the growth of infectious bronchitis virus. This finding suggests garlic can be used as a natural remedy for bronchitis.

Fresh garlic is best, but if you dislike the taste, you can get it in capsule form, too.

Use garlic with caution if you have a bleeding disorder. Always take it in small amounts to make sure it doesn’t upset your stomach.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa.

A 2018 study found that turmeric has a number of properties that could make it useful in fighting bronchitis. Among these are antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Turmeric also increases antioxidant activity, meaning that it may help reduce irritation and boost your immunity.

To take turmeric:

  • Add fresh turmeric to salads or use it to make pickles.
  • Mix 1/2 teaspoon of powdered turmeric with 1 teaspoon of honey to make a paste. Consume the paste 1 to 3 times per day while symptoms last.
  • Take turmeric in capsule form as directed.
  • Use powdered or fresh turmeric to make tea.

Using turmeric as a spice in food is usually safe unless you are sensitive to it. Do not use turmeric as a medication if you have:

  • stomach issues
  • gallbladder issues
  • bleeding or blood disorders
  • hormone-sensitive conditions
  • iron deficiency

If you’re pregnant or nursing, don’t take turmeric in large amounts.

4. Steam

Steam helps break up mucus so you can expel it more easily. The easiest way to use steam is in the bath or shower. Make your shower as hot as you can handle, step in, then breathe deeply through your mouth and nose.

The hot water will also help relax muscles that may be tense from coughing. You can also visit a steam room at a gym or spa, if one’s available and you have enough energy. It’s best not to soak in a hot bath if you feel ill or short of breath.

Another steam option involves putting hot water in a bowl, covering your head with a towel, and inhaling the steam. Some people add a mentholated vapor rub to the hot water to help with moving mucus.

Caution

Be careful to not make the water too hot when using the bowl and towel method, as the steam may burn your airways.

Do not stay over the hot water for more than 1 or 2 minutes at a time, and don’t continue to heat the water.

5. Salt water

Gargling salt water may help break up mucus and reduce pain in your throat.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water. Sip small amounts of the salt water and gargle at the back of your throat. Do not swallow the water. Instead, spit it out in the sink. Repeat as often as you like.

Afterward, you may want to rinse your mouth with plain water.

6. Sleep

Get plenty of sleep and allow your body to rest. It may be difficult to sleep soundly while fighting a cough, but take care to avoid any unnecessary activity.

It is during the deep stages of sleep that you repair and enhance immune function so your body can better fight the inflammation.

7. Lifestyle changes

A healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with the prevention of illnesses. It can help you recover faster when you’re sick, too. A minor illness may even be your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take it easy.

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The following changes may help improve your recovery and reduce your risk of getting sick in the future:

  • Quit smoking if you smoke, and avoid place where you may inhale secondhand smoke. Quitting is often difficult, but a doctor can help build a cessation plan that works for you.
  • Avoid visiting places where pollution is high.
  • Wear a surgical mask if you’re exposed to pollution.
  • Boost your immunity with a healthy diet.
  • Exercise at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes each time.
  • Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Use a humidifier and clean it regularly following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

8. Take OTC medications with caution

There are two types of over-the-counter cough medications: those that are meant to keep you from coughing (cough suppressants) and those than thin mucus to help you cough out congestion (expectorants).

The key to using these medications is to understand what type of cough you have. A cough that produces mucus (wet cough) should not be treated with a cough suppressant, and studies show that neither type of cough medicine is necessarily better than home remedies.

9. Honey and lemons

Sweet treatments have long been used to help soothe dry coughs and sore throats. Honey and lemon are commonly used, either alone or in teas.

10. Pineapple

Pineapple juice may also help. Pineapple contains bromelain, which is a natural and powerful anti-inflammatory that can help you break up and expel mucus from bronchitis and other respiratory infections.

Bronchitis

Bronchitis is when the airways leading to your lungs (trachea and bronchi) get inflamed and fill with mucus. You get a nagging cough as your body tries to get rid of the mucus. Your cough can last two or more weeks. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a virus and goes away on its own. Chronic bronchitis never really goes away but can be managed.

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Overview

Image showing anatomy of your lungs. Your bronchi have excess mucus when you have bronchitis.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways leading into your lungs.

When your airways (trachea and bronchi) get irritated, they swell up and fill with mucus, causing you to cough. Your cough can last days to a couple of weeks. It’s the main symptom of bronchitis.

Viruses are the most common cause of acute bronchitis. Smoke and other irritants can cause acute and chronic bronchitis.

What are the types of bronchitis?

When people talk about bronchitis, they usually mean acute bronchitis, a temporary condition that makes you cough. Some people get bronchitis so often that it’s considered chronic bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a viral infection and goes away on its own in a few weeks. Most people don’t need treatment for acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis

You have chronic bronchitis if you have a cough with mucus most days of the month for three months out of the year. This goes on for at least two years.

If you have chronic bronchitis, you may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Ask your provider about whether you should get tested for COPD.

Who does bronchitis affect?

Anyone can get bronchitis, but you’re at higher risk if you:

  • Smoke or are around someone who does.
  • Have asthma, COPD or other breathing conditions.
  • Have GERD (chronic acid reflux).
  • Have an autoimmune disorder or other illness that causes inflammation.
  • Are around air pollutants (like smoke or chemicals).

How does bronchitis affect my body?

When your airways are irritated, your immune system causes them to swell up and fill with mucus. You cough to try to clear the mucus out. As long as there’s mucus or inflammation in your airways, you’ll keep coughing.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

A persistent cough that lasts one to three weeks is the main symptom of bronchitis. You usually bring up mucus when you cough with bronchitis, but you might get a dry cough instead. You might also hear a whistling or rattling sound when you breathe (wheezing).

You might have other symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
  • Fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).

What causes bronchitis?

You almost always get bronchitis from a virus. However, nearly anything that irritates your airways can cause it. Infectious and noninfectious causes of bronchitis include:

  • Viruses. Viruses that cause bronchitis include influenza (the flu),respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, rhinovirus (the common cold) and coronavirus.
  • Bacteria. Bacteria that cause bronchitis include Bordetella pertussis,Mycoplasma pneumonia and Chlamydia pneumonia.
  • Pollution.
  • Smoking cigarettes or marijuana (cannabis).

How do you get bronchitis?

You get bronchitis when your airways swell up and fill with mucus. You can get the viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis from close contact (shaking hands, hugging, touching the same surfaces) with someone who has them. You don’t have to have bronchitis yourself to pass on a virus to someone else who ends up with bronchitis.

Other irritants, like tobacco or pollutants, are in the air you breathe.

Is bronchitis contagious?

Bronchitis itself — inflammation of your airways — isn’t contagious, but the viruses and bacteria that can cause it are. For instance, if you’re sick with the flu, you might get bronchitis too. But when your friend gets the flu from you, their airways don’t get inflamed like yours did.

Is bronchitis a side effect of COVID-19?

You can get bronchitis with almost any virus, including SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The symptoms of bronchitis can be similar to COVID-19, so make sure you get tested to know which one you have. There haven’t been any studies that show that COVID-19 is any more likely to cause bronchitis than other viral illnesses.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is bronchitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can tell if you have bronchitis based on your health history and symptoms (clinical diagnosis). They’ll listen to your lungs for signs of congestion and to make sure you’re breathing well. They might test you for viral infections, like the flu or COVID-19.

What tests will be done to diagnose this condition?

There aren’t any specific tests to diagnose bronchitis, but you might be tested for other conditions. Possible tests include:

  • Nasal swab. Your healthcare provider may use a soft-tipped stick (swab) in your nose to test for viruses, like COVID-19 or the flu.
  • Chest X-ray. If your cough lasts for a long time, you may get a chest X-ray to rule out more serious conditions. Your healthcare provider will use a machine to get pictures of your heart and lungs. They’ll look for signs of other diseases that could cause your symptoms.
  • Blood tests. Your provider may do blood tests, using a needle in your arm, to look for infections or check your overall health.
  • Sputum test. Your provider may have you cough and then spit into a tube. Your sample will be tested for signs of a virus or bacteria.
  • Pulmonary function tests. If your provider thinks you have chronic bronchitis, they may use a machine to test how well your lungs work.
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Management and Treatment

How is bronchitis treated?

Acute bronchitis is usually not treated with medications. If you have the flu and your symptoms started within the past two days, your provider may prescribe antivirals to help it go away faster.

Since bronchitis is almost never caused by bacteria, antibiotics won’t help you get better and might even make you feel worse.

What medications are used to treat bronchitis?

Your healthcare provider probably won’t prescribe medications to treat your bronchitis. In some cases, you can use medications to help you with symptoms or to treat the underlying cause, including:

  • Antiviral medications. If your bronchitis is caused by the flu, your healthcare provider might prescribe an antiviral medication, like Tamiflu®, Relenza® and Rapivab®. If you start taking antivirals quickly after your symptoms start, you might feel better sooner.
  • Bronchodilators. Your provider might prescribe a bronchodilator (a drug that helps open your airways) if you’re having trouble breathing.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications. Your doctor might prescribe corticosteroids and other medications to reduce inflammation.
  • Cough suppressants. Over-the-counter or prescription cough suppressants (antitussives) may help with a nagging cough. This includes dextromethorphan (Robitussin®, DayQuil™, PediaCare®) and benzonatate (Tessalon Perles®, Zonatuss™).
  • Antibiotics. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be treated with antibiotics for bronchitis, unless your healthcare provider thinks you have a bacterial infection.
  • COPD/asthma treatment. If you have COPD or asthma, your provider may use additional medications or breathing treatments for chronic bronchitis.

Should I take antibiotics for bronchitis?

No, taking antibiotics won’t help you get over bronchitis in most cases. Antibiotics are used to destroy bacteria that make you sick. Bronchitis is caused by a virus 95% of the time. Antibiotics don’t help you get rid of a virus.

How do I manage the symptoms of bronchitis?

You can manage the symptoms of bronchitis at home with over-the-counter medicines and rest. Running a humidifier or taking warm showers can help loosen mucus and make breathing easier.

You can use ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to help with the aches and pains that come with a viral infection.

How long are you contagious if you have acute bronchitis?

Bronchitis itself isn’t contagious, but some of its causes are. If your bronchitis is caused by a virus, you can be contagious for a few days to a week. If your bronchitis is caused by bacteria, you usually stop being contagious 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

Other causes of bronchitis aren’t contagious.

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk of bronchitis?

The best way to reduce your risk of bronchitis is to avoid getting sick from viruses and other causes of lung irritation. Specific ways to reduce your risk include:

  • Try to avoid being around other people if you or they may be sick. This is especially true in the winter months when people gather indoors.
  • Avoid smoke and other irritants.
  • If you have asthma or allergies, avoid any triggers (including pets, dust and pollen).
  • Run a humidifier. Moist air is less likely to irritate your lungs.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If you’re not able to use soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on flu and pneumonia vaccines.

Outlook / Prognosis

What’s the outlook for bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis usually isn’t serious. While frustrating, you have to wait out the symptoms for a few weeks. If you’re living with a heart condition or another breathing condition, like asthma, it could make your symptoms worse or last longer.

Chronic bronchitis can be a serious condition and might mean you have lung damage. While the damage can’t be reversed, your provider can help you manage your symptoms and have fewer flare-ups.

Complications of bronchitis

If you have an ongoing condition like asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure, bronchitis might make it worse (exacerbation). Tell your healthcare provider if you have any ongoing conditions.

Can bronchitis go away on its own?

Yes, acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own. It’s almost always caused by a virus, and you can’t get rid of most viruses with medicine. You can treat the symptoms at home while you wait for the inflammation to go down.

Bronchitis caused by something else may need treatment to help it go away. Chronic bronchitis usually doesn’t go away completely, but can get better with treatment.

How long does it take to get over bronchitis?

Most people get over bronchitis in about two weeks, but it might take as long as three to six weeks. You can manage your symptoms at home with over-the-counter medicines while you get better. If you don’t feel better after three weeks, see your healthcare provider.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

If you have chronic bronchitis, you can reduce the frequency of your symptoms by treating underlying conditions, like COPD. You and your healthcare provider can make a plan together to treat your specific concerns.

When should I see my healthcare provider about bronchitis?

It’s tough to know whether you have bronchitis or something more serious. See your healthcare provider if you have:

  • A cough that lasts more than three weeks.
  • A fever greater than 102° F.
  • A fever that lasts more than five days.
  • A cough that produces blood.
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • What’s the best way to treat my symptoms at home?
  • How long should I expect bronchitis to last?
  • What new or worsening symptoms should I look out for?
  • When should I see you again if symptoms haven’t improved?

Frequently Asked Questions

Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia: How are they Different?

What’s the difference between bronchitis and pneumonia?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways leading to the lungs. Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs themselves.

Bronchitis causes inflammation and mucus in your trachea and bronchi that make you cough a lot. Pneumonia causes inflammation and fluid in the small sacs in your lungs (alveoli) that makes it hard to breathe. You also usually have a cough and a fever. Pneumonia is more serious than bronchitis.

While you could have an infection that causes both, bronchitis doesn’t usually turn into pneumonia.

What’s the difference between bronchitis and bronchiolitis?

Bronchitis is inflammation in the larger airways (trachea and bronchi) coming into the lungs. Bronchiolitis is an inflammation of the next smaller airways (bronchioles) that come off of the bronchi. Children usually get bronchiolitis while adults get bronchitis.

Is menthol vapor rub good for bronchitis?

You might use vapor rubs, like Vicks VapoRub® or Mentholatum® ointment, for anything that ails you and wonder if they work for bronchitis. Vapor rubs have ingredients in them intended to calm down coughs, so they may help your bronchitis symptoms. Don’t use vapor rubs on children under two without asking your pediatrician first.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Having bronchitis can be frustrating at best. Even once you’re free of a runny nose and body aches, the cough seems to last forever. Over-the-counter medicines and even home remedies, like honey, can help get you through until you feel better. If you’re having trouble managing your symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.

If you frequently have bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis caused by an underlying condition that needs to be treated.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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