x-rays of chest congestion

Chest Congestion Treatments

Chest mucus is found along the lining of the walls of your respiratory system. It contains antiseptic enzymes and immunoglobulins, which help your body to fight off infection and irritants that enter the lungs. Chest congestion occurs when your body produces an excess amount of chest mucus in response to an illness or from the respiratory system becoming irritated.

Since chest congestion can be caused by various different conditions, treatment will usually focus on treating the underlying condition.

Treating Allergies

Allergies are one of the biggest contributors to the development of chest mucus. The mucous membranes in your nose and throat attempt to trap and sweep away allergens before they reach your lungs. However, when allergens are rampant, this causes your body to produce excess amounts of mucus, leading to congestion in the chest. The most common allergen that leads to chest congestion is ragweed pollen, which is the allergen that causes hay fever.

Treatment for chest congestion due to allergies will usually involve taking antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). There are also antihistamine nasal sprays, such as azelastine (Astelin).

Treating a Viral Infection

Another common cause of chest congestion is a viral infection, like the cold or flu. Since your body is working to fight off an infection, excess mucus will begin to build up in your chest and nasal cavities. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to treat viral infections like the common cold or the flu except get plenty of rest and drink fluids. If you are at a high risk for complications, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, but this will usually only work if you begin treatment as soon as you start to have symptoms.

Treating Post Nasal Drip

Post nasal drip is a condition that causes the backward flow of mucus draining from your sinus cavities down your throat. This can cause irritation and congestion and can be caused by irritants, dairy, dry climates, smoking, and pregnancy. The treatment for post nasal drip will depend on what factor is causing the condition.

Treating Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchial tubes in your lungs that could be caused by bacteria or a virus. Sometimes, antibiotics are prescribed to treat bronchitis if your doctor suspects that it is caused by a bacterial infection, though most cases of bronchitis are caused by a viral infection. Cough medicine may also be prescribed to help you sleep at night, though it should not be used during the day since coughing helps to loosen and move the mucus in your lungs.

Treating Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can caused by bacteria, virus, parasite, or fungus. It inflames the air sacs in the lungs, which causes them to fill with fluid. Treatment for pneumonia will involve curing the infection and preventing further complications. If you have bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics will likely be prescribed. You also may need cough medicine to help you sleep, but it’s not a good idea to eliminate your cough completely as it helps to remove the fluid from your lungs. 

Last Updated: December 16, 2016