Dealing with the nasal congestion that comes with the sniffles or the flu is enough of a pain, but it becomes another beast entirely when your stuffy nose progresses into chest congestion.
Chest congestion can feel like adding insult to injury if you've already been dealing with a frustrating illness, but if you've ever wondered how to get rid of chest congestion, don't worry— you can treat both with many of the same remedies.
Before we discuss these remedies, there are a few important basics to know first.
What is Chest Congestion?
Chest congestion, also known as a chest cold, occurs when mucus accumulates in your lungs and your bronchi— the breathing tubes in your lower airways. This excess mucus causes you to have a wet cough that produces discolored, thick mucus. All this mucus in your lungs may also make your breathing sound crackly or wheezy as you struggle to breathe as deeply as you used to.
Common chest congestion symptoms include:
- A wet, productive cough accompanied by discolored mucus (a dry cough means that you're not coughing up any mucus)
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Headache or body aches
- Fever or chills
Chest congestion has a lot of potential causes, but the main cause of a congested chest is always excess mucus in your lungs.
What Causes Chest Congestion?
Not all mucus is bad. In fact, your respiratory system naturally produces about a liter of mucus, also known as phlegm, each day! Mucus protects your body from infection and helps keep the membranes in your nose, mouth, lungs, and throat healthy. However, mucus buildup and excess phlegm can be a sign that something is amiss in your body.
Chest congestion can be caused by many different conditions, including:
- Upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold or a sinus infection (sinusitis)
- Allergies, including hay fever or seasonal allergies
- Bacterial or viral infections, including the flu, acute bronchitis, or pneumonia. Not sure what the differences are between viral infections and bacterial infections? Learn more here!
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung infection that makes it difficult to breathe and often causes chronic bronchitis 
- Acid reflux, which can cause postnasal drip as well as chest congestion
No matter what's causing your mucus production to go into overdrive, there are plenty of ways to treat your chest congestion and get you back to feeling like yourself again.
How to Get Rid of Chest Congestion: 5 Natural Remedies to Try
A lot of people may reach right for over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat their chest congestion, but natural remedies are just as effective, without the side effects. Here are five of our favorite natural chest congestion remedies.
1. Try SinuSonic
You can help relieve the symptoms in your chest by relieving those in your stuffy nose. One of the best ways to do this is with SinuSonic.
SinuSonic uses positive expiratory pressure (PEP) and gentle acoustic waves to decongest your sinuses naturally and drug-free. Continuous use of the device, even after your symptoms subside, can also help you breathe better and more efficiently over time. All it takes is 2 minutes twice a day to decongest and breathe more freely.
2. Use a Humidifier or Steam
Adding humidity to the air can help relieve the lung irritation brought on by persistent coughing. It can also keep your airways moisturized— dry airways can add more discomfort to already uncomfortable symptoms. A humidifier is an easy and accessible way to achieve this.
Steam inhalation is another easy way to help ease lung irritation and relieve congestion. Steam can also help loosen thick mucus in your lungs and make it easier to cough up and out. If you don’t have a humidifier, a hot shower can produce the steam needed to breathe easy and clear your chest congestion.
3. Stay Hydrated
Keeping your body hydrated helps limit the mucus production in your lungs and chest. You can, of course, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, but there are other options if you are looking for a little variety:
- Eat water-rich fruits and veggies, such as cucumbers, watermelon, and bell peppers
- Drink herbal tea, such as chamomile tea or peppermint tea (which can help soothe a sore throat)
- Soup or broth— including chicken soup!
4. Sleep with Your Head Elevated
Propping your head and your body up with pillows can prevent that excess mucus from accumulating in your chest while you sleep. It can also make it easier to breathe so you can rest more easily during the night.
Just make sure that your head is above your heart for the best results and the best rest.
Speaking of which…
5. Get Plenty of Rest
Allowing yourself to rest (and getting enough sleep each night) will help your body recover faster so you can get back to your life sooner.
A good night's sleep is vital to your immunity because your body repairs itself while you sleep. Studies have found that sleep deprivation can increase your risk of health problems and worsen the symptoms of any conditions you currently have. However, the restorative effects of a good night's sleep not only help you feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed each day, but it can also help keep you feeling healthier in the long run. 
When to Call a Doctor
The above remedies can give you some much-needed chest congestion relief, and your symptoms should go away within a few days if your chest cold isn't caused by underlying disorders like asthma or COPD. Your cough may last for up to two weeks as your bronchial tubes recover from all that coughing. However, you should go see a doctor if your cough lasts for more than two weeks.
A long, persistent cough can be a sign of pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening illness. Similarly, you should go see your doctor if you're experiencing shortness of breath.
Need to Fight Off the Unexpected Chest Cold? Try SinuSonic!
Chest congestion is often caused by a respiratory infection like the common cold or the flu, but it can also be caused by underlying health problems that make it harder for you to breathe. No matter what is causing your symptoms though, there are plenty of ways to relieve chest congestion and get back to feeling 100 percent again.
OTC treatments are often the first line of defense against a chest cold, but their effects often have a diminishing return. Natural remedies can be just as powerful against that strong, phlegmy cough that's been driving you crazy.
Want to kick your sinus symptoms to the curb? Try SinuSonic!
- “COPD.” American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd.
- Garbarino, Sergio, et al. “Role of Sleep Deprivation in Immune-Related Disease Risk and Outcomes.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 18 Nov. 2021, www.nature.com/articles/s42003-021-02825-4.