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How do I Treat a Chest Cold?

Anna T.
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Waiting out a chest cold may be the best way to treat it unless it turns into pneumonia. While a person is waiting for the cold to go away, there are several things he or she can do to help ease the symptoms. Using medications to reduce fever, vapor inhalants, and getting lots of rest may be some of the best options for a person suffering from a chest cold. Hydration is also very important when a person is sick, so drinking lots of water could help a great deal as well.

Chest colds, which are also commonly referred to as bronchitis, normally start off as a regular cold. It becomes a chest cold when the phlegm and mucous drain down into the lungs. This causes symptoms such as excessive coughing, wheezing, and occasionally fever. The primary concern with the majority of chest colds is that they could turn into pneumonia, which is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. If a person with a chest cold starts having difficulty breathing, experiencing fatigue, or having chest pains he or she should see a doctor immediately to be sure they do not have pneumonia.

Studies indicate that most chest colds must go away on their own and that antibiotics do little to nothing for curing them. Most people who do not take antibiotics to treat chest colds get over them in the same amount of time as people who do take antibiotics. For this reason, doctors are not prescribing antibiotics to treat chest colds as often as they did in the past. Antibiotics should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary because overuse may cause them to become ineffective when they are really needed. If a chest cold turns into pneumonia, antibiotics are typically still used and are often effective for treating it.

A person who has a chest cold may benefit from taking medicine to reduce fever. Over-the-counter products containing acetaminophen and ibuprofen may effectively reduce fevers in many people, and are also normally effective for most types of pain associated with colds. It may also be beneficial for a person with a chest cold to rub a topical vapor inhalant cream on their chest before they go to sleep. The menthol in the inhalant can help the lungs to open, which should help with breathing and possibly reduce coughing at night.

Some people use herbal teas containing chamomile and echinacea when they have a chest cold. These herbs combined with steaming water may help to soothe a sore throat as well as boost immune system function and help with sleeping. Doctors do not always stand behind herbal remedies for treating the symptoms of colds, but many people who use these methods claim they are very beneficial for treating their symptoms.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By Jewellian — On Feb 02, 2014

I agree with Special Bug. Chest congestion is one of the most common cold symptoms. However, it is also, as mentioned, a symptom of more serious ailments. Check it out.

If you do find that you are suffering from a common cold and wish to avoid acetaminophen, you can alter doses with doses of ibuprofen. If your health professional agrees, taking an ibuprofen PM before bed will help you achieve a good night's rest.

Here's to your good health.

By SpecialBug — On Feb 01, 2014

Federlink,

If you are experiencing shortness of breath, it may be a symptom of something more serious than a common cold. You should see a health professional. Visit your doctor or a walk-in clinic to find if you are suffering from bronchitis, in which case, you will be prescribed an antibiotic. Over the counter medications will not relieve the discomfort of bronchitis, at least not ultimately.

Also, shortness of breath could be signs of something even more serious than bronchitis or even pneumonia. Congestion and shortness of breath can be signs of heart disease. See a professional for your peace of mind and physical comfort.

By Federlink — On Jan 26, 2014

What are some safe over the counter chest cold remedies that work well? I'm concerned about the new FDA regulations regarding acetaminophen, as most over the counter remedies contain quite a bit, but I need something to help me control my cough, congestion, and shortness of breath.

Can anyone recommend a good herbal or over the counter remedy to help me treat these cold symptoms at home? I'd prefer not to go to the doctor and pay a high co-pay if I can avoid it, especially since I'm relatively sure that I don't need antibiotics.

Anna T.

Anna T.

Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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