12 Effective Home Remedies for Bronchitis

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 3, 2022

Bronchitis is one of the top 10 most common infections. 

In most cases, it is caused by a virus. 

While you can’t speed healing, there are many effective home remedies to help ease symptoms of a chest cold and make you feel better.

In this article, we’ll explore 12 effective home remedies for bronchitis, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Fluids

Warm fluids like water and tea can help to thin mucus, reducing chronic coughing.

Research confirms that warm and hot beverages can produce almost immediate relief for coughing, sneezing, congestion, sore throat, and fatigue from illness.

Humidifier

When your airways are inflamed and congested, dry air can make symptoms worse. 

A humidifier in your bedroom or where you spend most of the day can help loosen mucus and improve cough symptoms

A cool mist humidifier or steam vaporizer are the best options.

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Herbal Tea

Hot beverages can loosen mucus and improve coughing. Herbal tea has added benefits since many types have anti-inflammatory or immune-supporting properties. 

Common herbal teas to try include echinacea, peppermint, chamomile, ginger, and elderberry.

Rest

While it can be hard to rest if you are coughing or having trouble breathing, it’s important to give your body time to recover. 

This will help your immune system as it fights a viral infection.

Steam Inhalation

Steam can break up mucus so you can breathe easier.

You can inhale steam in a hot bath or shower, or you can create a steam room by running hot water in a bathtub with the door closed.

Another way to inhale steam is to put hot water in a bowl, lean your head over, and place a towel over your head and the bowl. 

This allows for concentrated exposure to steam, but use caution since this can be hotter than you expect. 

Only use this method for 1-2 minutes at a time to avoid burning your face or airways. 

If it feels too hot to comfortably breathe, let the water cool for a few minutes and try again.

Saline Nasal Spray

Saline nasal spray is a drug-free way to break up mucus congestion that makes it hard to breathe. 

Unlike other nasal sprays that may lead to rebound congestion with overuse, saline nasal spray can be used as often as needed. 

You can also use a neti pot with saline water for the same results.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports immune function and fights excessive inflammation damage in cells. 

The tolerable upper intake of vitamin C for most adults is 2,000 milligrams (mg). 

Taking more isn’t necessarily harmful but may cause diarrhea or upset stomach. 

The body can only absorb so much vitamin C at one time, though, so it’s better to take smaller amounts of vitamin C throughout the day than all of it at once. 

You can also eat vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers, citrus fruits, and berries.

Honey

Honey coats the throat and can work effectively to suppress coughing and throat irritation. 

You can take it plain or add it to warm herbal tea.

Do not give honey to children under age 1, since it can lead to a serious infection known as botulism.

Essential Oils

While essential oils should never be ingested, many of them serve as topical or inhaled relief for bronchitis symptoms.

The following essential oils may have benefits for respiratory infection aromatherapy or topical application when diluted with a carrier oil:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
  • Thyme

Probiotics

Probiotics support the gut microbiome, which has a direct effect on respiratory and lung health. 

They may be able to reduce respiratory infections in children and older adults

Other research finds that probiotics do not reduce the incidence of infections but may be able to lessen symptom severity and duration of illness.

Animal and human studies confirm that not all probiotic strains have the same benefits. 

The following strains show the most promise for decreasing viral inflammation:

  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus brevis
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus kunkeei

Probiotic supplements can vary widely in how they are manufactured. 

Read labels to check which strains are included, as this matters more than the dose.

Herbs

Many herbs can support symptoms of bronchitis. 

Since dietary supplements are not regulated for effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), read labels carefully. 

Ask your healthcare provider for trusted brand recommendations and always follow the package instructions on how to take them.

  • Garlic: Fresh garlic has anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting properties and may be effective for addressing acute viral infections. Garlic should not be taken by people who are on blood thinning medication or who have sensitivities. Garlic capsules can be used, but supplements may contain other ingredients and may not be as effective as fresh garlic cloves.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric has anti-inflammatory benefits because of its active ingredient, curcumin. It also contains antioxidants. Curcumin does not absorb well, and most research showing benefits for respiratory illness has been done in animals. Turmeric is generally safe to consume unless someone is on blood-thinning medication or has an allergy to turmeric or similar spices.
  • Ginseng: Some research shows that ginseng may help with acute bronchitis infections because it has anti-inflammatory properties. This research was not placebo-controlled or double blind and only included 75 patients. Larger studies need to be done to determine effectiveness.

OTC Medications

If home remedies are not effective, or you want to find additional support, there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications for bronchitis.

  • Expectorants: Guaifenesin (Mucinex) helps break up and clear excess mucus from the lungs and airways.
  • OTC pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen (Aleve) can help address pain and fever. NSAIDs like ibuprofen can also decrease inflammation and swelling.

When to See a Medical Provider

If at-home remedies or OTC medicines don’t help, a healthcare provider can prescribe medicine such as inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators to help.

If you have bronchitis that seems to be taking too long to get better, speak with a medical provider. 

It is also possible to develop a secondary infection like pneumonia.

See a medical provider if any of the following occurs:

  • Fever higher than 100.4ºF for longer than a few days
  • Cough that lasts longer than a few weeks
  • Pain when coughing
  • Blood in mucus
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe headache
  • Recurring bronchitis
  • Chest pain

If you have underlying medical conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, or other respiratory problems, see a medical provider to ensure that bronchitis does not cause complications.

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How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What helps bronchitis go away faster?
Rest, plenty of fluids, and managing symptoms with home remedies and OTC options can help your body recover from bronchitis. While viral infections can’t be immediately cured, taking care of yourself when you’re sick can prevent prolonging symptoms.
How can I treat my bronchitis at home?
OTC medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can reduce fever. Expectorants like Mucinex can help to loosen mucus and reduce congestion and breathing problems. It is important to get enough sleep and rest from physical activity. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, warm teas, and juice.
Is Vicks Vaporub good for bronchitis?
Vicks VapoRub can help to improve breathing and the ability to rest when you’re dealing with bronchitis congestion. It can be especially effective in children.
Will bronchitis go away on its own?
Acute bronchitis infections typically resolve within 10-14 days, although the cough may last for up to a few more weeks. If bronchitis symptoms persist longer, see a medical provider.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.

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