Nothing is more annoying that the heavy, sticky substances clogging your nose, throat, and chest when you’re sick. When excess mucus prevents you from getting the good night’s sleep you need to fight a cold, it can make your illness even worse. If you can’t make it to a pharmacy to get a decongestant medicine, don’t worry; we’ve found the most effective at-home methods to clear phlegm. Feel better!
Your mother’s chicken noodle soup recipe was right. The peer-reviewed medical journal Chest published a study in which researchers tested nasal airflow resistance of participants before, during, and 30 minutes after drinking hot water, hot chicken soup, and cold water. They found that both hot liquids cleared fluids in the nose better in patients who had respiratory tract infections. Try sipping on herbal tea, a broth, or warm water.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of other fluids, too. The health website Healthline says drinking fluids can thin the mucus and help the sinuses drain.
The United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellent and Public Health England say honey is one of the most effective remedies for a cough. In their report, the government-funded health agencies cite research suggesting honey has antiviral and antibiotic properties that can reduce coughing. Plus, honey can pleasantly coat your throat when it’s irritated. They recommend one tablespoon of honey every three to four hours until symptoms ease.
Dry air irritates the nose and throat, which increases mucus production to act as a lubricant, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Humidifying the air can help keep your nose clear and ease a sore throat.
If you don’t already have a humidifier, there are a number of other methods to add moisture into the air. Try taking a hot bath or shower and letting the warm air fill the bathroom. You can also try filling a large bowl with hot water, leaning over the bowl (but not so close you burn yourself!), and draping a towel over your head to contain the steam. Take deep breaths to let the steam loosen up the mucus.
If too tired to stand in the shower or over a bowl, put a warm, wet washcloth over your face and inhale the natural steam. Just don’t forget to drink some water to prevent dehydration.
Elevate the head
Gravity pulls mucus toward the back of your throat when you’re lying down. Try propping yourself up with a throne of pillows to doze with your head upright.
Gargling with salt water can remove phlegm because the salt water may have antiseptic properties, according to the website Medical News Today. Try mixing a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle it for 30 seconds several times a day.
Other foods and herbs
A study called “Dietary fiber, lung function, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC)” that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that a positive correlation between increased fiber intake and lung function. Broccoli, apples, pears, almonds, bananas, and avocados all contain the fiber that might help you fight that sticky cough.
As for some other ingredients, Medical News Today suggests garlic, ginger, lemon, and chili pepper spices to reduce mucus. Ginseng, licorice root, pomegranate, and guava might also have antiviral properties.