Congestion is a general term that is used for some kind of blockage that may cause difficulty in breathing. Generally, congestion causes stuffed nose, running nose accompanied by fever, chills, and general malaise, in case of an infection. A very common malady that every adult goes through at least once in his or her lives, congestion is not limited to adulthood alone.
Many children too get affected by severe congestion, mainly caused by RSV virus.RSV infections in children require immediate medical treatment. Congestion can be a real hurdle to your day-to-day activities.
Types of Congestion and Causes
Of the several types of congestions identified, the most common are sinus, nasal, and chest congestions.
Sinus congestion is caused when there is a blockage in one of the four sinus passages in the skull. It is mostly caused due to an inflamed mucous membrane. Sinus congestion always follows a cold, allergy, flu, and resultant sinusitis. The condition is best treated immediately in order to avoid ear infections and other complications.
Nasal congestion is mainly the result of inflammation of the membranes that line the nasal cavity. The swollen blood vessels cause blockage of the nasal passage, resulting in a stuffy or plugged nose. Severe nasal congestion can lead to hearing problems, sleep disturbances, and speech development. Nasal congestion can also be caused due to adenoids in children, which can lead to sleep apnea, heart failure, and hypoxia due to insufficient oxygen supply.
Inflammation of the lower respiratory tract causes chest congestion. Allergy, infections, or a foreign body can cause chest congestion as a result of mucus production and accumulation in the chest, a defense mechanism triggered by the body to naturally fight the infection. Chest congestion can be caused by bacteria, virus, fungi, cold, asthma, bronchitis, GERD, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis etc. to mention a few.
The general symptoms of all these congestion are breathing difficulty, tiredness, chest pain, coughing, runny nose, snoring, pain in and around the face and eyes, running nose, bloody sputum, wheezing etc. One or many of these symptoms can appear depending upon the severity of the condition and the type of congestion you have.
Home Remedies for Congestion
One of the most popular home remedies, effective for adults as well as kids, steam inhalation is also an excellent remedy for treating all three forms of congestion. Take a narrow necked pot and boil water in it. Add a few drops of rosemary, eucalyptus, pine, or sage oil to this. Cover your head and face with a thick towel and inhale the steam until the steam and heat are fully utilized.
The phlegm and mucous that are hardened inside the chest, nose and sinus passageways will be loosened with this procedure and expelled out. Once the mucous is loosened, it can be coughed up or blown out through the nose easily, thereby reducing the symptoms of congestion.
A hot shower too is one of the remedies that is entirely effective for all types of congestions. Working in almost the same lines as a steam inhalation, hot shower is much more effective in that the hot water flows all over the body and this helps in thinning the phlegm and mucus faster and more effectively than a steam inhalation. Stand under the hot shower, (as hot as you can tolerate) for ten minutes.
Allow the water to flow over your chest, back, face, and nose depending on what kind of congestion you are suffering from. Inhale the steam from the shot water simultaneously to get a steaming effect as well. You will instantly feel better and can cough up as well as remove loosened phlegm through the nose. Hot water shower can be done twice a day until you feel better.
Spicy foods make your body hot and help in encouraging the free flow of mucous through the nasal passages, reducing the symptoms of congestion greatly. As you eat spicy food, you will feel your nose running and this will enable you to blow out your nose and expel the mucus completely.
Intake of spicy food is especially effective for nasal and sinus congestion, cough, cold etc. Continue taking spicy foods laced with cayenne pepper, peppercorns etc. until relief is attained.
Anything hot, when taken internally triggers a phlegm loosening reaction and hence a wonderful way to treat congestions. For chest congestions, drink hot water all throughout the day, especially in the morning time when the phlegm will be thickest and breathing difficulty at its height.
Drinking hot water will loosen up the phlegm and this aids in coughing up the loose phlegm. Application of hot water compress on the face and nasal areas help in removing nasal and sinus congestion and removing the inflammation as well.
For enhancing the effect of hot water treatment on your body and congestion, hot herbal teas can be availed of. Chamomile and ginger teas offer the best results as they have anti-inflammatory and anti bacterial properties.
Ginger is also good for increasing the blood circulation and warming up the body, both essential for quick relief from infections and inflammation.
Diet and Lifestyle
While you have congestion, it is important to take care of your diet and impart some changes in your lifestyle. All foods that are mucus producing or enhancing, such as dairy products like milk chocolate, cheese etc., starchy foods and cold foods must be avoided during the recovery time. In the case of chronic congestion, these foods must be completely eliminated from your diet.
Intake of foods such as hot pepper, onions, spicy foods etc. will help release the mucous out of your system. Drinking plenty of water is essential to keep the phlegm and mucus thin. Elevating your head while you sleep helps you breathe better at night. Use of a humidifier too is recommended to keep the respiratory system from drying out and causing nasal congestion.
Other Treatment Options for Congestion
Decongestants are commonly used in conventional treatment for relieving congestion. Several over the counter medications too are available, which can be taken without a prescription. Congestion that has developed into an infection requires antibiotic treatment for full recovery.