How to Relieve Sinus & Chest Congestion

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To relieve sinus and chest congestion, be sure to stay in a humid environment and clean out the sinuses with a neti pot. Schedule a doctor's appointment if the symptoms last over three weeks with advice from a pediatrician in this free video on sinus relief.

Part of the Video Series: Sinus & Head Cold Advice
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Dr. David Hill, and today we're going to be talking about how to relieve sinus and chest congestion. So, the most common cause of having sinus and chest congestion together is a viral upper respiratory infection, or a cold. The good news is that if you wait long enough, usually seven to ten days, the symptoms are going to get better on their own. Let me specify. The nose gets better first, usually within seven to ten days, fourteen on the outside. However, the cough and chest congestion may last as long as three weeks in a typical viral infection. It doesn't mean that anything is wrong. That's just how long it takes to get better. Now, in the meantime, you want to know what can you do. Probably the simplest thing is to put yourself in a humid environment. Now one thing you can do is just live in the south like I do, and then you're already in a humid environment, but let's say you have air conditioning or you live somewhere that's not humid... you'll want to add some humidity to your environment. You can use a vaporizer, either a cool mist or a steam vaporizer, to make your environment more humid. That said, a word of caution with the hot water vaporizers, the steam vaporizers: those can be very dangerous, especially if there are children around, because it's really easy to get a steam burn by putting your hand in front of that thing. So if you have one, make sure it's way out of the reach of children. Now, another thing that you can do is to try and wash the gunk out of your nose and sinuses. The easiest way to do this is to use what's called a neti pot. This is a little device that looks kind of like a teapot and kind of like Aladdin's magic lantern. You introduce normal saline into the nose using the neti pot. You can make your own normal saline by taking one teaspoon of salt and two cups of water. You mix that up real good, you might heat it up to help it dissolve, and then once it's at room temperature, you introduce it into the nose while you're hanging out over the sink. Let it rinse all that stuff around, and that will help out some as well. Now if you have a friend who can pound on your chest gently with a cupped hand, that may help bring up some of the chest congestion. There is a medication sold called guaifenesin--the most common brand is Mucinex--that's supposed to loosen up gunk in your chest and make it easier to cough up. Whether that really works particularly well remains a matter of some debate, but it's something that you can try. Now, if your symptoms have not gotten better over a two to three week period, you may have a bacterial infection of the sinuses or the lungs, and you may want to seek care. Likewise if this is acting like allergies or asthma. Perhaps there's a known trigger, perhaps it's seasonal, perhaps it doesn't get better over a two to three week period, again, or if you have shortness of breath, certainly you want to seek care from a doctor for that. Talking about how to relieve sinus and chest congestion, I'm Dr. David Hill.


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