Most of the time, chest colds aren’t too serious, and they clear up in a few days. Sometimes, however, a chest cold sticks around for longer, partly because the person who is sick can’t get rid of the phlegm that’s rich in the infection. Certain techniques can help loosen the phlegm and propel the infected person back to wellness.
Make sure to stay hydrated. When a person with a cold does not consume enough liquids to avoid dehydration, the body cannot produce enough wet mucus and secretions to make the phlegm less sticky. When the person coughs, the phlegm thus can’t be expelled efficiently from the body, and the cough is unproductive. To stay hydrated, drink plenty of water (at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day). Do not consume coffee or soda because these can act as diuretics or require the body to use the water it has to flush them out. Water also can be consumed through eating foods such as soup (Mom wasn’t crazy with her talk about chicken noodle dishes because it keeps a person hydrated and has chemicals that help the immune system) or watermelon.
Moisten the lungs, bronchial tubes and nasal passages with steam. This can be done by standing in a warm shower, running a humidifier or using a vaporizer. The moisture from these methods and devices will make the phlegm less thick, which will make it easier to cough out. They work in the same way that staying hydrated does, except that they work from the outside. It is better to loosen the phlegm from the inside out first, but externally moistening the lungs, bronchial tubes and nasal passages can help with other cold symptoms (sore throat, itchy nose) as it loosens the phlegm.
Use an over-the-counter expectorant. Expectorants are medications that are designed to help thin mucus and phlegm. They are common in many brands of cough medicine and work in exactly the opposite manner that cough suppressants do. Most expectorants do not run more than $10 at a drug or department store, so they are a cheap way to get rid of the phlegm problem. If the expectorant doesn’t seem to do the job, try seeing a general physician. They can prescribe something stronger than an over-the-counter medication if needed or can prescribe something to boost the immune system to get rid of the phlegm buildup.