Nobody likes to have a bad cough, but one that causes you to cough up phlegm can be even worse. Loosening the phlegm and expelling it from your body can help alleviate a troubled cough and get you back to breathing easy.
Phlegm occurs when there is an infection in your lungs. Normally, your lungs are coated with a thin layer of mucous that works to expel foreign objects. When there is an infection, your lungs produce excess mucus to fight it off, and eventually your lungs begin expelling this mucus, which is known as phlegm. Phlegm can build up in the lungs and cause breathing and coughing to be difficult, so breaking it up and expelling it can help alleviate symptoms.
Expectorants are relatively cheap over-the-counter medications that help loosen phlegm and assist your body in coughing it up. Cold medications such as Robitussin and Tylenol cough can also help alleviate pain and loosen phlegm. Take caution in mixing any medications, though, and discuss medications with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure safety and find the right one for you.
A great way to loosen phlegm is using steam. Try taking a hot shower or putting your head over a bowl of steaming water and covering with a towel to capture the steam. You can also purchase vaporizers that create steam, such as the Vicks vaporizer. For added benefit, add eucalyptus to your bowl of water, or you can purchase vaporizing tabs that you place in the shower or bath.
When dealing with a bothersome phlegm cough, avoid eating or drinking any dairy. Although dairy products won’t cause you to produce more phlegm, they can irritate phlegm and make it thicker and more difficult to expel. A good rule is to simply drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and help thin out the phlegm.
A nice steaming cup of tea is an effective aid for most any ailment but can be especially good at helping to loosen phlegm. Ginger, which has been found to help lessen coughs, is a great one to try. You can also try drinking a cup of hot soup that has a water-based broth, nothing too thick.
If your cough has persisted for more than a week, see your doctor. A persistent cough can be a sign of or lead to a more serious ailment such as pneumonia. If you smoke, quit, or at least cut back drastically, as smoking will worsen your cough. Try to avoid sleeping on your back. Sleep on your side to help expel the phlegm.