Relieving
bronchial
congestion

Who hasn’t been inconvenienced by a moist cough or expectorations? How can you get rid of these unpleasant secretions? You will find some answers here.

Bronchi: tubes that can become obstructed

Bronchi (and bronchioles) make up a system of airways which connects the windpipe to the lungs. Air breathed in through the nose passes through the larynx, then the windpipe before reaching its ultimate destination: the lungs. The lungs’ main function is to ensure gas exchanges between air and blood and to participate in the distribution of oxygen. Different problems, varying in nature and severity, may occur when breathing is compromised.

The mucous membrane lining the inside of bronchi is equipped with microscopic mucus-covered motile cilia. Cilia forms a type of “treadmill” with the purpose of trapping impurities, including dust and foreign particles, and moving them outside of the body. Coughing is a way to remove unwanted substances accumulated in mucus, which is then spit out or swallowed.

In some situations, mucus thickens and obstructs the bronchi. This is called bronchial congestion. It is one of the body’s defence mechanisms, aimed at getting rid of foreign and harmful substances.

The causes of bronchial obstruction

Bronchial congestion is often caused by a viral or bacterial respiratory infection. A cold and the flu are good examples of viral infections that can explain the presence of bronchial secretions and coughing. Bronchitis is a bacterial infection that causes similar symptoms. The presence of coloured sputum is common in this type of infection.

However, bronchial congestion can be attributed to other factors such as:

allergies
 

(e.g. to animals or pollen)

smoking
 

chronic
diseases

(e.g. asthma or cystic fibrosis), and

exposure to irritating substances

(e.g. dust or chemicals)

Potential solutions

The cause of a wet cough and bronchial congestion must first be determined before implementing the appropriate treatment. In the case of a cold or the flu, the immune system must fight the infection. This takes some time. Meanwhile, coughing and bronchial congestion can be relieved by over-the-counter medication.

The medication most frequently used in cough medicines against wet cough and bronchial congestion is guaifenesin. This is an “expectorant”, in other words, an agent that helps loosen mucus so it can be more easily coughed up. Guaifenesin is found in a number of preparations presented in a solid (e.g. tablets) or liquid (e.g. syrup) format. The same preparation can contain guaifenesin combined with other products such as dextromethorphan (“DM”, an antitussive) or menthol.

Drinking plenty of water or hot beverages can sometimes help to remove secretions.

When to seek medical attention

It is better to see a doctor if coughing or bronchial congestion lasts beyond 7 to 14 days. The same applies if the following signs and symptoms occur:

  • Signs and Symptoms
  • coloured (dark) bronchial secretions
  • high fever or fever that lasts more than 48 hours
  • unusual or worrisome manifestations such as:
    • vomiting accompanied by coughing
    • blood in the sputum
    • skin rash
    • breathing difficulties, and
    • chest or back pain
  • gradual worsening of the affected person’s condition

Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions regarding a moist cough or bronchial congestion.

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Relieving bronchial congestion

Who hasn’t been inconvenienced by a moist cough or expectorations? How can you get rid of these unpleasant secretions? You will find some answers here.
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