Having trouble breathing is one of the least pleasurable feelings one can experience. When something obstructs this one of your most vital organs – the lungs – you feel like the foundation of your life is being taken away. But with all the viruses around (not to mention the allergies!) coughing and having trouble breathing is all too common and may not be the reason to panic just yet. There are ways to find out if you have to see a doctor immediately and even tips how to remove fluid from lungs naturally.

Causes of fluid buildup in the lungs

Some mucus is natural and even beneficial – it helps your lungs move and reduces friction. Even when there is an additional buildup of mucus, you don’t necessarily need to panic. If you have an infection (such as flu, bacteria or any other irritant), your body excretes additional mucus to help remove the intruder from your body.

Other causes might include:

  • Allergies (so there’s no intruder, but your body thinks there is one)
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Acid reflux (when you feel your stomach acid suddenly come up)
  • Other lung conditions or diseases.

Not all of them can be relieved by clearing fluid from your lungs naturally – in some cases you will have to see your doctor.

Is there a reason to worry?

doctor check

Chest congestion will manifest in a number of unpleasant symptoms. But not all of them should be a cause for concern (that doesn’t mean you should ignore them!).

May not be a sign of concern:

  • Sore throat
  • Occasionally waking up at night to cough
  • Dry cough
  • Coughing out yellow or green mucus.

All of these might feel uncomfortable (and even gross!), but you should only worry if the symptoms continue for seven to ten days. Before that, you can try to get fluid out of lungs naturally.

In contrast...

See your doctor immediately if you:

  • Cough out black mucus or blood
  • Develop a fever of 100º F (38º C) or more
  • Can’t sleep at all
  • Have difficulty breathing.

Alleviate chest congestion at home

If your symptoms don’t suggest there’s something more serious going on, there are some things you can do to feel better. Most of these will sound obvious, but hey – isn’t it the case that we tend to forget the most natural things such as…

  • Stay hydrated. Water will thin out the fluid and you make you feel better. Avoid caffeine, though – it will have the opposite effect.
  • Drink herbal tea. Some herbal teas are known to be especially effective in alleviating excess fluid, such as thyme or rosemary tea.
  • Eat a spoon of honey… regularly. With all the antibacterial and antiviral properties, honey is a great remedy for chest congestion. A tablespoon once every 3 or 4 hours should make you feel better.
  • Get some steam in your room. Getting an air humidifier might seem like the easiest solution, but this one’s a bit tricky, since humidifiers are a great place for the proliferation of fungus and other pathogens, and you really don’t want that. Clean your humidifier regularly, or even better – boil some water and breathe in the steam for a while (careful not to get scalded!).
  • Take a hot shower. It will provide you with the benefits of inhaling steam, will be virtually risk-free and boost your overall health.

 Specialized coughing


Among the ways to remove water from lungs naturally there is one that seems only too natural – cough. However, coughing too much or too little might do more harm than good, so specialized coughing is a useful technique to master.

  • Inhale slowly, filling up as much of your lungs as you can
  • Hold your breath for three seconds
  • Exhale about one fourth of your air
  • Cough forcefully, blowing as much air as you can
  • Repeat for three cycles.

If you feel short of breath and just need to cope with this sensation before seeing your doctor, try sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning forward, resting your arms on the pillow or bed table – this will allow your lungs to expand and provide some temporary alleviation.

Written by Migle Anusauskaite
Migle is interested in a variety of subjects and finds expression in different mediums. She’s a researcher, comics artist, writer and illustrator. She...
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