Wheezing, the whistling sound when you breathe, is usually indicative of a breathing problem. Conditions like asthma and chest infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can cause it.
It can also be caused when a foreign object blocks your airways. This usually happens due to an allergic reaction to insect bites, medications, or long-term conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Here are some home remedies that may help reduce wheezing.
Home Remedies For Wheezing Caused By Asthma
Asthma is a condition where the airways in your lungs become swollen and muscles around your airways tighten.1 The obstruction in air flow causes symptoms like wheezing, breathlessness, coughing, and a tight feeling in your chest. Doctors usually prescribe preventive and symptom-relieving medications and lifestyle changes to help keep your condition in check. They may also help you identify early warning signs to prevent serious complications.
While it is necessary to religiously follow your doctor’s advice, the following home remedies may help support your treatment.
1. Avoid Triggers Like Dust, Smoke, Or Mold
Smoking or breathing in secondhand smoke can worsen wheezing.
It’s important to avoid substances that can irritate your airways and trigger an asthma attack. Here are some tips you can follow:
- Use allergy-proof covers on your bedding to lessen dust mites.
- Get rid of carpets which can collect allergens, and vacuum regularly.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air filter, switch on exhaust fans when you shower, and keep moisture levels in your house lower than 30% to 50% with a dehumidifier to control mold growth.2
- Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Use unscented cleaning materials which are less likely to contain ingredients that can cause an attack.
2. Perform Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises like the Buteyko method and the Papworth method can help you keep your asthma in control:
The Buteyko Method
The Buteyko Method, developed by Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, can be helpful for those who have asthma. One study found that a 20-minute session of breathing exercises twice each day for a period of 4 weeks significantly improved symptoms like breathlessness and mood disturbances in people with asthma.3 Adopting these exercises also enabled them to decrease their daily use of inhaled steroids.
What To Do: Intersperse short periods of shallow breathing with periods of breath-holding to benefit. It’s advisable to learn the exercise from a trained practitioner or through a digital instruction program so that you can actually observe the exercises.
The Papworth Method
The Papworth method too can ease respiratory symptoms, adverse mood, and dysfunctional breathing in people with asthma.4 This method aims to eliminate dysfunctional breathing and tries to make “appropriate” breathing and relaxation techniques like slow, calm, nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) a part of your daily life. At first, you might practice these techniques in a semi‐recumbent position, then move on to practicing them while sitting, standing, and while carrying out your daily activities. Finally, you’ll be taught to integrate helpful breathing techniques while speaking.
What To Do: Try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise – sit or lie down in a comfortable position and breathe in slowly through your nose.5 Your abdomen rather than your chest should extend as you inhale. Now exhale slowly drawing your abdomen in as you do so. Ideally, your exhalation should be 2 times longer than your inhalation. Seek the guidance of a trained practitioner who will be able to instruct you in the Papworth method.
3. Practice Yoga Poses Like Headstand Or Shoulder Stand
People who practiced yoga showed an improvement in the number of weekly asthma attacks, use of medication, and peak flow rate which measures how quickly you breathe out.
Yoga is an ancient mind and body practice that originated in India. According to research, a set of integrated yoga exercises which included pranayama(breath slowing techniques), surya namaskar (sun salutation, which is a set of yoga poses), yoga asanas (physical postures), dhyana (meditation), and a devotional session was found to benefit people with asthma.6
What To Do: Here are some exercises you can try
- Breathing Exercise: This exercise can be done sitting down or while lying down in deep relaxation pose (savasana). First, ease the effort that you use to inhale. Now shorten the time taken for inhalation to half the time taken for exhalation. Ensure you’re not lengthening the time taken for exhalation instead of shortening the time for inhalation. If you feel short of breath, resume breathing normally for a few breaths before continuing the exercise.
- Breathing Exercise, Exhalation Pause: Repeat the previous exercise but now add a pause after your exhalation. Slowly lengthen the pause till it takes as long as your exhalation. Do not add a pause after your inhalation.
- Breathing Exercise, Extended Exhalation Pause: Keep your inhalation and exhalation equal in length but pause after the exhalation. Slowly extend the length of the pause till it’s 2 to 4 times the length of your inhalation.
Inverted poses like the sirsasana (headstand) and sarvangasana (shoulder stand) can also be useful for people with asthma. They help your diaphragm move with gravity rather than
against it while exhaling during these poses.7
4. Drink Coffee In Moderation
Caffeine has been found to improve the functioning of the airways in people with asthma for up to 4 hours.8 It works as a bronchodilator and can also lessen respiratory muscle fatigue.
What To Do: Brew yourself a delicious cup of coffee to ease your symptoms. Do keep in mind though that it’s not a good idea to consume more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day.9Pregnant women are advised to avoid it or limit their consumption to 300 mg in a day. An 8-ounce cup of coffee generally contains about 95 to 200 mg of caffeine, so do the math.
5. Eat 2 Apples A Week
According to research, consuming apples is generally good for your pulmonary health.10Eating apples can lessen bronchial hypersensitivity and lower your risk for asthma. Beneficial flavonoids present in apples are considered to be responsible for this effect.
What To Do: Have at least 2 apples in a week.
6. Add Tomatoes To Your Diet
According to research, a diet rich in tomatoes can decrease the number of white blood cells (neutrophils) which lead to inflammation in the airways. The antioxidant lycopene present in tomatoes is thought to account for this effect.
One study found that when people with asthma incorporated tomato juice and tomato extract in their diets their Asthma Control Score (which measures whether your asthma is under control) improved.11
What To Do: Stock up on tomato juice! You can also incorporate tomatoes in dishes that you cook. In fact, the process of cooking boosts the level of lycopene in tomatoes.12 Along with tomatoes, it is good to eat a small amount of healthy fat to enhance your body’s ability to absorb lycopene.
Home Remedies For Wheezing Caused By Chest Infections
Chest infections like bronchitis and pneumonia can cause phlegm to clog your airways. This can cause symptoms like coughing, breathlessness, chest tightness, a rapid heartbeat, and fever in addition to wheezing. It’s advisable to see a doctor if you have chest pain, can’t breathe normally, are coughing up blood, getting a bluish tinge to your skin, or your symptoms are not improving. Be even more cautious if you have a compromised immune system, are over 65 or under 5 years or age, are pregnant, or have a chronic condition as you could be more likely to develop complications. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for infections caused by bacteria.13 Meanwhile, here are some home remedies that can make you feel better:
1. Follow Good Home Care Practices
Here are a few tips on how you can ease the symptoms of a chest infection:
Rest And Have Fluids
Getting sufficient rest can help your body recover. Keeping your head raised with a couple of extra pillows might ease breathing while you sleep. Meanwhile, drinking plenty of fluids can stave off dehydration as well as loosen mucus from your lungs which will help you cough it up more effortlessly.
Breathe Moist, Warm Air
Breathing in moist, warm air can loosen mucus. Using a humidifier filled with warm water can be helpful. You can also lay a clean washcloth soaked in warm water gently over your nose and mouth.
Bringing up mucus from your lungs or throat can clear your airways and make it easier to breathe.14 15
- Take in a few deep breaths 2 to 3 times in an hour. This will be helpful in opening up your lungs.
- Lie down with your head at a lower level than your chest and tap at your chest gently. This will help bring up mucus which you can cough out.
2. Try Steam Inhalation
A steam inhalation can loosen phlegm and work wonders for clogged airways.16
What To Do: Put water to boil in a wide pot. After the water stops bubbling, you can inhale the steam. Around 5 to 10 minutes of steam should do the trick. Covering your head and the pot with a towel can help to keep the steam from escaping while you inhale.
3. Go For Eucalyptus
A volatile oil known as eucalyptol present in eucalyptus has expectorant and antiseptic properties.17 No wonder it is used commonly to treat respiratory conditions like bronchitis, common colds, and coughs.
What To Do: Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to hot water and inhale the vapors.18However, do keep in mind that eucalyptus might not be appropriate for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women.19
4. Resort To Thyme
Thyme is found on almost every spice rack. This ancient herb doesn’t just add flavor to your dishes, but it has healing properties too. Many bioactive components of thyme like volatile oils and flavonoids act in concert to give it antibacterial and expectorant properties.
What To Do: Steep about half a teaspoon of thyme in 250 ml of hot water to make a cup of tea. This tea can be consumed several times a day to clear airways and ease breathing.20
5. Have Some Chicken Soup
A comforting bowl of chicken soup can help with your chest infection. The amino acid cysteine present in the soup plus the heat and fluids supplied by it can help thin out mucus and clear congestion.21
What To Do: Here’s a simple recipe for chicken soup that you can try.
- 3 pounds of chicken meat with bones
- 4 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- Ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste
Instructions: Add chicken, celery, carrot, ginger, garlic, and onion to a pot. Cover with water and simmer till the chicken’s tender enough that the meat comes away from its bones. Strain the broth and remove the chicken bones from the chicken. Combine the vegetables, chicken meat, and the broth. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy while it’s warm.
6. Try Peppermint
Peppermint is commonly used for treating respiratory problems. Menthol, an important compound present in peppermint, helps to thin out and loosen phlegm. This is why peppermint works well as a decongestant and expectorant.22
What To Do: Try having some peppermint tea. To make a cup of peppermint tea, steep a teaspoon of dry peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling hot water for around 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy your tea.23 You can also add a few drops of peppermint oil to a steam inhalation to ease your breathing. Do keep in mind though that peppermint is not suitable for children. Even inhaling menthol can cause them serious harm.24