Chest congestion is an uncomfortable symptom that can have several different causes. In many cases, it's the result of allergies; whether caused by pollen, pet dander, or something else. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of chest congestion due to environmental and seasonal allergies, as well as some potential solutions.
Why Do Allergies Cause Chest Congestion?
Chest congestion, like other allergy symptoms, is a product of the body's response to adverse stimuli. When allergens enter the body, they trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that causes inflammation of the airways and mucus production. This can lead to constriction, difficulty breathing, and chest congestion.
What Does Chest Congestion From Allergies Feel Like?
While you’d think there might be a difference, there’s not. Chest congestion from allergies can be pretty similar to regular congestion. In most cases, you'll experience the same feelings of chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath associated with the symptom.
With that being said, however, allergy-induced chest congestion rarely occurs on its own. As part of the body's broader immune response, it can easily be accompanied by more well-known allergy symptoms, including a runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, and sneezing.
In some cases, chest congestion can develop as the result of a separate allergy symptom altogether. Post-nasal drip in particular is often experienced as a result of allergies and can lead to chest congestion.
What Else Causes Chest Congestion?
There are several known causes of chest congestion beyond allergies. Because chest congestion from allergies isn’t that different from regular congestion, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause. However, some of them can be serious, so it's important to identify and address yours as soon as possible.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that can cause chest tightness and wheezing. This type of chest congestion typically occurs when your airways become inflamed and constricted, making it difficult to breathe normally. It's worth noting that asthma can also be a symptom of allergies itself; allergy-induced asthma is a relatively common condition and may be indicated if your chest congestion is accompanied by any of the other symptoms mentioned above.
The common cold is a respiratory infection that's typically caused by one of several viruses. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include chest congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and coughing.
Bronchitis is a respiratory infection marked by coughing, chest congestion, and fatigue. It's caused by a virus or bacteria and often spread through direct contact with an infected person. Symptoms generally last for up to three weeks but can be treated with antibiotics if the underlying cause is bacterial.
A heart attack, medically known as myocardial infarction, is a cardiovascular episode that occurs when the heart doesn't get enough blood. It's characterized by pain and discomfort in the chest, difficulty breathing, nausea, cold sweats, and dizziness. These symptoms typically last for more than a couple of minutes or go away and reoccur for a long period of time.
Chest congestion can also be an early sign of lung cancer. As the tumor begins to take up more space in your lungs, it limits your breathing capacity and can cause chest pain and tightness. These symptoms are typically progressive but may be reversible if caught early.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a group of diseases that block airflow in the lungs and cause shortness of breath. It can be caused by both environmental factors and long-term exposure to certain types of irritants. Common symptoms include chest congestion, coughing, wheezing, and fatigue.
A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of your lungs' arteries caused by a blood clot. This can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood.
How To Prevent Chest Congestion From Allergies
Preventing chest congestion from allergies means preventing allergy symptoms altogether. And while that's not a realistic option for everyone, there are several steps that you can take to reduce your risk.
Identify Your Trigger
The first step to avoiding allergy-induced chest congestion is to identify what triggers your allergies. Different people are sensitive to different allergens, so take the time to figure out what sets off your allergies and then take steps to avoid them. Take an at-home allergy test to find out what you are allergic to.
If you're looking for a less painful, more convenient alternative to prick testing, an at-home kit may be your best option. Here's how it works:
- Get Wyndly’s at-home allergy test. We ship our CLIA-certified test straight to your door.
- Take the allergy test and send it back to us. Just do a quick finger prick test to provide us with a blood sample and mail it back when you’re done.
- Receive your personal allergy profile. Our doctor will interpret your results, create an allergy profile, and walk you through a treatment plan.
Wyndly's at-home testing can offer insight into the full breadth of your allergies. Results will detail exactly what substances you're reactive to and the steps you can take to mitigate the symptoms.
Reduce Indoor Allergens
Reduce the allergens in your home by vacuuming and cleaning regularly, using an air filter to remove dust and pollen, and keeping windows and doors closed when the pollen count is high.
Monitor Pollen Counts
Checking your local pollen counts can help you plan for days when the concentration of allergens is higher. Pay attention to daily pollen levels and take precautions when they are high.
Leave Your Shoes at the Door
Another way to reduce the allergens inside your home is to take off your shoes when you come in. This will keep allergens like pollen from coming into your home on the bottom of your shoes.
Wear A Mask
Wearing a mask when you're outdoors can help keep allergens from entering your nose and mouth. This is particularly important if you have to do yard work or walk through a high pollen area, such as a field.
What Helps Chest Congestion Due To Allergies?
Unfortunately, most people won't be able to completely eradicate their allergy symptoms through limiting exposure alone. Symptoms may reduce in severity but will still likely require additional attention. Luckily, there are various methods to help relieve your congestion. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Home remedies are a go-to solution for many with allergies. Not only are they cost-effective and easy to access, but they can also be tailored to your specific needs. Common home remedies for chest congestion due to allergies include the following:
Taking a Hot Bath or Shower
Heat is a time-old tool for relieving problems like congestion. Opening the body's airways can help to reduce the amount of mucus buildup in your chest and make breathing easier. Consider taking a steamy shower or bath to get the full benefits of heat therapy. You can even opt to add some menthol-based products to your bath or shower for an extra hit of relief.
Gargling With Warm Salt Water
Gargling with warm salt water can help to reduce inflammation in the chest and throat, as well as thin out excessive mucus. To make the solution, simply dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water and gargle for about 30 seconds.
Applying a Warm Compress
Applying a warm compress to your chest can help to temporarily alleviate tightness and congestion. The warmth will help loosen phlegm buildup and open up your airways. Try soaking a towel in warm water, wringing it out, and applying it to your chest for several minutes at a time.
Drinking Hot Liquids
Drinking hot liquids, like tea or soup, can help to thin out your mucus and reduce chest congestion. It will also help to keep you hydrated, which is important when your allergies are in full swing.
Using a Humidifier
If you struggle to breathe in dry air, using a humidifier can help add moisture back into the air. This can open up your nasal passages and make breathing easier.
If home remedies aren't enough, there are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and products capable of reducing chest congestion due to allergies for short-term relief. These include:
Nasal sprays, like those containing oxymetazoline or naphazoline, can help to reduce inflammation in the nasal cavities. They are best used as a short-term solution, however, since overuse can lead to further congestion.
Decongestants work by reducing swelling and inflammation in your nasal passages. This can help to open up your airways and make breathing easier. Common decongestants include pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, and phenylephrine.
Antihistamines, such as cetirizine or loratadine, can help to reduce the severity of your symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine, a natural compound released during an allergic reaction.
When to See a Doctor
If your chest congestion due to allergies persists despite home remedies and OTC medications, it may be time to visit a doctor. A doctor can help identify any underlying conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms, as well as provide more tailored and powerful treatments.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) allergy drops or tablets are a more effective way to treat allergies. Whereas OTC medicines mask symptoms, SLIT goes after the source of your allergies. Sublingual immunotherapy is placed under the tongue and slowly introduces small, gradually increasing amounts of the allergen to your immune system. Over time, this re-trains your immune system to ignore these harmless allergy triggers as opposed to responding with an allergic reaction.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you would like to get long-term relief from your allergy symptoms, look no further than Wyndly. Our allergy doctors will work with you to identify what you are allergic to and create a personalized treatment plan to get you life-long relief.
Take our free online allergy assessment today to start on the path toward an allergy and chest congestion-free life!