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Home remedies can’t treat pneumonia, but they can help you effectively manage its symptoms.

They aren’t a replacement for your doctor-approved treatment plan, though. It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations while using these complementary therapies.

Learn how you can use home remedies to relieve your cough, chest pain, and more. If your symptoms get worse or don’t improve despite treatment, seek medical advice.

Quick info on pneumonia

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection, and it can develop in one or both lungs.

The air sacs fill with pus and/or fluid, making breathing difficult. The infection may be mild but can be life threatening in its most severe form.

Causes and symptoms

Bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause pneumonia, with bacteria most commonly triggering this lung infection. Bacterial pneumonia can happen on its own or as a complication of viral infections like flu or COVID-19.

Common bacteria behind pneumonia include:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Legionella pneumophila
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae

Common viruses that trigger pneumonia include:

  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Some viruses that cause cold and flu
  • SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19

Symptoms include:

  • breathlessness
  • fever
  • chills
  • phlegmy cough
  • chest pain while breathing or coughing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

COVID-19 and pneumonia

People who acquire SARS-CoV-2 might develop pneumonia as a severe complication. Mostly, COVID-19 will cause a fever and a dry cough, and it does not progress to pneumonia-like symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home until symptoms have passed if you have mild COVID.

It’s vital to seek medical assistance if symptoms get worse. If you feel chest pain and breathing difficulties after a COVID-19 diagnosis, call a healthcare professional.

A study from 2020 found that people at particular risk of life threatening COVID-19 pneumonia include:

  • those who are 65 years or older
  • people with a history or cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease
  • low levels of CD3+CD8+ T-cells, showing a possible link between COVID and the immune system
  • high levels of cardiac troponins, a protein that indicates heart injury

If noninvasive treatments like medication don’t stop the progression of COVID-19 pneumonia, you might need to go to the hospital, and mechanical ventilation may be necessary.

You may develop a cough at the onset of your pneumonia. It can come on within the first 24 hours, or it might develop over the course of a few days.

Coughing helps to rid your body of the infection by removing fluid from your lungs, so you don’t want to stop coughing completely. But you may want to reduce how much you cough so that it doesn’t interfere with your rest or cause further pain and irritation.

Your cough may continue for some time during and after your recovery, and can sometimes even be present for months after infection.

1. Try a saltwater gargle

Gargling with salt water can help remove some of the mucus in your throat and relieve irritation.

How to do a saltwater gargle

To do this:

  1. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt into a glass of warm water.
  2. Gargle the mixture with your head raised, looking at the ceiling.
  3. Spit it out.
  4. Repeat at least three times each day.

2. Drink hot peppermint tea

Peppermint can also help alleviate irritation and expel mucus. Research suggests that it can be an effective decongestant, anti-inflammatory, and painkiller.

If you don’t already have peppermint tea, you can pick up loose or bagged teas at your local grocery or online. And if you have fresh peppermint, you can easily make your own tea.

How to make fresh peppermint tea

To make peppermint tea from scratch:

  1. Wash and cut fresh mint leaves and place them in a cup or teapot.
  2. Add boiling water and steep for about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain and serve with lemon, honey, or milk.

You may wish to deeply inhale the aroma of the peppermint tea while the tea is steeping. This might help clear your nasal pathways.

With pneumonia, your breathing may suddenly become rapid and shallow, or this symptom could develop gradually over the course of a few days.

You may even experience breathlessness while you’re resting. Your doctor may prescribe medication or inhalers to help. Even as you try the suggestions below, make sure you keep up with your physician’s instructions and dosages.

If the following suggestions don’t help and your breath becomes even shorter, seek immediate medical care.

3. Use a handheld fan

While the evidence is thin, a 2021 review suggests that passing a handheld fan across the face may temporarily relieve breathlessness in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

While the underlying cause of breathing difficulties is different in people with pneumonia, you might find that using a fan makes it easier to catch your breath.

You can use a handheld fan until your symptoms subside.

4. Drink a cup of coffee

Drinking a cup of coffee may also help relieve shortness of breath. Caffeine may help widen the airways, and a 2021 review even suggested that consuming it could help soothe some COVID-19 symptoms and work against SARS-CoV-2.

Caffeine’s half-life is 3-5 hours, meaning that your body gets rid of half the caffeine content in this time. If caffeine helps to widen your airways, this is the amount of time it’s likely to have its most noticeable effects.

Chest pain may come on suddenly or over the course of several days. You should expect some chest pain or ache if you get pneumonia. With treatment, any chest pain typically subsides within 4 weeks.

5. Drink a cup of turmeric tea

A 2020 review suggests that a compound called curcumin in turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial qualities that can help your body defend itself against pneumonia.

Another review from 2018 supported curcumin’s activity against pain, meaning that it might provide some relief for pneumonia’s sometimes intense chest pain (even though the research didn’t focus on chest pain directly).

You can buy turmeric tea at your local grocery or online. You can also make your own tea using turmeric powder.

Making turmeric tea for pneumonia chest pain

To make fresh tea:

  1. Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to a few cups of boiling water.
  2. Reduce the heat and slowly simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain and serve with honey and lemon.
  4. Add a pinch of black pepper for improved absorption.
  5. Drink as often as you’d like.

6. Drink a cup of ginger tea

Ginger has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties in recent research. As with turmeric, current research on ginger hasn’t looked at whether it helps specifically with chest pain, but it’s a harmless, hydrating way to try and soothe the uncomfortable effects of pneumonia.

You can find loose or bagged ginger teas at your local grocery or online. Or, you can use raw ginger to make your own ginger tea.

How to make ginger tea for pneumonia chest pain

To make fresh tea:

  1. Cut or grate a few pieces of fresh ginger and add it to a pot of boiling water.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Strain and serve with honey and lemon.
  4. Drink as often as you’d like.

Your fever may develop suddenly or over the course of a few days. With treatment, it should subside within the week.

7. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) can help to reduce your fever and alleviate pain.

If you can, take any pain relievers with food or on a full stomach. This helps reduce your risk of side effects, such as nausea.

Adults can typically take one or two 200-milligram (mg) capsules every 4 to 6 hours. You shouldn’t exceed 1,200 mg per day.

For children, follow the directions on the packaging.

8. Drink some fenugreek tea

Research from 2018 found that fenugreek tea can stimulate sweating when you drink it. As sweat cools you down, this might help provide some relief from a fever.

9. Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water and electrolytes while you have a fever can help you prevent dehydration. Eating homemade popsicles or sipping on chilled beverages also provides hydration as well as cooling you down.

10. Apply a lukewarm compress or take a lukewarm bath

Submerging your body in a lukewarm bath might help you bring down your body temperature.

You can also use a lukewarm compress to help cool your body from the outside inward if a bath is not convenient. Although it may be tempting to use a cold compress, the sudden temperature shift can cause chills. A lukewarm compress provides a more gradual, comfortable temperature change.

Making a lukewarm compress

To make a compress:

  1. Wet a small towel or washcloth with lukewarm water.
  2. Wring out the excess water and place the compress on your forehead.
  3. Repeat as often as you’d like.

Chills may come on before or during a fever. They typically subside after your fever breaks. This may last up to a week, depending on when you begin treatment for pneumonia.

11. Drink warm water

If peppermint tea isn’t your thing, a glass of warm water will do. This can help you stay hydrated and warm you internally.

12. Have a bowl of soup

Not only is a hot bowl of soup nourishing, but it can also help replenish vital liquids while it warms you from the inside out.

The typical pneumonia treatment plan consists of rest, antibiotics, and increased fluid intake. You should take it easy even if your symptoms begin to subside.

Depending on the cause of pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication instead of an antibiotic.

You should take the entire course of medication even after you begin seeing improvement. If you don’t see improvement within 3 days, see your doctor.

Lifestyle tips for feeling better during pneumonia

  • Drink at least 8 cups of water or liquid per day. Liquids help to thin mucous and keep your fever down.
  • Get enough rest. Your body needs extra time to recuperate and heal properly. Adequate rest can also help prevent relapse.
  • Follow a healthy diet plan that includes all food groups. During recovery, it’s recommended that you eat six smaller meals daily instead of three larger ones.

Pneumonia isn’t always preventable. But by adopting certain lifestyle adjustments or avoiding triggers, you may be able to reduce your risk of experiencing its more severe effects.

Such measures include:

  • washing your hands thoroughly and regularly to reduce your risk for infection
  • avoiding cigarette smoke or quitting if you already smoke tobacco
  • where possible, avoiding areas with high levels of air pollution
  • eating a nutritious and balanced diet
  • staying active and exercising regularly
  • stress relief
  • maintaining a regular sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene
  • sticking to any prescribed treatments or interventions from a healthcare professional

Receiving a vaccine can also help reduce your risk for developing pneumonia as a complication of certain infections, including:

  • chickenpox
  • COVID-19
  • haemophilus influenzae type b (hib)
  • influenza (flu)
  • measles
  • pneumococcal
  • pertussis, or whooping cough

Practicing physical distancing from others is essential for reducing your risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2, as well as passing the virus on to other people if you have it.

With pneumonia, it’s important not to let the disease progress if you suspect that your symptoms are getting worse.

Immediate medical attention is necessary if you notice:

  • breathlessness
  • a blue tint on your lips and fingertips
  • chest pain
  • a high fever
  • a cough that produces mucous and is getting more severe

It’s also important to seek medical care if the following apply to you or a loved one with pneumonia:

  • you’re aged 65 years and over
  • your child is 2 years of age or under
  • you have a weakened immune system due to an autoimmune condition, treatment that affects your immune system like chemotherapy, or a disease that weakens the immune response like HIV
  • you have an underlying health problem

Pneumonia can become life-threatening for people in these categories. It’s essential to seek medical care if pneumonia symptoms develop.

Your pneumonia should start to improve steadily once you begin treatment. Pneumonia is serious and may require hospitalization. In most cases, it takes about 6 months before you feel fully recovered.

After your initial diagnosis, it’s important to pace yourself and allow your body time to heal. Eating well and getting plenty of rest are key.

After you’ve had pneumonia once, you’re more likely to experience it again. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve your overall health and reduce your risk.