Cold, dry air makes it difficult for nearly everyone to breathe deeply. But it’s especially troublesome for folks with asthma, indoor allergies, chronic bronchitis and other lung issues. Thankfully, experts say these simple strategies safeguard the hardworking organ. The result: You’ll breathe easier and sidestep bothersome coughs.
Try a little thyme.
Taking 1 tablespoons of thyme syrup every 2-3 hours quells a cough as effectively as OTC meds, suggests a study in the journal Complementary Medicine Research. The herb works as a gentle expectorant, helping clear out airway irritants, explains Gus Dobos, MD. To do: Steep 2 tablespoons of dried thyme in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain, then stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1⁄4 cup of maple syrup. Let cool, then sip the mixture as needed.
It’s hard to breathe when icy winds hit your face because your airways (and shoulders!) tighten with the sudden cold. The fix: Loosely wrap a scarf over your nose and mouth one minute before stepping outside. Swedish scientists say this allows warmth to build up in your airways, easing chest tightness, breathlessness and coughing fits by 75 percent.
Spritz a mist.
To whisk away twice as much lung-irritating dust, dander and mold spores from your home, lightly mist your dusting cloth with water. Australian scientists say this traps lightweight particles rather than sending them flying into the air, cutting indoor coughing fits up to 45 percent.
Sip milk and honey.
Cozying up with warm milk (or a non-dairy variety) sweetened with 2 teaspoons of raw honey tames nighttime coughs as effectively as the OTC cough suppressant dextromethorphan, Italian scientists say. Explains Stef Sopo, MD, warm liquids relax spasming throat muscles, while raw honey reduces cough-triggering inflammation.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.