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Health > Respiratory Problems

Respiratory Problems

Respiratory Problems Fact Sheet

What to look for

  • difficulties in breathing.
  • cough.
  • chills and fever.
  • fatigue.

Respiratory problems may also be accompanied by:

  • rapid breathing.
  • shortness of breath.
  • pain in the chest.
  • slight headache.
  • overall despondency.
  • common cold symptoms: runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing.

There are different types of respiratory problems. There are respiratory infections, such as the common cold, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, lung diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema and other types of lung diseases related to a person’s line of work, such as asbestosis.


Respiratory infections can be mild (when you have a cold) all the way through to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia. They are caused by viruses or bacteria.
Lung diseases have different causes. Asthma can be aggravated by allergens, irritants, or excessive exercise and emphysema is caused by excessive smoking.
Other lung diseases can be brought on by workplace substances such as asbestos.
Have your doctor investigate your symptoms to enable a proper diagnosis to be done.

Traditional Treatment

Many respiratory infections usually go away on their own in a week to 10 days and there are a range of conventional and alternative treatments available.
If you have a bacterial respiratory infection, your doctor will probably prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.

Alternative/Natural Treatments

Alternative therapies have been known to be very helpful in relieving symptoms of respiratory problems. Always consult a Naturopath for treatment. (See also the section on coughs and cold for more information).
Start these treatments as soon as you see the first symptom.
Aromatherapy - A steam inhalation can reduce congestion, and if the temperature is quite hot, it will also kill cold germs on contact. Choose eucalyptus, wintergreen, or peppermint. Place a few drops of the oil in a bowl and pour in boiling water. Place a towel over your head, lean over the bowl to create a steam tent, and breathe the vapours. (see our section on Aromatherapy for more information).
Herbal Therapies - Taken at the first sign of symptoms, Echinacea can reduce a cold's severity, often even preventing it from becoming a full infection. Echinacea stimulates the immune response, enhancing resistance to all infection. It's available in capsules at our pharmacy.
Goldenseal helps clear mucus from the throat. Horseradish capsules also helps rid the body of excess mucus.
Garlic shortens a cold's duration and severity. Any form seems to work: capsules or tablets, oil rubbed on the skin, or whole garlic roasted or cooked in other foods. It is a potent and powerful healing herb.
Homoeopathy - Cold symptoms often respond well to homoeopathic remedies. Some examples are Bryonia, Arsenicum album, and Allium cepa to name a few. Ask our Pharmacist for advice.
Personal Care - The best remedies for most respiratory problems are bed rest, plenty of filtered water and hot drinks such as herbal teas, humidity or steam, and fever or pain medications and supplements of Vitamin C, Echinacea and Garlic.
Dietary Considerations - Start your ‘attack’ on the cold virus before winter even commences to get your body in tip top shape to be able to fight any virus that comes along. Ensure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, garlic, and onions. Plenty of filtered water and natural fruit and vegetable juices.
Spicy foods are thought to help the drainage of mucus. Try to avoid mucus forming foods such as dairy products, limit these foods and try to have low fat versions. Also less eggs, starches and sugar. Good nutrition is essential for resisting and recovering from a cold.
Eat in a balanced way. Take supplements as needed to ensure you are receiving the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A, the derivative of vitamin A - betacarotene, the vitamin B complex (vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, folic acid), and vitamin C, fish liver oils, as well as the minerals zinc and copper.

When to seek further professional advice

  • you have a common cold or cough that lasts for more than 10 days and that is not relieved by over-the-counter medications.
  • you have a high fever, chills, pain in your chest, and a cough that brings up bloody mucus.
  • you have difficulty breathing.

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