All of us know when our lungs aren't quite working right. We feel sluggish, and our heads feel foggy. It may be that we're having an upper-respiratory infection, or some other problem.
But whatever it is, water will make your system work better, and more quickly take care of whatever the problem is. You will also feel better. The other thing water will do is keep your mouth and throat well-hydrated, because if you have an infection like that, chances are you will be coughing a lot.
Coughing is something we want to avoid. Like runny noses and sneezing, we think it's embarrassing. But remember that coughs are there to help the body get rid of something, and rather than try to make the body quit, we should help the body. I don't know about you, but I'd just as soon get over my coughing as quickly as I can. So start drinking water!
(The one time I would encourage cough suppressants -- that is, medicine to suppress the coughing reflex -- is at night. If you are having trouble sleeping because of constant coughing, take a minimum dose of cough medicine just before going to bed. Sometimes there's a very small amount of drainage that's not even noticeable when we're awake. But as soon as we lay down, the "tickling" starts, and makes it hard to sleep. Your body also needs sleep. So feel free to take something for the cough in this circumstance. On the other hand, if you are coughing up large amounts of phlegm, don't do anything to suppress the cough. Your body is getting rid of some garbage, and you don't want to stop that).
Begin by drinking more water whenever you feel chest congestion coming on. Remember, drinking water cannot hurt you. And it will usually help get rid of the nasty viruses that give us the crud feeling. So you might want to begin doubling up on the amount of water you normally drink. If you normally drink 10 glasses a day, go to 20. Even 20 is not all that much, and you will be surprised at how much better you feel.
Another water tactic that helps a lot is steam. Most of us don't have a sauna in our house, but you can easily create a sauna-like atmosphere, with no special equipment or preparation. This is the way to do it: go into the bathroom, and tightly shut the door. Plug the drain in the bathtub, and turn on the bath water full blast, and make sure the temperature is as hot as you can get it. (Don't worry ... you're not going to be bathing in this!) If you can, plug the sink drain as well, and turn the water on there as well. Make sure you don't have a fan going ... you want the steam to accumulate. The inside of the bathroom should be as humid as a tropical rainforest! Now sit down, and breathe deep. Keep breathing until the steam has subsided. What you are doing is getting your lungs full of moist, humid air, and coating the insides of your lungs with the water. This is also a good tactic with a child who is having trouble breathing due to a croupy cough. Get the bathroom nice and steamy, and carry them in there (if a young child) or take them in there with you (if older) and let them breathe deep. Don't be afraid to stay in for 15 or 20 minutes or more. This will help you (or your child) to breathe better, feel better, and your body will be the better able to loosen the congestion that makes them feel like someone's standing on their chest.