Excessive mucus and phlegm may not be a conversation starter (unless you’re under 14 and trying to spit as far as possible). But if you have too much mucus, it can drive you crazy trying to find a solution.
First, consider that mucus has a purpose. Your body produces this fluid naturally every day, says laryngologist Paul S. Bryson.
“Your body doesn’t excrete an exact amount, but most experts think it’s about a liter a day,” he says. (That’s half a 2 liter bottle of soda!)
Dr. Bryson outlines some ways to get rid of your excess mucus and phlegm.
What is sputum and sputum?
Mucus plays an important role in your body. It is produced by the tissues of the mouth, throat, nose and sinuses. Its slippery consistency helps protect and moisturize, and traps potential irritants.
Phlegm is made up of mucus, but the respiratory system uses it to eliminate inflammation.
What causes excessive mucus production?
Your body may develop mucous membranes in the following situations.
Catch a cold.
Irritation of sinusitis (sinusitis).
Exposure to smoke and pollution.
“Environmental allergies can cause excess mucus and phlegm, just like food allergies, but are difficult to diagnose based on these symptoms alone,” explains Dr. Bryson.
If you are healthy, your mucus tends to be thin and you may not even notice it. But if you are sick, the mucus will be thick and crusty.
You may also not produce sputum until you cough, which could be a sign of pneumonia or bronchitis.
You may be concerned whether the color of the mucus or sputum is yellow or green. But the color doesn’t mean it’s infected.
How to remove excess mucus and phlegm
If you have chronic phlegm, try the following. If your mucus and phlegm problem turns into a post-nasal drip, these remedies can help.
Drink more water. Also, be aware of regular dehydrating medications and beverages such as coffee, alcohol, and tea.
“A good rule of thumb is to drink enough water to keep your urine white,” advises Dr. Bryson.
Use a moisturizer
This will help your body moisturize the throat and nasal passages and reduce the production of mucus and phlegm.
Choose a cool-mist moisturizer and follow the directions to cleanse regularly.
Check the heating and cooling system filters
Make sure filters are clean and in good working order to keep dust and other irritants out of the air.
Use a saline nasal spray
It helps to rinse and moisturize your nasal and sinus tissues. Use a sterile spray containing sodium chloride.
Rinse with salt water
Consuming salt water (1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water) will help clear mucus and soothe an irritated throat.
Whether it’s eucalyptus balm or essential oil in a diffuser, the scent of eucalyptus can help clear mucus from your chest.
Use over-the-counter medications
A decongestant (either orally or as a nasal spray) can help reduce nasal congestion. There are also expectorants, such as guaifenesin (such as Mucinex®), which help thin the mucus.
“If you’re concerned about allergies, remember that testing is easy and straightforward,” says Dr. Bryson. “You can also try over-the-counter allergy medications that may solve your problem.”
If in doubt, don’t hesitate to talk to your primary care physician or otolaryngologist, who can review your unique symptoms and history to find a solution.
Is excess phlegm a sign of a serious illness?
If the amount of mucus you’re producing is uncomfortable, you might worry that it’s a sign of a more serious problem.
According to Dr. Bryson, whether mucus is your only symptom or not, it’s nothing to worry about.
“Symptoms such as fever, chills, night sweats, mucous membranes, especially weight loss, nasal congestion, and occasional nosebleeds for more than two weeks,” he said.