Staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and taking over-the-counter decongestants are some treatments that can help reduce excess phlegm in your throat or chest.
What is the cause of phlegm in the throat?
When you have a cold or the flu, you may notice that there is a thick, sticky substance in the back of your throat. This is phlegm. At the very least, that is when the majority of people become aware of it. But you probably weren’t aware that you constantly produce mucus.
Phlegm is produced by the mucous membranes of your body in order to protect and support your respiratory system. The following have membranes that line them:
Since mucus is sticky, it has the ability to bind particles such as dust, allergens, and viruses. When you are healthy, the mucus is watery and difficult to detect because it is thinner. Phlegm can become thicker and more noticeable when a person is sick or when they are exposed to an excessive amount of particles because the phlegm is able to trap the foreign substances.
Phlegm is a natural and necessary component of your respiratory system; however, if it causes you discomfort, there are ways to lessen its thickness or eliminate it altogether.
Keep reading to find out about some natural treatments, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, and instances in which you might need to consult a medical professional.
Make the air more humid.
Keeping the air around you moist can assist in maintaining a thin layer of mucus. You may have heard that steam can clear phlegm and congestion, but there is not much scientific support for this idea. If you want to clear your congestion and phlegm, try taking a hot shower.
You could use a humidifier that produces a cool mist instead of steam. This humidifier is safe to use continuously throughout the day. It is important to remember to clean your humidifier and replace the water in it every day in accordance with the directions provided on the product packaging.
Keep yourself warm and hydrated.
Consuming an adequate amount of liquids, particularly warm liquids, can facilitate the flow of mucus.
The movement of mucus is assisted by liquids such as water and other liquids, which can help loosen congestion. You could try drinking liquids like juice, soup, or broth that is clear. Tea without caffeine, warm fruit juice, and water with lemon are three additional excellent beverage options.
It is not acceptable for your beverages to be the only thing that is warm. You ought to be as well! Maintaining a warm body temperature is a simple and effective home treatment for easing irritation in the respiratory system. When your core temperature is higher, your immune system is better able to fight off illnesses like the common cold that cause an overproduction of mucus. This is due to the fact that your body temperature is higher.
Methods to stay warm include:
- showers that are warm
- wearing warmer clothing to protect against cold temperatures
- snuggling up in bed with a blanket
Consume ingredients that promote respiratory health.
You might want to try eating and drinking things that contain lemon, ginger, and garlic. Even though there isn’t much research to back it up, a survey that was conducted in 2018 found that these may help treat colds, coughs, and excess mucus.
Spicy foods that contain capsaicin, such as cayenne or chilli peppers, may also help temporarily clear the sinuses and get mucus moving. This is because capsaicin is a type of compound that is found in spicy foods.
According to some research published in 2016 by Trusted Source, the following foods and supplements may help in the treatment of certain viral respiratory diseases and may also reduce the risk of developing those diseases:
- licorice root
You could also be curious about the time-honored remedy that a lot of people turn to when they’re sick: chicken soup. Does it also assist in clearing the chest of phlegm? There is evidence to suggest the answer is yes.
Some people find that drinking chicken soup helps them recover from colds faster and eliminates excess mucus. This is due to the fact that chicken soup slows down the movement of neutrophils in your body. White blood cells known as neutrophils are responsible for warding off infections. When they move slowly, they spend a longer amount of time in the parts of your body where the infection is present.
In general, additional research is required to verify the effects of these foods; however, the majority of individuals can safely experiment with including these components in their diets.
If you are currently taking any prescribed medications, you should consult your physician before introducing any novel components into your diet.
Use salt water or saline to gargle.
Gargling warm salt water may aid in the removal of phlegm from the back of your throat. It may even relieve a sore throat.
When gargling salt water, follow these easy steps:
- Combine a cup of water and 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Warm water is preferable because it dissolves the salt faster. It’s also a good idea to use filtered or bottled water that’s free of irritants like chlorine.
- Sip some of the mixture while tilting your head back slightly.
- Allow the mixture to wash down your throat without swallowing it.
- Gargle for 30 to 60 seconds by gently blowing air up from your lungs, then spit out the water.
- Repeat as necessary.
Saline is a simpler and more effective alternative to gargling salt water that can be used to thin phlegm if you do not want to gargle salt water. Saline is a salt water solution that can be used as a nasal spray or in a neti pot. You can use saline in either of these devices. It is a natural way to clear out mucus and congestion in the sinuses, and it is available over-the-counter.
After using a saline solution on a regular basis for more than a week, according to research that was published in 2018 (Trusted Source), the thickness of mucus begins to decrease.
Use eucalyptus oil
If you have an excess of mucus in your chest, using eucalyptus essential oil could help reduce it. It does this by breaking up the mucus in your lungs, making it easier for you to cough it up. On the other hand, if you suffer from a persistent cough, the eucalyptus may help to alleviate your symptoms.
You can use a balm that contains this ingredient, or you can use a diffuser to inhale the vapour that the diffuser produces.
The FDA does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils, despite the fact that research suggests they may have positive effects on health. Before beginning the use of essential oils, it is important to discuss their use with a trained medical professional, and you should also do research on the quality of the products offered by each brand. Before trying a new essential oil, you should always perform a patch test first.
Use over-the-counter medications.
You could also try over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. For instance, decongestants have the ability to reduce the amount of mucus that drains from your nose. Although it is not technically phlegm, the mucus in question can cause chest congestion. Decongestants work by reducing swelling in your nose and opening up your airways so that you can breathe more easily.
Oral decongestants are available in the form of the following:
- tablets or capsules
- liquids or syrups
- flavored powders
In addition, there are a lot of different decongestant nasal sprays that you can buy.
Mucus can be made thinner with products such as guaifenesin (Mucinex), which can be taken to prevent it from collecting in the chest or the back of the throat. This particular medication is known as an expectorant, which means that it facilitates the process of coughing up mucus by reducing its viscosity and making it more fluid.
This over-the-counter treatment, on average, will last for 12 hours, but you should follow the instructions on the package. There is a children’s version available for kids older than 4 years old.
Eucalyptus oil is typically found in chest rubs such as Vicks VapoRub, and its primary function is to alleviate coughing and break up mucus. You can apply it to your upper chest, neck, and shoulders anywhere from once to three times per day. The full-strength version of Vicks should not be given to children under the age of three; however, the manufacturer does offer a baby-strength formulation.
Make use of prescribed drugs
If you have a specific condition or infection, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat the condition or infection at its source in order to alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing. If you suffer from a persistent lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis, there are certain medications that can reduce the thickness of your mucus.
Nebulized hypertonic saline is a treatment that is administered to the patient via inhalation. Because it is more concentrated than a saline solution available over-the-counter, it often proves to be more efficient. The increased concentration of salt in your respiratory tract is the key to its efficacy. It is available in a variety of strengths, and it can be applied to individuals aged 6 and up.
The treatment with hypertonic saline only provides temporary relief and is associated with a number of potential side effects, including the following:
- sore throat
- chest tightness
Patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis frequently make use of the mucus-thinning medication known as Dornase-Alfa (Pulmozyme). Nebulizers allow for easy inhalation of the substance. Additionally, it is appropriate for people of age 6 and up.
While you are taking this medication, you might experience a rash or even lose your voice. Other adverse effects include the following:
- throat discomfort
- runny nose
When you should visit your physician.
Phlegm that is excessive or particularly thick from time to time is typically not a cause for alarm. Because it has accumulated and become dry during the previous night, you might notice it in the morning. It’s possible that you’ll be more aware of your phlegm if you’re sick, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, or if you’re dehydrated.
If you find that you are experiencing uncomfortable phlegm on a regular basis, you should consider scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician. A phlegm accumulation may be the result of a number of different health conditions, including the following:
- acid reflux
- cystic fibrosis (although this condition is usually diagnosed early in life)
- chronic bronchitis
- other lung diseases
If you’ve been having trouble with your phlegm for more than a month, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician. Notify your primary care physician if you experience any of the following additional symptoms:
- coughing up blood
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
It’s important to remember that the body constantly produces mucus. Excess mucus is usually a sign that your body is fighting off a cold, allergies, or something more serious.
There are numerous medicines and remedies available that are tailored to different severity levels and preferences. OTC medications and home remedies are excellent places to begin.
While there isn’t a lot of research on the effectiveness of many home remedies, they aren’t usually harmful to most people. In contrast, over-the-counter saline solutions and medications have been studied and found to be effective in many cases.
Severe cases of excess mucus are usually treated with medication.
While excess mucus is usually treatable at home, contact your doctor if:
- You’re concerned about your phlegm production.
- The amount of phlegm has increased dramatically.
- You are concerned about other symptoms.