What Causes Thick and Sticky Nasal Mucus & How Can It Be Treated?

Nasal mucus is created within the membranes of the nose and the sinus passages. Whether suffering from cold or not more than a liter of mucus is produced by the body every day. This remains unnoticed often.

  • The mucus consistency is a sign of what is going inside the body.
  • Clear and runny mucus means that there is excess drainage coming from the nose.
  • Green tinged or yellow mucus means that the sinuses are infected or have been exposed to irritants.
  • Thick and rubbery mucus can be due to dry air or some bacterial infection.

What Causes Thick and Sticky Nasal Mucus?

Mucus, as it flows out through the sinus passages, washes out the dust pollutants and bacteria. It then passes through the throat and into the stomach. Here the irritants and the bacteria are disposed of. This is a natural process. Most often people swallow mucus without even realizing.(1)

Sometimes the body needs to produce more mucus to lubricate and cleanse the sinus system. This nasal mucus is sticky and rubbery. This thick and sticky mucus accumulates in the back of the throat as a postnasal drip. It clogs and plugs the sinuses. Here are some of the common causes of thick and sticky nasal mucus:

  1. Dry Climate

    Dry climate can cause the sinus passages to get dry than normal and leading to thick and sticky nasal mucus.

  2. Upper Respiratory Infections

    Bacterial and viral infections of nose and sinuses lead to the production of excess mucus in an attempt to flush out bacteria that cause infection. Often the mucus becomes yellow and green as the body attempts to trap the infection which leads to pus production. These rubbery pieces of mucus can be tinged with blood because of the sensitivity of mucus membranes.

  3. Fungal Rhinosinusitis

    Fungal infection in the nose can irritate it and cause the mucus membrane to have a rubber-like consistency. During the infection, as the body fights the fungus, the thick nasal mucus turns to golden color.

  4. Allergies

    When suffering from allergies the sinuses work overtime to produce extra mucus. The excess mucus can lead to sticky, rubbery pieces of mucus that get collected at the back of the throat and inside the nose.

  5. Dehydration

    In a dehydrated body, the sinuses do not have enough lubrication to keep the mucus thin in consistency.(2) Strenuous exercises, excessive sweating, and spending a lot of time out in sun can dehydrate the body quickly and lead to thickening of the nasal mucus and giving it a sticky consistency.

Treatment of the Causes of Thick and Sticky Nasal Mucus

Treatment of thick sticky nasal mucus depends on the cause of it.

Bacterial and Viral Infections

The symptoms caused due to bacterial and viral infections can be treated with warm compresses and herbal teas. Over-the-counter decongestants can also be helpful. In case the sticky mucus does not improve you can consult a doctor. He might prescribe antibiotics that help fight infection and make breathing easier.

Allergic Reactions

Antihistamines help if the thick and sticky mucus is due to an allergic reaction. Also avoiding triggers can help in managing allergy symptoms.

Fungal Infections

If the thick nasal mucus is due to fungal infection, nasal irrigation medication is prescribed by the doctor. This helps to put antifungal ingredients directly into the nasal passage.

Dehydration and Dry Climate

Drinking plenty of water and using humidifiers can help manage thick and sticky mucus. Thick nasal mucus is not a sign of serious concern, but should also not be ignored.

Consult a doctor if:

  • The pressure in the sinus lasts for 10 days or more
  • There is fever present along with thick and sticky mucus
  • There is persistent nasal discharge

Sometimes the symptoms can also indicate an emergency. The emergency symptoms include:

If there is a deep cough along with thick and rubbery mucus, and it does not subside after 10 days, consult a doctor right away.