Phlegm is the thick and sticky substance that is generally present at the back of your throat when you fall sick. While it is always present, it usually makes itself felt only when people fall sick. It often surprises people to know that phlegm is always present. Your mucous membranes produce phlegm for protecting and also supporting your respiratory system. Mucus is sticky so that it can trap allergens, bacteria, and viruses. When you are healthy, this mucus is less noticeable as it is thin.
However, it feels horrible to have phlegm stuck in your throat and/or chest when you are sick. Respiratory infections, sinusitis, the common cold, flu, and even irritants and allergens can trigger the production of excessive mucus or phlegm and make you feel frustrated, uncomfortable, and sick. You will need to find ways to either make the phlegm thin or remove it altogether from your body. There are many ways in which you can get rid of phlegm.
What Is Phlegm And Why Does It Trouble You?
Phlegm is actually a water-based gel and produced by your lower respiratory airways. Phlegm contains mucus that traps bacteria, debris and sloughed off inflammatory cells. The color of phlegm varies depending on your health. White or grey phlegm indicates sinus congestion or an upper respiratory tract infection. Grey colored phlegm may also indicate that your body is getting rid of resins or tars that forms as a result of excessive smoking or even due to inhalation of smog and dust particles.
Meanwhile, green or dark yellow colored phlegm indicates that there is a viral or bacterial infection present in the body or it can also indicate a lower respiratory tract infection. Sinus infection is also indicated by green or dark yellow phlegm. The green color of phlegm happens due to the presence of neutrophils, which contain a green protein and in large amounts turns the phlegm also green. Many experts, though, also say that green or dark yellow colored phlegm does not always mean that there is an infection in your body. But this is only true if you are in good health.
Brown phlegm is caused due to excessive smoking.
Pink phlegm is also a matter of concern and could indicate the presence of fluid in your lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema. Therefore, consult your doctor at the earliest is recommended.
What Is The Best Way To Get Rid Of Throat Phlegm?
There are few best ways to remove phlegm from your throat and chest. Let us now take a look at how we can get rid of phlegm using a combination of these below methods.
Blow Your Nose
Well, the easiest and most obvious way of getting rid of phlegm is to of course blow your nose. Blowing your nose helps clear away the mucus from the nasal passages and also helps unblock a stuffy nose. However, you must ensure that it is done correctly; as otherwise, it may actually cause other problems. You should clear only one nostril at one time. Blow gently as blowing too hard might lead to small openings in the sinus areas and thus push back irritants or bacteria further into your body, causing infection or more irritation. Use clean tissues and wash your hands afterward so as to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Lots of Warm Liquids
It may sound cliché, but consuming lots of warm liquids or even just fluids works wonders in thinning out mucus. Warm liquids are actually better as it will also help clear out phlegm from your chest and nose. It will help relieve congestion and water will help move the mucus out. Some fluids you can have include
- Warm water
- Warm apple juice
- Chicken noodle soup or just chicken soup
- Green tea
- Warm fruit juice
- Decaffeinated tea
Use a Humidifier
When you are feeling sick, adding some moisture to the air will help in keeping the mucus thin, thus helping it move out. Steam is also a good option as it can clear the phlegm and help relieve congestion. However, using steam is a little bit of a messy affair and it can even cause burns. Therefore, rather than steam, try to use a cool mist humidifier. Humidifiers can be run safely throughout the day Just make sure to change the water every day and clean the humidifier as per the instructions to prevent the spread of bacteria into the air.
If you do not want to purchase a humidifier, then here are some ways you can make your own humidifier:
Turn Your Shower Into A Sauna – You can let the water run till it begins to steam up the whole bathroom. You can step into the shower and close the door or curtain. Make sure you maintain safety and turn the showerhead away from yourself so that the hot water does not scald you.
Use A Bowl Of Hot Water And Towel – This method will allow you to target the steam to your mucous membranes. Simply fill a large bowl with hot water from your sink. Once full, place a small towel over your head to trap the steam and target it towards your face. Lean over the bowl and take big whiffs of the steam to help relieve your congestion.
Load up on Respiratory Beneficial Foods & Beverages
If you increase your consumption of foods and beverages that are known as respiratory health-boosters then you will be able to treat excess mucus, colds, and coughs in no time. Studies have shown that foods and drinks containing ginger, and lemon, can help get rid of phlegm. Even spicy foods are said to be helpful as they contain capsaicin, which temporarily clears your sinuses and helps the mucus to move out.
There is evidence that foods such as ginseng, berries, guava tea, licorice root, oral zinc, and others, can help prevent and even treat viral respiratory diseases. For most people, these ingredients are safe when consumed or added to their diet. However, if you are taking any type of prescription medications, then it is recommended that you consult your doctor before adding anything new to your diet as some ingredients can impact the efficacy of your medications.
Use Essential Oils
Essential oils can be helpful in getting rid of phlegm if you diffuse them. Having strong aromas and antimicrobial properties, essential oils are known to be a potent therapeutic tool in getting rid of phlegm and excess mucus. Some of the best oils for fighting phlegm include:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Tea tree oil
- Basil oil
- Peppermint oil
- Rosemary oil
- Lavender oil
It is best to use a diffuser to benefit from these oils. Simply add a few drops of either one oil or a blend of oils to your diffuser and allow the aroma to fill the room. Another way of using essential oils could be to take a bath scented with the oils. You can even sprinkle a few drops of the oil on your pillow before you go to sleep so that the aroma will help loosen the phlegm as you sleep. Lavender is one such oil that will not only get rid of phlegm but will encourage good sleep as well.
If you are not one who trusts natural remedies much, then there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications available that you can use for getting rid of phlegm.
Decongestants are one such OTC medication that helps to cut down the mucus flowing from your nose while this mucus is not considered to be phlegm, but it does lead to chest congestion. Decongestants are effective as they reduce the swelling inside your nostrils and open up your airways. Oral decongestants are available in the form of capsules or tablets, liquids or syrups, sprays, and flavored powders.
Products such as Mucinex (guaifenesin) thin out mucus so that it does not settle in the back of your throat or your chest. Medications such as Mucinex are known as expectorants. Expectorants help you to get rid of mucus by thinning it or loosening it. The instructions of the package should be followed while taking it.
Even chest rubs, such as Vicks VapoRub, can provide relief from coughs and also help you get rid of mucus. It is supposed to be rubbed onto your chest and throat area up to three times a day.
Prescription Medications such as Antibiotics & More
If you have an infection, then your doctor will prescribe medications to treat the underlying cause of your symptoms. There are many medications that get rid of phlegm if you are suffering from infections or if you have a chronic lung condition such as cystic fibrosis.
Doctors may prescribe hypertonic saltine which is inhaled through a nebulizer. This increases the amount of salt present in your airways and thins out the phlegm, helping it move out. These medications also come in different dosages and are safe for use in people over the age of 6 years. However, hypertonic saline treatment only provides temporary relief and cough, chest tightness and sore throat are some of the common side effects of using them.
Another mucus-thinning medication that is generally used by people suffering from cystic fibrosis is Dornase-Alfa (Pulmozyme). Dornase-Alfa is also inhaled through a nebulizer and is safe for use in people over the age of 6 years.
Antibiotics, when prescribed by your doctor, will help treat the condition that is the root cause of phlegm development. Make sure you follow the full course of the antibiotic prescribed otherwise the infection may return and you will not get full relief.
You must remember that your body naturally produces mucus all the time. Having a bit of phlegm is not a problem, but excess mucus usually happens when you are unwell. Becoming healthy again takes down the levels phlegm once again. If you are concerned about the amount of phlegm you have, then you should consult your doctor. Even if you notice a change in the levels of phlegm, then also it is recommended that you consult your doctor.