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What is Throat Mucus?
Throat mucus, also known as phlegm, can be described as that uncomfortable feeling that you experience when mucus clogs up your throat or drips from the back of your nose. The glands of your throat and nose produce about 1 to 2 liters of mucus per day.
This mucus consists of cells that line the sinus passages and has several important functions. It moistens and cleanses the nasal passages, traps foreign particles, stops them from filtering into the respiratory system, fights infection and humidifies the air. Most times we are not even aware that we swallow mucus.
Symptoms of Throat Mucus
- Throat Congestion
- Shortness of Breath
- Coughing of Mucus & Phlegm
What Causes Throat Mucus?
When excessive mucus in the throat occurs it is often the result of a post nasal drip, cold or flu, sinusitis or an allergic reaction. Throat disorders such as tonsillitis, strep throat, catarrh, laryngitis often have symptoms of mucus in the throat. Viral infections such as chicken pox, measles, mononucleosis, whooping cough or croup may also cause throat mucus.
If the throat is irritated by cigarette smoke, polluted air or chemical fumes, mucus can also settle on the lining of the throat and nasal lining. Throat mucus also causes bad breath because it contains high protein content and produces anaerobic bacteria. There are various home remedies that you can try to eliminate mucus in the throat.
- Post Nasal Drip: Post nasal drip occurs when an excessive amount of mucus accumulation in the nose and throat creates phlegm and causes coughing. Phlegm seems to build up in the throat overnight, which leads to congestion in the morning.
- Cold or Flu: During a cold or the flu, there is a production of clear, thin mucus in the nose and back of the throat. When the body starts to react to the virus, the once thin mucus thickens and turns yellow or green. This is one of the noticeable symptoms of the cold or flu virus.
- Pregnancy: Many women experience symptoms of nasal congestion, coughing and sneezing during pregnancy. These symptoms are very common and rank right along with backaches and morning sickness. Estrogen is known to exacerbate mucus production and cause the mucus to get very thick or thin.
- Seasonal Allergies: A number of people suffer from seasonal allergies every year. Unlike the common cold, the symptoms of seasonal allergies such as sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and of course throat mucus, will occur all at once. There are many different types of allergens that cause these symptoms to occur, ranging from late winter to summer. Tree and flower pollen is one of the major culprits of seasonal allergies, and the symptoms will last until the allergens have dissipated.
Throat Mucus in Children
Children are prone to colds and the flu, it is common for an excess of mucus in the throat following a respiratory infection to last 4 to 6 weeks. A phlegm producing cough sounds "wet" in a child’s chest and throat. Children have an average of 6-12 upper respiratory infections a year, leading to phlegm in the throat and excessive coughing. Although an upper respiratory infection is the leading cause for throat mucus in children, seasonal allergies can affect them as well. Children are susceptible to seasonal allergies ranging from late December to the end of summer months, just like an adult.
Foods that Relieve or Cause Throat Mucus
Unfortunately, some foods can cause throat mucus, and if you are already dealing with throat mucus, the last thing you want to do is add to the problem. Milk and milk products like yogurt, cottage cheese and butter, cause excess mucus in the throat. These items carry protein molecules called casein which increases secretions of mucus and is difficult to digest. Along with milk products, caffeine, sugar, salt, non- herbal teas, (especially black tea), all create excess mucus. Soy is one of the most mucus making plant foods there is. Those who give up meats and dairy and switch to soy products, have a greater risk of creating an unhealthy mucus build up in the body.
Although there are many foods and food groups that can cause mucus in the throat, there are also a multitude of foods that can help to relieve it. A spoonful of honey and ginger can help the body to get rid of excess mucus; this is a popular remedy for many sufferers. Spicy foods like cayenne pepper, wasabi, and chili peppers will all help the body release mucus build up in the nose and throat. It is important to make sure you are drinking an adequate intake of fluids a day to help mucus to pass through the throat. Water is the number one help for throat mucus; pair it with vitamins C, E and Zinc for a natural remedy for throat mucus!
Help for Throat Mucus
When the mucus in the back of the throat becomes thick, it is natural to feel a need to clear the throat with coughing. Clearing your throat will help the phlegm loosen or break up in the back of the throat, giving way to the uncomfortable feeling. Mucus problems can be a nuisance, but there are some simple ways to remedy it. Make sure that you drink plenty of liquids such as water, juice or tea with honey, and gargle daily with warm salt water to thin out mucus. Another easy fix to get rid of excess mucus, is to add eucalyptus oil to a tub of boiling water and inhale the vapors which will help to drain the mucus from the throat and chest.
Various over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, antiseptic gargles or saline nasal sprays may also offer pain relief. For more severe throat infections prescription medication such as antibiotics may be required to suppress the infection.
Tips to prevent and soothe throat mucus
There are a number of ways to prevent and soothe throat mucus and includes:
- Inhale steam from a tub of boiling water or hot shower to loosen mucus in the throat and sinus congestion
- Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to loosen phlegm and thin mucus – it is also good for your overall health!
- Blow your nose frequently to prevent mucus from draining into your throat
- Gargle regularly with warm water and salt
- Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a vaporizer to loosen phlegm and relieve congestion
- Avoid eating foods such as dairy products, meat or fried foods that increase mucus production
- Drink hot liquids such as herbal tea or chicken broth to moisten the airways and break up the mucus
- Add a teaspoon of turmeric to half a glass of milk – turmeric contains antiseptic properties that fights infection
- Use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer in your bedroom at night to thin the mucus – this helps to moisten the air and is particularly helpful during winter
- Limit exposure to irritants such as household cleaners, paint fumes, chemicals or cigarette smoke
- Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a vaporizer to loosen mucus and phlegm and relieve congestion
- Stop smoking as it irritates the throat and worsens respiratory conditions
- Eat spicy foods, horseradish or hot chili peppers to loosen mucus