Mucus, the gooey and slimy stuff on the tissue when you blow your nose, is produced by the mucous glands of your nose, sinuses, throat, mouth, lungs, and the gastrointestinal tract. Is this the same as phlegm? No, phlegm is produced by the lung and the respiratory system (not the nose and sinuses) and usually indicates an infection. While you often see mucus, phlegm goes unnoticed unless you cough it up.
Mucus is not dangerous. In fact, you would be in trouble if your body stopped secreting it. It helps to trap foreign invaders like dust and bacteria, lubricate the digestive and respiratory passages, and protect them from damage. It contains antibodies and bacteria-killing enzymes that keep infections at bay.
When Does Mucus Production Increase?
The body produces about 1–1.5 liters of mucus per day.1 However, as a natural defense mechanism, you may notice an increase in mucus production in the following cases:
- Allergic reactions
- Exposure to pollutants like smoke or mold
- Respiratory infections like colds, the flu, and sinusitis
- Consumption of spicy food
Why Does The Color Of Mucus Change?
Healthy mucus usually has no color and has a thin and watery texture. But when you suffer from an illness or due to external factors, you will notice a change in color.
- Cold: When you have a cold, the mucus appears to be green or yellow in color due to the white blood cells that your body produces to fight the infection.
- Dust: Dried mucus, commonly known as “boogers,” is grey in color as it contains dust and dirt. It is usually stuck to the walls of the nasal passage, where it prevents the entry of germs, dirt, and dust into the nose and throat.
- Bleeding: When you blow your nose repeatedly or wipe it excessively, the tissues in your nasal passages can dry out, resulting in some blood in your mucus. Although a little blood in your mucus is nothing to worry about, visit your doctor immediately if you notice too much blood.
For diagnosis and treatment of respiratory issues, doctors consider the quantity, color, and consistency of the mucus.
Home Remedies For Mucus Build-Up
While doctors usually prescribe decongestants and antihistamines to help you get rid of mucus buildup, these simple home remedies are worth a try.
1. Salt Water
Gargling with salt water can help you get rid of the thick mucus in your throat. Warm water soothes your throat and the antibacterial properties of salt can help you get rid of the infection, thereby reducing mucus production.2
Steam inhalation is an age-old remedy for respiratory problems. It loosens the mucus and clears the congestion, which in turn helps you breathe more easily.
As the name suggests, a humidifier is a device that increases the humidity or moisture in a room. Just like steam inhalation, it helps to thin out the mucus or phlegm. However, you must ensure that the device is kept clean as the growth of bacteria or molds will only worsen the condition.
4. Neti Pot
A neti pot helps to clear the nasal passages by flushing them with a saline solution. It can clear sinuses, relieve cold and allergy symptoms, and help you stop snoring by unclogging your nose.
How To Use It
- Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 2 cups of warm water.
- Pour this saline solution into the neti pot.
- Lean over a sink and tilt your head such that your face is almost horizontal.
- Insert the neti pot spout into your upper nostril and gently pour the solution. Remember to breathe through your mouth, not your nose, in this step.
- Use half the solution for each nostril.
- After a few seconds, the water will stream out of your lower nostril.
- Now tilt your head on the other side and repeat the procedure.
5. Essential Oils
Essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, basil, rosemary, lavender, basil, and chamomile contain antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that can open nasal passages and relieve congestion.3
Add a few drops of essential oil to a tissue and breathe it in. You can also sprinkle some onto your pillow for a good night’s sleep or add a few drops to boiling water for steam inhalation. Avoid direct skin contact with essential oils as it can irritate the skin and cause inflammation.
If you are not ill but suffer from excess mucus production, it may be due to the food you eat. Milk products, caffeine, refined sugar, salt, and alcohol increase the histamine in your body, which results in mucus production. So, while you keep these tips in mind, also be mindful of what you eat.
|↑1||Post-Nasal Drip. The Medical University of South Carolina.|
|↑2||SOFOS, JOHN N. “Antimicrobial effects of sodium and other ions in foods: a review.” Journal of Food Safety 6, no. 1 (1984): 45-78.|
|↑3||Lodhia, M. H., K. R. Bhatt, and V. S. Thaker. “Antibacterial activity of essential oils from palmarosa, evening primrose, lavender and tuberose.” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 71, no. 2 (2009): 134.|