Certain treatments, such as moisturizing, using a humidifier, and taking over-the-counter medications, can help clear excess mucus from the throat and chest.
What causes phlegm in the throat?
Phlegm is the thick, sticky stuff that builds up in the back of your throat when you’re sick. At least most people notice it. But did you know that this mucus is present all the time?
Mucous membranes produce mucus to protect and support the respiratory system. These membranes line your:
Mucus is sticky and can trap dust, allergens, and viruses. When healthy, the mucus is thin and noticeably less. When you are sick or have too many particles, the mucus thickens and becomes more noticeable as it traps these foreign substances.
Phlegm is a healthy part of your respiratory system, but if it makes you uncomfortable, there are ways to thin it out or reduce it.
Read on to learn about some natural remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and when you might want to see a doctor.
- Humidify the air
Humidifying the air around you can help keep mucus thin. You may have heard that steam clears phlegm and congestion, but this idea is not scientifically supported.
Instead of steam, you can use a cool mist humidifier. You can safely use this moisturizer all day long. You should change the water daily and clean your humidifier according to the directions on the package.
- Keep moist and warm
Drinking plenty of fluids, especially warm fluids, helps loosen mucus.
Water and other fluids help loosen mucus and loosen congestion. Sip on liquids like juices, soups, and broths. Other good liquid options include decaffeinated tea, warm fruit juice, and lemon water.
Your drink shouldn’t be the only thing warm. You should be too! Keeping warm is an easy home remedy to soothe the respiratory system. This is because you are better able to cope with diseases that produce more mucus (such as a cold) with body heat.
Ways to keep warm are:
wear warm clothes to protect from cold temperatures
snuggle up in bed with an extra blanket
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- Use components that promote respiratory health
Try foods and drinks that contain lemon, ginger, and garlic. A 2018 study found that they can help treat colds, coughs, and excess mucus, but there isn’t much research to back this up.
Spicy foods that contain capsaicin, such as cayenne or chili peppers, can temporarily clear sinuses and move mucus.
There is scientific evidence released in 2016 that the following foods and supplements can help treat and reduce the risk of certain viral respiratory illnesses.
You may also be wondering about chicken soup, a classic dish that many people reach for when they’re sick. Does it also help with phlegm? Some studies suggest so.
Chicken soup is good for treating colds and removing excess mucus. This is because chicken soup slows down the movement of neutrophils in your body. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, fight infection. When they move slowly, they stay in the infected area of your body for a long time.
Overall, more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of these foods, but for most people, adding these ingredients to their diet is safe.
If you take prescription medications, check with your doctor before adding any new ingredients to your diet.
- Rinse with salt water or use a saline solution
Gargling with warm salt water can help clear phlegm from the back of your throat. It even helps with sore throats.
Follow these easy steps when rinsing with salt water.
Mix one cup of water with 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of salt. Warm water works best because it dissolves the salt quickly. It’s also a good idea to use filtered or bottled water that doesn’t contain irritating chlorine.
Drink a little of the mixture and turn your head slightly back.
Gargle without drinking the mixture.
Exhale for 30-60 seconds to clear your throat, then spit out the water.
Repeat if necessary.
If you don’t want to rinse with salt water, there is an easier and more effective alternative to thin sputum: saline solution. Saline is a salt water solution that can be used as a nasal spray or in a Neti pot. It’s over the counter and a natural sinus reliever.
A 2018 study supports the idea that saline is absorbed by mucus after more than a week of use.