Select a Topic
- What is Chest Mucus?
- Symptoms of Chest Mucus
- What Causes Chest Mucus?
- Chest Mucus in Children
- Help for Chest Mucus
- Foods to Reduce Mucus
- Tips for Clearing Chest Mucus
What is Chest Mucus?
Chest mucus serves the important function of lining the walls of the respiratory system and it contains antiseptic enzymes and immunoglobulins which help to protect us and provide relief against infections, bronchial blockage, bronchial congestion, as well as lung irritants.
What Causes Chest Mucus?
When we become ill or the respiratory system becomes irritated, this chest mucus, or phlegm is produced in larger amounts and the immunoglobulins work hard to fight off invading or foreign bodies.
This phlegm, along with the dead immune cells and virus or bacteria they were fighting, is then expelled through coughing. While coughing up phlegm is not pleasant, it serves a purpose and is a sign that your body is fighting off infection, or trying clear lung congestion of harmful irritants. Excessive phlegm or chest mucus is often caused by viral or bacterial infections such as influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as irritants such as those inhaled during smoking.
When infections are treated with antibiotics, the natural balance of the body becomes compromised. Normal flora is disrupted, often resulting in damage to the mucus membranes, which can lead to Candida overgrowth.
Several other conditions can also produce chest mucus and subsequent other symptoms. Post nasal drip (PND), classified as the backward flow of mucus draining from the sinus cavities down the throat. The constant dripping associated with post nasal drip typically causes irritation and congestion, and may be accompanied by consistent urges to clear your throat and blow your nose. Irritants, dairy, dry climates, smoking, colds, flu and pregnancy may cause post nasal drip.
Post nasal drip can also be a symptom of gastroesophageal acid reflux, a swallowing dysfunction that returns gastric contents such as stomach acids to the upper aero-digestive tract, into the esophagus or throat. As a result of this cross-exposure, the body tries to protect itself from these acids by producing excess mucus, which can lead to chest mucus and congestion. Acid reflux can also be caused by other factors as well, and is often aggravated by lying down after eating or eating too late, and by certain foods and drinks, including alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
Allergies are one of the biggest contributors to chest mucus. Ragweed pollen, the allergen responsible for hayfever, is one of the most common. The mucus membranes in the nose and throat attempt to trap and sweep away these allergens, however; when allergens are rampant, the body produces excessive mucus, which can lead to congestion.
People who suffer from asthma are especially susceptible to chest mucus, particularly if they are sensitive to allergies, because their airways can become constricted in response to allergens, hypersensitivity, or other factors. Because of this narrowing, mucus production often clogs the airway, leading to a repetitive cycle.
The color, consistency and amount of chest mucus produced can be a useful diagnostic tool to help your physician determine the cause. Yellow or greenish chest mucus is generally a symptom of infection and is often a sign that you should go to your doctor.
Chest mucus that contains blood is often a symptom of a more serious infection such as pneumonia or TB, and large amounts of blood in the chest mucus should be seen as a medical emergency. Brown or gray colored mucous is indicative of smoking and is a sign that your body is trying to expel the harmful cigarette toxins.
Symptoms of Chest Mucus
Symptoms of chest mucus are often worst in the morning and vary depending on the cause, but may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain and tightness
- Coughing blood
Chest Mucus in Children
Children are susceptible to the conditions that cause chest mucus just like adults. However, they are usually unable to clear the congestion on their own and need help to alleviate discomfort and avoid complications. Try to minimize the amount of mucus that enters the chest by keeping the nose clear of mucus buildup.
Use a bulb syringe to remove the mucus from the nose before it has a chance to drip down the throat, or encourage older children to blow his or her nose. Humidifiers and vaporizers can help to loosen up nose and chest mucus for easier removal. Having the child sleep in an elevated position will also help.
Help for Chest Mucus
Having a persistent wet cough or chest congestion can be very bothersome and it helps to know that there are remedies available which can help reduce excessive chest mucous.
Foods to Reduce Mucus
To reduce mucus, be sure to consider diet, as foods can increase or help eliminate production. Avoid dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt, to help slow mucus production. Also avoid salts and sugars, which can increase mucus production, and beware of refined sugars in white flour and bread.
Certain fruits such as pineapple, oranges, grapefruits, and lemon have been shown to have beneficial effects. For veggies, asparagus, onions, cauliflower, celery and garlic can help eliminate mucus.
Also, avoid cold foods when suffering from excessive mucus and instead choose warmed foods, which help thin and open airways to allow for easier mucus elimination.
Tips for Clearing Chest Mucus
- If you smoke then now is a great time to kick the habit. Smoking can cause serious lung problems and can aggravate respiratory infections. It also irritates the mucus membranes and causes the lungs to produce excessive chest mucus.
- Treat nasal and sinus infections as soon as they occur as these often lead to chest infections or bronchial blockage, and can cause phlegm.
- Do not take pharmaceutical cough suppressants as these cause phlegm to build up in the lungs and can lead to prolonged infection.
- Drink plenty of water to loosen the phlegm and help wash down any phlegm that gets deposited in the throat.