Isn’t it annoying when you can feel the mucus in your throat? Isn’t it incredibly irritating when you are in the middle of spending time with your friends or family, and that slimy thing is stuck in your throat? What can you do to get rid of mucus in the throat fast?
What is mucus?
Difference between phlegm and mucus
Before diving deep into the topic, let’s learn about mucus. There is a distinction between mucus and phlegm. Mucus is a normal protective secretion that has slippery and elastic properties.1 It has other names, such as snot. Your doctor might call it sputum or phlegm. However, phlegm and mucus are two different things, although they are similar.
Phlegm is a type of mucus, but unlike mucus, phlegm is involved when it comes to diseases.2 It results from inflammation and contains mucus with inflammatory cells, germs, and debris.2 You can say phlegm is like an evil twin of mucus.
Causes for the overproduction of mucus
Goblet cells and submucosal glands produce mucus.2 Then, it is secreted into our airways.3 Mucus contains secreted water, sugar, protein, lipids, minerals, and mucins.3 Mucin is a type of protein that is an essential part of mucus.3 Under normal conditions, mucus is vital to protect our airways from foreign particles and moistens the air.3 On the other hand, when under different types of stress conditions, our body might produce excess mucus.3
So, what are the causes of the overproduction of mucus? The reasons include smoking, infection, pathogenic factors, and oxidative stress.3
Excess mucus production also can be triggered by several health conditions, including 6:
- Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis
- Chronic diseases such as primary ciliary dyskinesia, HIV
If the excess mucus buildup is persistent, it will encourage the growth of germs in your body which can lead to infection.6
Ways to get rid of mucus in the throat
But rest assured! There are plenty of home remedies to remove mucus in the throat.
Humidify the air
Keeping the air moist by humidifying the air might be effective in clearing mucus in the throat. Some studies suggested that air humidifiers can help with mucus clearance.4,5 It is also a good treatment for people suffering from the common cold, COPD, and sleep apnea.4,5 Although the results are inconclusive, you can still use this method by putting your humidifier in your bedroom to keep your nose and throat clear.
Doctors commonly advise patients with acute respiratory infections to drink a lot of water.7
Acute infections include colds, acute sinusitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, acute bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza.7 An expert review found that drinking a lot of fluids might lead to the thinning of mucus,7 however, more studies should be conducted as the results of this study are inconclusive. But there is no harm in trying, right? Furthermore, a study in 1978 demonstrated that warm water might be more effective than cold water in getting rid of mucus. 8
Thus, try to consume more water, especially warm liquids, to make your nose and throat clearer!
Salt water gargle
Gargling salt water is another trick that can alleviate sore throat symptoms and cold.22 Aside from that, it can eliminate viruses in your throat. 22
Elevate your head
Your body and head positions are vital to eliminating the mucus in your throat.3 Appropriate body positions help the mucus flow out of your airways and keep your throat clear.3 However, it depends on which part of your lung is a lesion.3
Avoid irritants and decongestants
You should avoid things that might encourage the overproduction of mucus, such as irritants and decongestants. Exposure to irritants and smoking can worsen your symptoms and cause mucus hypersecretion.9
Use eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil is rich in 1,8-cineole which has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. 10 Eucalyptus oil is often used to treat cough, cold and bronchitis.11 It is also used to provide symptomatic relief of colds and catarrh of the upper respiratory tract.11
You can breathe in eucalyptus steam to help get rid of the mucus.11 But, how do you prepare it? Put 12 drops of eucalyptus oil into 150 ml of boiling water and inhale the steam.11 You can repeat this treatment three times per day.11 However, you should not put eucalyptus oil and its preparations on your face or nose, and refrain from using it on babies and children.11 So, be careful and ensure no children are around your eucalyptus oil!
Consume respiratory health-promoting ingredients
Why don’t you try consuming food and drinks that contain garlic? Experts suggested that garlic possesses antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can relieve the common cold.13 Moreover, another study demonstrated that garlic can help clear the mucus in the body.14 However, the study mentioned earlier was an investigation involving horses as the subjects, therefore might have a different impact on humans.
Honey is another ingredient that is good for treating a cough.15 It has mucolytic and cough relief properties that might lead to a reduction in coughing.15 Furthermore, the mucolytic properties of honey help to reduce the thickness of the mucus, facilitating mucus elimination by coughing.15
Eat more fruits
We all know how beneficial fruits are for our health. One of their benefits is helping us get rid of excess mucus from our bodies. As an expert suggested, pineapple is a champion in eliminating excess mucus from our body.15 Pineapple, or its scientific name Ananas comosus, contains Bromelain, which is essential in breaking up thick mucus.15 Furthermore, research demonstrated that combining pineapple and honey is much more effective than honey alone in removing mucus.15
You can make yourself a pineapple smoothie in the comfort of your house. Here is a recipe that you can try.
Take a hot bath or shower
For a long time, heat has been used in the form of hot springs, saunas, hammams, steam rooms, sweat-lodges, steam inhalations, hot mud and poultices to treat and prevent respiratory infections.16 The steam that comes from the hot water will moisten the air and prevent the growth of germs in your nasal cavity.16 Furthermore, heat can help your body to clear your mucus effectively.
You can enhance the efficacy of a hot bath/shower with essential oils that contain antiviral, mucolytic and anxiolytic properties.16
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
The impact of alcohol on our airway function depends on its concentration, duration and route of exposure.17 You are still safe if you only take a sip, but it might worsen your mucus problem if you take too much. A study suggested that alcohol might alter the normal functioning of mucociliary clearance, which is vital to expel excess mucus.17 Thus, avoid drinking too much alcohol.
Use nasal rinse or spray
Another name for nasal rinse or spray is nasal irrigation.18 It has been known to ease the symptoms of acute upper respiratory infections(URIs) by clearing mucus, decreasing congestion, and improving breathing.18 Nasal irrigation is mainly used to treat sinusitis and allergic rhinitis.18
Furthermore, a study demonstrated that sea salt-derived physiological saline nasal spray helps to reduce the symptoms of nasal congestion and runny nose in patients with URI. 18
If you feel like these home remedies are too cumbersome, and you want quick ways to expel mucus from your throat, you can opt to take medicines instead!
Take over-the-counter medicines
You can take guaifenesin, an expectorant that can help loosen your thick mucus in the airways and make coughs more productive.19 It is also used to treat chest congestion and wet cough due to the common cold.19
According to the NHS, carbocisteine can help clear phlegm out of your body.20 It also breaks down your mucus, making it less sticky and thick.20
When to see a doctor
On the other hand, you still have to see your doctor if 21
- You have had a persistent cough for more than 3 weeks
- Your cough is getting worse
- You feel breathless
- You’re coughing up blood
- You have chest pain and feel unwell
If you find your mucus bothersome, there are plenty of home remedies that can help you throughout your daily life by eliminating the excess mucus in your throat.
Excess mucus is a harmless symptom, but if the symptoms persist, make sure to book an appointment with your doctor.
- Zanin M, Baviskar P, Webster R, Webby R. The interaction between respiratory pathogens and mucus. Cell Host & Microbe [Internet]. 2016 Feb [cited 2022 Jul 19];19(2):159–68. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S193131281600038X
- Rubin BK. The role of mucus in cough research. Lung [Internet]. 2010 Jan [cited 2022 Jul 20];188(S1):69–72. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s00408-009-9198-7
- Shen Y, Huang S, Kang J, Lin J, Lai K, Sun Y, et al. Management of airway mucus hypersecretion in chronic airway inflammatory disease: Chinese expert consensus (English edition). Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis [Internet]. 2018 Jan 30 [cited 2022 Jul 20];13:399–407. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796802/
- Singh M, Singh M, Jaiswal N, Chauhan A. Heated, humidified air for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2017 Aug 29 [cited 2022 Jul 20];2017(8):CD001728. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6483632/
- Esendağlı D, Sarınç Ulaşlı S, Esquinas A. Humidification therapy; long-term effects in COPD and OSAS patients. Tuberk Toraks. 2018 Mar;66(1):57–63.
- Fahy JV, Dickey BF. Airway mucus function and dysfunction. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 2010 Dec 2 [cited 2022 Jul 21];363(23):2233–47. Available from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/abs/10.1056/NEJMra0910061
- Guppy MP, Mickan SM, Del Mar CB, Thorning S, Rack A. Advising patients to increase fluid intake for treating acute respiratory infections. Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group, editor. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. 2011 Feb 16 [cited 2022 Jul 21]; Available from: https://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/14651858.CD004419.pub3
- Saketkhoo K, Januszkiewicz A, Sackner MA. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest [Internet]. 1978 Oct 1 [cited 2022 Jul 21];74(4). Available from: http://journal.publications.chestnet.org/article.aspx?doi=10.1378/chest.74.4.408
- Rubin BK. Secretion properties, clearance, and therapy in airway disease. Transl Respir Med [Internet]. 2014 Dec [cited 2022 Jul 21];2(1):6. Available from: https://transrespmed.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/2213-0802-2-6
- Sudhoff H, Klenke C, Greiner JFW, Müller J, Brotzmann V, Ebmeyer J, et al. 1,8-cineol reduces mucus-production in a novel human ex vivo model of late rhinosinusitis. Di YP, editor. PLoS ONE [Internet]. 2015 Jul 24 [cited 2022 Jul 21];10(7):e0133040. Available from: https://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133040
- Horváth G, Ács K. Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti-inflammatory action: a review: Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases. Flavour Fragr J [Internet]. 2015 Sep [cited 2022 Jul 21];30(5):331–41. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ffj.3252
- Catarrh [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017 [cited 2022 Jul 21]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/catarrh/
- Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group, editor. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. 2014 Nov 11 [cited 2022 Jul 21];2020(9). Available from: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/14651858.CD006206.pub4
- Saastamoinen M, Särkijärvi S, Hyyppä S. Garlic (Allium sativum) supplementation improves respiratory health but has increased risk of lower hematologic values in horses. Animals [Internet]. 2019 Jan 2 [cited 2022 Jul 21];9(1):13. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/1/13
- Peixoto DM, Rizzo JA, Schor D, Silva AR, Oliveira DC de, Solé D, et al. Uso do mel de abelha associado ao Ananas comosus (Bromelin) no tratamento da tosse irritativa aguda. Revista Paulista de Pediatria [Internet]. 2016 Apr [cited 2022 Jul 21];S0103058216300041. Available from: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0103058216300041
- Cohen M. Turning up the heat on COVID-19: heat as a therapeutic intervention. F1000Res [Internet]. 2020 Jul 20 [cited 2022 Jul 21];9:292. Available from: https://f1000research.com/articles/9-292/v2
- Sisson JH. Alcohol and airways function in health and disease. Alcohol [Internet]. 2007 Aug [cited 2022 Jul 21];41(5):293–307. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0741832907001280
- Jiang M, Chen J, Ding Y, Gan C, Hou Y, Lei J, et al. Efficacy and safety of sea salt-derived physiological saline nasal spray as add-on therapy in patients with acute upper respiratory infection: a multicenter retrospective cohort study. Med Sci Monit [Internet]. 2021 Feb 25 [cited 2022 Jul 22];27. Available from: https://www.medscimonit.com/abstract/index/idArt/929714
- Albrecht HH, Dicpinigaitis PV, Guenin EP. Role of guaifenesin in the management of chronic bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections. Multidiscip Respir Med [Internet]. 2017 Dec [cited 2022 Jul 22];12(1):31. Available from: https://mrmjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40248-017-0113-4
- Carbocisteine: medicine used for treating people with COPD and cystic fibrosis [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 2022 Jul 22]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/carbocisteine/
- Cough [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017 [cited 2022 Jul 22]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cough/
- Tiong V, Hassandarvish P, Bakar SA, Mohamed NA, Wan Sulaiman WS, Baharom N, et al. The effectiveness of various gargle formulations and salt water against SARS-CoV-2. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2021 Dec [cited 2022 Jul 22];11(1):20502. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-99866-w