Why Do I Have So Much Mucus In My Nose?


Although having mucus in the nose is completely normal, excess mucus production can be uncomfortable, as well as a sign that one is becoming ill. A runny nose is a very common symptom of illnesses such as influenza and the common cold, and certainly a symptom most people will experience in their lifetime. This article will outline what mucus is and why it’s important for the body, what can cause its excess production and how to deal with nasal congestion. In addition, complications that can arise from too much mucus in the airways that goes untreated will be discussed. 

What is mucus?

Mucus is a protective fluid that our body produces naturally. It’s made by mucous membranes, and can be found in the nose, mouth, sinuses and throat, as well as on the walls of the lungs, stomach and intestines. Although not the most attractive substance, mucus serves an important role by trapping any harmful substances and keeping surfaces moist.1 In the nose, mucus acts as a trap for any germs, dust or allergens, preventing them from getting further inside our bodies and into the lungs. It is considered part of the first line of defence of our immune system - the first filter the body presents against particles that could make us ill.1 Therefore, mucus is an important substance that we all produce.

What causes excess mucus production in my nose? 

Normally, we can barely feel the mucus in our airway, but under some circumstances its production increases. This happens when the nose or throat become inflamed and irritated, which leads to the mucous membranes becoming more active and producing more mucus There are several reasons why this may happen.

Both bacterial and viral infections can bring about a runny nose. Mild illnesses such as a cold or the flu can irritate the respiratory airways and thus increase mucus production in the nose and throat.2 Yellow mucus or snot is more common in infections.         

Sinusitis can also cause excess mucus. Sinusitis, or sinus infection, refers to the inflammation of the inside of the sinuses due to a viral or bacterial infection. The sinuses are a network of air-filled cavities inside our head, behind our cheeks, eyes and eyebrows, draining into the nose and throat. Sometimes, the sinus walls produce too much mucus that may then travel down to the nose.

In addition, mucus may be produced as a response to hay fever or another type of allergy; the medical term for this is allergic rhinitis. When we’re allergic to a substance that can get into the nose, such as pollen or dust, the immune system will start acting against it. As mucus plays a role in the immune response, the nose may react by producing extra mucus and phlegm. Mucus caused by an allergic reaction is usually thinner than that caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

An asthma attack can also trigger an increase in mucus secretion.

How can I get rid of the mucus in my nose?

Usually, excess mucus goes away in time as the course of the infection progresses. But in the meantime, there are several ways to reduce nasal congestion and feel more comfortable.

Ways to get it under control

  • Drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Increase humidity: use a humidifier, or take steamy showers. 
  • Take over-the-counter medication, such as saline nasal sprays or steroid nasal sprays
  • Allergy medication (if the cause of mucus is an allergy)

Risk of having too much mucus in the nose

Having too much mucus in the nose may cause difficulty breathing, as the passages through which the air goes are partially clogged by the mucus. 


Although a runny nose isn’t usually a cause for serious concern, some complications can arise from excess mucus production. Usually, the severity of the illness may increase if the infection spreads from the nose and throat to the lower respiratory tract: the trachea, the bronchi and the lungs.

Chronic sinusitis: chronic sinusitis refers to a long-term infection in the sinuses, which become swollen and may cause difficulty breathing.

Chronic bronchitis: chronic bronchitis refers to a long-lasting excess production of mucus in the lungs. It can lead to difficulty breathing due to obstruction in the airways.3 

Bronchiectasis: bronchiectasis is also a chronic disease characterised by the accumulation of mucus in the lungs. In this case, said accumulation is due to a widening in the airways that allows for excess mucus to be collected, which makes the lungs more vulnerable to infection.4

Pneumonia: pneumonia is a lung infection in which the airways become swollen and mucus is accumulated in the air sacs within the lungs. It can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and symptoms range from mild to severe.5

How to treat and prevent excess mucus production in the nose

According to the NHS, treatment and prevention options include the following:


  • Manage any allergies
  • Good hygiene and illness prevention: wash your hands regularly, avoid contact with people who are ill, keep home environments clean and free of dust
  • Healthy diet, exercise and hydration
  • Having the flu vaccine when applicable
  • Avoid smoking and high air pollution


  • Increasing humidity: using a humidifier, steamy showers and baths to keep the respiratory airways moist
  • Hydration: drinking plenty of water, avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • Allergy medication: antihistamines (if the cause of mucus is an allergy) reduce allergy symptoms, and thus mucus
  • Saline nasal sprays: spraying a saline solution into the nose can help keep its surface moist and reduce mucus production
  • Steroid nasal sprays: this type of sprays reduce inflammation in the nose. Some types may only be available by doctor's prescription
  • Nasal decongestants: they provide quick relief for nasal congestion (blocked nose)
  • Expectorants: these medicines help decrease mucus accumulation in the throat (phlegm) 

It should be noted that over-the-counter nasal sprays are not recommended for children.

When to seek medical attention

Nasal congestion is relatively normal and may go away without medical intervention. However, if your symptoms last more than 10 days with no improvement, if you have difficulty breathing or a high fever, you should contact a healthcare provider such as a GP. A doctor can then prescribe medication as well as rule out any complications and more serious illnesses.


Mucus is a substance that’s being continuously produced in our nose, throat and other parts of the body to help the immune system. However, too much mucus can lead to congestion and a runny nose. Excess mucus can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, a sinus infection, an allergic reaction or asthma. Although uncomfortable, nasal congestion can be alleviated by keeping hydrated, increasing humidity and taking over-the-counter medications such as nasal sprays and decongestants. However, excess mucus production can, on some occasions, lead to complications such as chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.


  1. Fahy J, Dickey B. Airway Mucus Function and Dysfunction. New England Journal of Medicine. 2010;363(23):2233-2247. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra0910061
  2. Khan M, Khan Z, Charles M, Pratap P, Naeem A, Siddiqui Z et al. Cytokine Storm and Mucus Hypersecretion in COVID-19: Review of Mechanisms. Journal of Inflammation Research. 2021;Volume 14:175-189. https://doi.org/10.2147/JIR.S271292 
  3. Kim V, Criner G. Chronic Bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2013;187(3):228-237.  https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.201210-1843CI 
  4. McCallion P, De Soyza A. Cough and bronchiectasis. Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2017;47:77-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pupt.2017.04.010 
  5. Mandell L. Community-acquired pneumonia: An overview. Postgraduate Medicine. 2015;127(6):607-615. https//doi.org/10.1080/00325481.2015.1074030
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Julia Ruiz Rua

Neuroscience, Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Motivated Neuroscience undergraduate active in student life, hoping to gain experience in Neurology and Mental Health services. My professional interests are diverse, ranging from Science to Economics and the Fashion Business .
Completed modules in Psychology, Biology, Economics and Finance.
Experienced in, Mental Health Representative of the Disabled Student Network and a Writer

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