We have all experienced coughing up mucus at some stage of our lives. But what exactly is this mucus, where does it come from, and how can we get rid of it?
Firstly, mucus is also sometimes also associated with phlegm (which is pronounced as ‘flem’), but these two are different. Mucus is a body secretion which is produced as a result of our bodies trying to flush out toxins. It is usually found in the airways, eyes and nasal tubes. A certain amount of mucus is normal. However, phlegm is not a normal secretion and is only ever present when there is a disease or inflammation present. It contains mucus which has bacteria and inflamed cells that have died, along with pieces of dust or dirt or other irritants.
If our body has been subject to a virus or bacteria, we find that mucus builds up in our throat. The mucus is attempting to assist our body to eliminate the bacteria. We start to get an itchy throat, which then causes us to start coughing up mucus.
Sometimes we find that if we have been yelling or screaming for any length of time, mucus will develop in our throat. This mucus occurs as a reaction to the excessive vibration of the vocal chords which makes them get inflamed. People have a tendency to clear their throat to get rid of this mucus, however if this is done too many times, the throat becomes more irritated, and more mucus is formed, and a vicious cycle begins. It is better to not damage the vocal chords in the first place, by excessive yelling or screaming.
Hay fever and air borne allergens such as pollens or dust can cause mucus to accumulate in our nasal passages, sinuses and throat. This is because the tiny bronchioles in our lungs become inflamed as a result of the problematic pollens, thus producing mucus.
Mucus in lungs should not be ignored. It is important to distinguish between the different colour of mucus. There are three colours of mucus that can be identified:
- Clear mucus
- Green mucus
- Yellow mucus
If coughing up mucus is very painful and shows traces of blood, this denotes a more serious lung problem, such as lung cancer caused from extensive heavy smoking. Medical advice and even hospitalisation is recommended.
Coughing up clear mucus is mostly associated with the common cold virus, which tends to irritate our throat. Smoking can also irritate our throats and cause mucus, in which case, this may be a slightly browner colour due to the tar in the cigarette smoke. Clear mucus is a natural way for our bodies to eliminate the viral toxins, and generally does not need treatment with antibiotics.
Coughing up mucus that has a green colour means that there is a bacterial infection in the lungs, sinus or bronchial tubes. Changes in diet can relieve this condition, such as reducing dairy products and meats, and drinking pure water and herbal teas. Many people find relief from soaking in a hot bath and breathing the warm steamy air. If such green mucus persists, this may mean having to go on a course of antibiotics.
Coughing up yellow mucus is a sign that there is an inflammation of the respiratory tract. Inflammatory cells are also known as leucocytes and it is these cells that produce the yellow coloured mucus. Quite commonly a person with bronchitis or pneumonia will experience coughing up mucus that has a yellow tinge to it. This is a serious condition and requires specialised medical intervention.
To keep mucus to a minimum if is advisable to consider using a good multi-vitamin to ensure our bodies have a
sufficiently strong auto immune system to deal with the hazards of everyday life. With good health habits like eating lots of fruit and vegetables, we reduce the risk of infection and inflammation and the likelihood of our bodies having to secrete mucus.
Coughing up mucus is not pleasant for anyone of any age, especially children, as this can cause distress to them, and keep them awake at night. We need to protect ourselves and our families as best we can.
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