How to Get Rid of Phlegm

Janis

By Janis | Updated December 4, 2023

Phlegm can be a real nuisance, making you feel congested and uncomfortable. It’s a common issue that many people face, especially during cold and allergy seasons. 

If you’re tired of dealing with excess phlegm, it’s essential to know your options for getting rid of it effectively. Various home remedies, medications, and lifestyle tips can help you manage and reduce phlegm. 

In this article, we will explore some of the most efficient and practical methods to eliminate phlegm, ensuring you feel more comfortable and breathe easier.

Understanding Phlegm and Its Causes

Phlegm is a type of mucus produced by your respiratory system. It’s usually thicker than the mucus from your nose and sinuses. The main purpose of phlegm is to protect your airways from irritants, such as viruses, bacteria, allergens, and particulate matter.

When the balance is disrupted by certain conditions and lifestyle habits, excessive phlegm can occur. Recognizing the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment and management.

Infections

One common cause of excess phlegm is the common cold. A viral infection triggers your body to produce more mucus to trap and eliminate the virus.

Similarly, bacterial infections can cause increased phlegm production to protect your respiratory system from the invading bacteria.

One common manifestation is pneumonia, an infection of the lungs that causes the air sacs to fill with pus and other liquid. 

This response to the infection leads to increased production of phlegm, causing coughing and difficulty in breathing as the body tries to expel the excess mucus.

Allergies

Allergies are another common cause of excess phlegm. When you have allergies, your immune system overreacts to harmless substances, like pollen or pet dander.

This overreaction prompts a release of histamines, leading to inflammation, nasal congestion, and phlegm production.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflamed and narrowed airways.

This inflammation triggers the airways to produce excess mucus, leading to coughing and the sensation of increased phlegm as the body tries to clear the obstructions.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that results in the production of abnormally thick and sticky mucus. 

This mucus can clog the airways in the lungs, leading to persistent coughing and increased phlegm production, making breathing difficult for those affected.

Bronchitis

Bronchitis refers to the inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. When these tubes become inflamed, they produce more mucus than usual.

This excessive mucus can cause coughing as the body attempts to clear the airways, leading to increased phlegm production.

Certain Food Options

Certain foods are believed to increase mucus or phlegm production, although individual responses can vary, so get to know your own reactions. 

Some commonly implicated foods include dairy products, fatty foods, soy products, and spicy foods.

Reflux

Reflux, often referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), involves stomach acid flowing backward into the esophagus. This acid can irritate the throat and cause an increased production of mucus as a protective response, leading to the sensation of excessive phlegm.

Moreover, this constant irritation can lead to inflammation of the throat lining.

As a result, the body produces more mucus to soothe inflamed areas, further contributing to the buildup of phlegm.

Natural Home Remedies

Harnessing the power of nature and home-based solutions can be a gentle yet effective approach to combat phlegm. 

Stay Hydrated

Adequate hydration keeps the mucous membranes moist. This not only prevents mucus from becoming too sticky and thick but also supports the body’s natural defenses in expelling irritants that can contribute to phlegm production.

If you’re tired of drinking just plain water, however, another good option is to drink herbal tea or infuse water with cucumber or your favorite citrus fruit.

Gargle with Salt Water

Gargling with salt water can help soothe an irritated throat and reduce inflammation. 

The salt draws out excess fluid from inflamed tissues, decreasing mucus production and alleviating phlegm buildup. 

Humidify the Air

Humidifying the air through the use of electronic humidifiers introduces moisture into the environment, which can aid in thinning the mucus in the respiratory system. 

Thinner mucus is easier to expel, reducing the buildup of phlegm and facilitating clearer breathing.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus essential oil contains compounds like cineole, which exhibit anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

When inhaled, these compounds can help reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract, leading to decreased mucus production and alleviating phlegm buildup.

Warm Bath and Steam Inhalation

Taking a warm bath or steam inhalation can help alleviate phlegm and mucus. The warm, moist air can soothe your airways and loosen congestion, making it easier to expel phlegm. 

You can create a steamy environment by running a hot shower and inhaling the steam for several minutes. Always ensure that the temperature is comfortable and safe to prevent burns or discomfort.

Aside from helping clear your airways and relax your chest muscles, promoting the expulsion of mucus, taking warm baths can relax the body, reducing stress, which is a potential trigger for inflammation and mucus overproduction. 

Controlled Coughing

Controlled coughing techniques can be a helpful home remedy to expel chest mucus. By taking deep breaths and coughing deliberately, you can aid the clearing process.

Remember to sit upright and take measured, deep inhalations before each cough. This will help generate enough force to dislodge mucus and make it easier to remove.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Regular exercise and physical activity can be a beneficial strategy for reducing phlegm. 

Engaging in activities that increase your heart rate and breathing, such as brisk walking, jogging, or swimming, helps to loosen mucus and phlegm in your respiratory passages. 

Simple daily activities and chores you enjoy, such as cleaning, gardening, and dancing, also promote better overall lung function.

Stick to tried-and-true remedies and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist.

Medical Treatments for Reducing Phlegm

If home remedies fail to alleviate excessive phlegm, medical treatments might be necessary. Always consult your doctor before starting any medication.

Decongestants

Decongestants work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages, reducing swelling and inflammation. 

This eases the flow of mucus, helping to clear blocked airways and reduce the buildup of phlegm, facilitating easier breathing.

Saline Nasal Spray or Rinse

Saline nasal sprays or rinses utilize a saltwater solution to help moisturize the inner linings of the nasal passages. This moisture helps thin out the mucus, making it easier to expel, reducing phlegm accumulation, and facilitating clearer breathing.

The saline solution can also assist in flushing out irritants or allergens in the nasal passages. By removing these triggers, it can decrease mucus production and the subsequent buildup of phlegm, offering relief.

Cough Medications and Antibiotics

Your doctor might prescribe cough medications with decongestants, expectorants, and mucolytics to help reduce phlegm by clearing airways and allowing expulsion. Mucolytics are prescribed to break down and thin mucus.

Where phlegm is a symptom of a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.

Managing Phlegm with Lifestyle Changes

Navigating daily life with persistent phlegm can be cumbersome. Beyond medical interventions, simple lifestyle shifts can offer significant relief.

Avoid Smoking

Smoking introduces harmful toxins and irritants into the respiratory system. These irritants trigger the body to produce more mucus as a defense mechanism, leading to increased phlegm and congestion in the airways.

Moreover, chronic smoking damages the cilia, tiny hair-like structures in the lungs responsible for moving mucus out. Damaged cilia can’t effectively clear mucus, worsening phlegm accumulation and respiratory discomfort.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the body, leading to thicker mucus that’s harder to expel. This can result in an increase in phlegm and congestion, making it challenging to breathe.

Instead, opt for non-caffeinated and alcohol-free beverages to maintain hydration levels.

Clean Humidifiers and Air-conditioning Units

Proper maintenance of your humidifiers and air conditioning units is crucial when dealing with excess phlegm. These devices can contribute to indoor air quality.

Clean and change filters regularly in your humidifiers and air conditioners to prevent the accumulation of mold and bacteria.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection, and use distilled or purified water in humidifiers to avoid mineral deposits in the air. 

Improve Sleeping Posture

Elevating the head while sleeping aids in gravity-assisted drainage of mucus from the nasal passages and throat. This position helps prevent the pooling of phlegm, making breathing easier and reducing nighttime coughing episodes.

Also, head elevation can be particularly beneficial for those with reflux issues. It prevents stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus, which can trigger mucus production and contribute to phlegm.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors cause phlegm accumulation in the throat?

Phlegm accumulation in the throat can be caused by factors such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, and exposure to air pollutants. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to phlegm buildup.

Identifying and addressing the underlying cause will help in reducing and preventing excessive phlegm.

What is the best way to clear phlegm from the throat?

To clear phlegm from your throat, try drinking warm liquids, like tea or soup, to help loosen the congestion. Gargling with warm salt water can also be effective in removing phlegm. 

Additionally, using a humidifier in your environment will help keep the air moist, making it easier for the mucus to flow.

How can I remove chest phlegm effectively?

Chest phlegm can be removed effectively by practicing deep breathing exercises, which help break up the mucus and expel it from your lungs. You can also try chest physiotherapy techniques, such as postural drainage and chest percussion.

However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before attempting these techniques to ensure they’re safe for your condition.

Which medications are effective for treating phlegm in the throat?

Over-the-counter medications like expectorants and decongestants can be helpful in treating phlegm. Expectorants aid in loosening mucus, while decongestants help reduce congestion.

However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medications, as they may not be suitable for everyone.