This summer has brought high pollen counts and wildfire smoke; both of these are allergens and can, unfortunately, increase mucus production. At the end of August, my partner and I experienced smoky skies and ragweed. These conditions caused both of us to feel mucus in our throats and caused him to experience asthma flare-ups.
What is mucus?
Mucus - a gross thing and a gross word (in my personal opinion)! It is defined as "a jelly-like liquid found in the lungs, airways, digestive system, and other parts of the body."1 Phlegm or sputum is specifically the mucus that gets coughed up from your lungs and throat. Even if you find mucus gross, it is important! It helps line and protects delicate tissues in the body. Mucus is normal to have, however, when the body is exposed to certain things like illness, allergens, or smoke, mucus can be overproduced.2
Mucus is a symptom commonly associated with both asthma and allergies. However, just because you have mucus does not mean you have asthma, and vice versa; having asthma does not mean you have mucus. If you have asthma and are coughing up a lot of phlegm, this could mean that your airways are inflamed.1
How to manage mucus with asthma
Avoid allergens and illness
Exposure to allergens can cause the body to produce more mucus than normal. Allergens can include animal dander, pollen, dust mites, fragrance, certain foods, and much more. If you have allergies, avoiding these things can help reduce excess mucus production. Additionally, getting sick with a cold can cause mucus to build-up in your throat and sinus cavities. As the common cold season is approaching, wash your hands frequently, support your immune system, get enough sleep, and keep your distance from others.2
There are a few at-home remedies that may provide relief from mucus build-up in the throat. Hot tea, coffee, or both can help break-up mucus in the throat. Drinking water and staying hydrated can also break-up and thin out mucus. A saline nasal spray or a neti pot can flush out the mucus in your sinuses that drip to the back of the throat and cause postnasal drip.2
If you are struggling to breathe due to inflamed airways, taking your rescue inhaler may help. Taking your regular asthma medications should also help with preventing inflammation in the airways.2 If your mucus is more persistent, there are some over the counter remedies that may provide you with relief, like a decongestant.
When to talk with your doctor
Most of the time, mucus is a mild annoyance or a frustrating symptom. However, in certain situations, you may want to bring up mucus with your doctor. The color of your mucus can indicate if there is a bigger issue at hand. If your mucus is clear to slightly white color, this is considered normal. If your mucus is green, this can signal an infection. If it is streaked with red, this could mean that there is an infection in your chest, and you should see your doctor.1
Mucus is a frustrating symptom that has probably affected everyone at some point in their lives! If you have asthma and/or allergies, chances are you've experienced mucus more than the average person. Luckily, there are certain things you can do to avoid increasing mucus production. There are at-home and over the counter remedies that can also provide relief from mucus build-up. If you have experienced mucus for a long period of time or it is a certain color, it may be time to bring this up with your doctor.
How do you manage mucus? Comment below!
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