Mucus is a natural defense system of our body.which occurs in various parts of our organism. The different mucous membranes of our body produce mucus in part to prevent pathogenic organisms from freely colonizing areas of our body, such as the respiratory tract or the gastric system.
When mucus builds up in the throat may end up facilitating infectionsIn some cases, it can cause illnesses such as bronchitis or pneumonia. In this article we will explain why mucus appears in the throat, as well as how to clear it.
Phlegm and mucus are a common part of our physiology. On average, we generate between 1.5 and 2 liters of mucus daily. when we’re healthy. Most of this mucus will be swallowed or absorbed through the airways.
Mucus is a colloidal gel (like gelatin) in which inorganic salts are dissolved, antimicrobial products such as lysozymes or immunoglobulinsas well as proteins and glycoproteins such as mucin, which help to give density to the gel.
It protects not only the respiratory tract, but also the epithelial cells of the digestive system, genius, auditory and visual. The vast majority of mucus is produced in the gastrointestinal system.
Causes of excess mucus in the throat
The reasons why excess mucus in the throat may increase are very diverse, but most of the time it has to do with airway problems(such as small deformities or deviations of the pathways, which facilitate the accumulation of mucus in the throat) as well as external agents, such as infections.
Among the main causes of mucus in the throat are the following.
The main causes of increased mucus in the throat are respiratory tract infections. Viral infections, such as the common cold or the flu, cause most mucus accumulation problems in the throat.
This is because our body defends itself against infections of the respiratory tract by means of inflammatory processes and greater mucus production on the part of the mucous membranes, in order to trap as many microorganisms as possible within it, avoiding the colonisation of the tissues and eliminating pathogens from the area.
Mucus production due to infections can cause severe obstructions and even affect the lower airwaysIt facilitates the appearance of diseases such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Allergies are another common cause of mucus production. accelerated by part of the airways. Allergies are exaggerated reactions of our body to some entity (which in immunological terms is known as an antigen), the presence of which activates an excessive immune reaction on the part of our body.
Basically, allergies occur when our body “defends” with much more force than it should, against elements that are often harmless, such as pollen. In these cases, antihistamines may decrease allergic reactionIt also decreases other allergic symptoms such as increased mucus.
Smoking is a very unhealthy habit. As a matter of fact, tobacco is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the worldcausing the vast majority of lung cancers in addition to other cardiovascular symptoms.
Constant irritation of the mucous membranes which causes the inhalation of tobacco smoke makes them respond by producing a higher amount of mucus, which can make breathing difficult and really annoying. For this reason, smoking is especially discouraged when we are suffering from some type of respiratory infection, as it can accelerate the evolution of the disease or lengthen its duration, and with it, its symptoms.
4. Environmental pollution
Today, especially in large metropolitan areas, air pollution is a reality. The vast majority of pollution comes from transport, for example in by-products of the combustion of fossil fuels such as diesel or also microparticles that are released from the friction of tires.
In metropolitan areas we must be especially alerts to pollution levels to take care of the health of our airways. As with tobacco smoke, air pollution causes a number of health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 7 million people die annually from complications from environmental pollution.
Living in an area with high levels of environmental pollution not only increases your chances of getting serious respiratory infectionsbut also increases the chance of cancer or potentially lethal cardiovascular problems. In our daily lives, it can also cause abnormal levels of mucus in our throat.
5. Other causes of mucus in the throat
We also found other probable causes of excessive production and accumulation of mucus in the throat, such as very cold temperatures or dry environments (irritating the mucous membranes, promoting mucus production), hormonal changes such as those experienced during pregnancy, or some types of food, such as spicy foods or milk products.
Having a deviated nasal septum can also promote a greater-than-usual accumulation of mucus in the throat, which ideally could be remedied with a physical adjustment of the deviation by a health care professional, such as a plastic surgeon. Some types of medication can also cause an unexpected increase in mucus in the throat.
Relieving Throat Mucus
Whatever its origin, there are some general advice that we can take advantage of to palliate or eliminate the mucus in the throat and be able to breathe with some normality. Experts recommend mainly:
- Be properly hydrated (Between 1.5 and 2 liters of water per day)
- Maintain a humid environment, e.g. with humidifiers
- Avoid excessively dry or cold environments (such as in air-conditioned areas).
- Maintain a balanced diet to support the immune system
- Avoid the consumption of dairy products, as they favour the production of mucus.
- Ventilate the house 15 minutes a day to avoid the accumulation of pathogens.
- Gargle with warm salt water to make infection more difficult
- If we smoke, quit smoking. Especially if we have a respiratory tract infection.
- Anticongestive medication, such as pseudoephedrine, to manage mucus levels
- Sleeping with your head held high to prevent mucus from affecting sleep quality
- Ambient air pollution: Health impacts. (2019). World Health Organization. Retrieved September 16, 2019 from https://www.who.int/airpollution/ambient/health-impacts/en/
- Ghosh, A., Boucher, R. C., & Tarran, R. (2015). Airway hydration and COPD. Cellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS, 72(19), 3637-3652. doi:10.1007/s00018-015-1946-7.
- Åstrand, A. B., Hemmerling, M., Root, J., Wingren, C., Pesic, J., Johansson, E., … Tarran, R. (2015). Linking increased airway hydration, ciliary beating, and mucociliary clearance through ENaC inhibition. American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology, 308(1), L22-L32. doi:10.1152/ajplung.00163.2014.