If you’re suffering from allergies, asthma or another condition that is causing excess mucus production, it’s important to seek medical treatment. However, in cases where phlegm results from a viral infection, such as the common cold, it will usually resolve on its own within seven to 10 days.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take to help clear your airways and get rid of phlegm.
Drinking plenty of fluids helps to thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up and clear from the airways. Focus on drinking water, and avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, as these can make your condition worse.
Use a Humidifier
A humidifier will help to keep the air moist, which may reduce irritation in the respiratory tract and lead to less mucus production and coughing. A warm, steamy shower can also help to loosen phlegm if a humidifier is not available.
Use Saline Nasal Spray
Both Dr. Kara and Dr. Nasseri suggest using saline nasal sprays to help relieve congestion and clear the sinuses. This may also help to reduce excess phlegm production in the throat and clear the airways.
Keep Your Head Elevated at Night
Elevating the head of your bed or using extra pillows at night to elevate your head and chest can help to drain phlegm from the sinuses and prevent it from pooling in the back of your throat. This may help to reduce congestion and persistent coughing due to postnasal drip.
Stay Away from Irritants
Dr. Nasseri recommends staying away from irritants such as smoke, dust and pollen that can worsen your condition. Avoiding these triggers may help minimize phlegm production.
Perform Breathing Exercises
Practicing deep, controlled breaths can increase oxygen levels and improve overall lung function. It also promotes proper use of the diaphragm muscles that help you breathe. Airway clearance devices may help control increased phlegm production and ease symptoms as well.
Get Proper Treatment for Your Allergies
If you struggle with allergy-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes and excess mucus production, you may benefit from a personalized treatment plan.
Allergy testing can help to identify the substances that trigger your symptoms so you can avoid them in the future. Medications, such as antihistamines and nasal sprays, can also help to reduce mucus production and provide relief from your symptoms. Consider seeing an allergist for proper treatment.
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If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking can worsen respiratory conditions and cause excess phlegm buildup. Nicotine, a chemical present in cigarettes, paralyzes cilia—thin, hairlike cells that help to move debris, such as phlegm, out of the airways—in the lungs. This paralyzation prevents the removal of phlegm. If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy or other smoking cessation aids.