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Cannot seem to get rid of that persistent cough? Feeling congested and breathless with all the accumulated mucus? Getting rid of phlegm or mucus when you are sick is not an easy task. It can be tiresome and unyielding.

But why do you cough incessantly with all the phlegm inside your respiratory airway? The reason is that your body is trying very hard to expel the mucus out of the airway. However, instead of getting adequate relief, your chest and throat hurt from all the coughing. Well, you might be glad to know that the solutions to your problem are available easily within the remit of your kitchen or household. Read the article to know more:

  1. Home remedies for mucus
  2. When to see a doctor for mucus

It may come as a surprise but mucus is a natural body secretion, which is produced by the body to protect and lubricate the organs. You may never need any medical help or decongestants to clear mucus out of your system, of course until it becomes excessive or starts accumulating in your body, leading to various problems such as cough or congestion.

Even if you do get a bit of cough and phlegm (mild to moderate). you can easily get it expelled on your own without the need to visit a doctor. Though you’ll still need to make a little effort in order to get yourself better. So cheer up and with this hope, let us move further and amaze you with all the remedies that can work their magic on you.

Drink plenty of water to get rid of mucus

Keeping yourself well hydrated should be your top most priority. This is the easiest thing you can do to get better and trust me, it demands almost zero effort. All you need to do is to keep a bottle of water with you and keep sipping at small intervals. Water keeps your temperature and body functions normal. In case, you don't feel like drinking plain water, there are plenty of other options to increase your fluid intake. Try drinking herbal tea, green tea, fruit infused water or fruits that are rich in water. You can also take a bowl of warm, soothing and steaming soup. Having soup will provide you with ultimate warmth, water content and other essential nutritional benefits that you might lack while suffering from sickness.

(Read more: How many glasses of water to drink in a day)

Steam inhalation to get rid of mucus

The very next thing you should do while suffering from congestion (due to excess of mucus accumulation in your throat, chest, sinus and airway) is to take steam inhalation. It will loosen the mucus build up and eventually you can expectorate (spit) it.

Taking steam inhalation holds a strong scientific basis and it is not something that has been practised just because our ancestors used to do it. A study published in the International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research indicates a significant increase in mucociliary clearance of mucus along with the drastic reduction in pain and discomfort among patients when using steam inhalation.

Another study demonstrates notable changes in the breathing patterns of individuals on taking steam inhalation for 20-minute sessions. During this study, the water temperature was kept within a range of 42 to 44 °C and the steam was inhaled from the nose only.

To take steam in the most effective way, you should follow the below-mentioned steps:

  • Take a saucepan, fill it with water to half of its capacity
  • Boil the water for a few minutes
  • Turn the heat off and take a clean towel
  • Cover your head and neck with a towel in a way that your nose faces towards the steaming water
  • Let no steam escape to the surroundings
  • Inhale the steam by taking a deep breath in and out of your nostrils
  • Do this until steam keeps coming out of the pan
  • Repeat this procedure 2 to 3 times per day for the ultimate relief

Alternative ways to accrue the benefits of steam inhalation could be

Hot water bath: Taking a de-stressing hot water bath can ease your discomfort and may help in loosening the tightly adhered mucus along the walls of your airway and sinus helping its easy elimination.

Use of humidifier:  Humidifiers could be the most effective way to inhale the steam. Patients suffering from asthma, chronic bronchitis, sinusitis generally prefer using a humidifier or cold mist vaporizer to expectorate mucus easily out of the body. However, a humidifier needs extra care and cleaning in between uses to prevent microbial growth and allergies.

Salt and water to get rid of mucus

Salt water irrigation is one of the most popular remedies for expelling excess or accumulated mucus from the body. Use of salt water can be done in many ways. Some people prefer gargling with salt water whereas some are more comfortable with nasal irrigation. Both ways are effective for relieving mucus accumulation. The science behind the use of salt water is that the hypertonicity of the salt aids in dislodgement and easier expulsion of mucus, rehydration of airways, decreased exacerbation of disease and relief from distress.

Salt water gargle: This is more effective in patients suffering from a sore throat or mucus accumulation in the throat. Let’s know how you could perform salt water gargle in order to get mucus out of the throat:

  • Take 1 cup of water and boil it
  • Add a pinch of regular salt into it
  • Take a sip of water or as much as your mouth can hold comfortably
  • Squash the water in and out for a few seconds
  • Spit the water out
  • Keep gargling until you finish the whole cup of water
  • Repeat this a few times every day until you feel light and comfortable

Nasal irrigation: Another effective method to use salt and warm water is by doing nasal irrigation. Nasal irrigation has been used traditionally in ayurvedic system of medicine but in the late 19th century, western medicine also adopted it as a method to clear mucus from the upper respiratory tract. It also helps in the clearance of mucus from paranasal sinus.

(Read more: Upper respiratory tract infections symptoms)

You can do nasal irrigation by two methods:

  • By using old neti pot filled with lukewarm water with a little bit of salt  to irrigate the nasal mucosa
  • By using a syringe to irrigate the airway through the nose

Honey to get rid of mucus

Mother nature has made honey into a magic potion, which is loaded with enormous benefits along with its signature sweetness. It is so beneficial that making your child eat 1 teaspoon of honey daily can prevent him/her from developing a cough and boost their immune system exponentially. Although, honey is not recommended for infants (less than 2 years of age). All the potential benefits of honey can be attributed to its anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling), antioxidative (eliminates free radicals) and antimicrobial (kills pathogens) properties. Moreover, honey has soothing effect also.

If you are suffering from a chronic cough that has lead to mucus congestion which is distressing you day and night, consider the consumption of honey daily. You can also be creative and incorporate honey as a sweetener to your tea, pancakes, fruit salad and many more food items.

Vitamin C to get rid of mucus

Vitamin C is a great source of antioxidants and also possess anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it an excellent option to alleviate the symptoms of a common cold. Furthermore, vitamin C increases the mucociliary function, thereby helps in releasing the tightly adhered mucus, lining along the walls of your throat, respiratory tract and sinus walls.

If you are thinking about how you are going to consume vitamin C exclusively. You don't need to. Nature provides you with a variety of options rich in vitamin C such as lemon, orange, and berries and all of them taste amazing! So, snack on them to get rid of an unwanted pile of mucus in your system.

If you are looking for some warmth along with goodness of vitamin C, there is another option ready for you. Take a cup filled with lukewarm water, squeeze half a lemon into it and add 1 teaspoon of honey for the extra dose of sweet therapy. Start sipping the exclusive concoction for quick relief.

Ginger to get rid of mucus

You may have tried this remedy for treating cold or maybe just to soothe yourself already. On cold winter days, there is nothing better than a cup of steaming hot ginger tea. Honestly, ginger contains a lot of potential to cure diseases as common as a cold to as deadly as cancer.

Even when it comes to clearing mucus, consumption of ginger can do wonders for you. It has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. This means it can reduce redness and swelling associated with a cough and sore throat and provide respite from pain. Also, ginger has a warming effect on the body, which promotes easier expulsion of mucus.

All you need to do in order to get rid of mucus is to treat yourself with ginger. Here are some ways to include ginger in your food:

  • By making a cup of tea with an adequate amount of ginger in it
  • By eating diced ginger with a pinch of salt
  • By adding minced ginger in salads and sprouts
  • By adding crushed ginger in soup or curries

Turmeric to get rid of mucus

You may have childhood memories of your mother forcing you to drink turmeric milk. Almost everyone has gone through that phase of disliking turmeric milk. But have you ever thought about why were you forced to have that 1 glass of milk every night? Well, there is a science behind it. Since ages, Unani medicine has used turmeric to expel unwanted mucus as well as to open the widespread blood vessels and thereby increasing blood circulation in the body.

Turmeric also holds the potential to treat asthma, allergies and bronchial hyperreactivity. The latter two may cause increased production of mucus in the airways.

So, if you want to get rid of mucus, start consuming turmeric open heartedly. There are various ways to consume turmeric, like the following:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric

Procedure:

  • Warm the milk, add turmeric into it
  • Mix it well and drink it
  • You can replace milk with water if you want to

Garlic to get rid of mucus

Excessive production and accumulation of mucus could be very concerning and distressing, and to save you from such distress, here comes another alternative. It is straight from your own kitchen, and it is garlic. If it works on vampires, it will surely work on you! On a serious note, you might not have thought about it but this spice can cure a cold and clear the airway effectively. Consequently, it provides you with an easy and effortless breathing solution.

Garlic has antimicrobial and antiviral properties that add to its beneficial effects. Now, the question is how can you incorporate garlic in your diet. Here is the answer:

  • Add chopped garlic to a sprouts bowl
  • You can also consume peeled garlic with water
  • While cooking vegetables or soup, add a handful of garlic to get the essential benefits

Eucalyptus oil to get rid of mucus

Eucalyptus oil is most well-known as a decongestant and for reducing mucus accumulation. It is an essential oil obtained from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree and has a unique smell that is said to be somewhere between mint and honey. But most importantly, this plant essence is enriched with active compounds which help loosen mucus and promote its easier expulsion from the sinuses. In fact, this property of eucalyptus oil makes it an important ingredient in some forms of vapour rubs. You can also buy your own essential oils from a local store. Just make sure they are an authentic and good grade. Also, it is best that you dilute your essential oils with appropriate carrier oils before applying it on skin. Some good carrier oils are coconut oil, almond oil and grapeseed oil.

Here is an easy way to use eucalyptus oil for relieving mucus:

  • Take a handful of diluted eucalyptus oil and gently massage it over the chest, throat and face until all the oil gets absorbed completely
  • Keep massaging a few times every day until you keep feeling distressed. Another way of using eucalyptus oil is through inhalation by adding a few drops to your diffuser or humidifier

Vaporub to get rid of mucus

Another agent that can rescue you from mucus congestion is vaporub. You may have come across various ads describing instant relief from vaporub. Well, they might be true. It contains camphor and menthol or eucalyptus oil, which helps open airways, providing relief from difficulty in breathing.

A study done on 138 patients suffering from cold and congestion, showed that a vapour rub massage on the chest and neck provides significant relief from congestion and mucus accumulation within 2 days. As per the findings of this study, menthol helps open airways by acting on the thermally sensitive receptors in our body, which is also the reason that you feel a cold sensation on inhaling or applying menthol or vapour rubs. Both menthol and camphor are also supposed to increase mucociliary action and reduce respiratory rate and restlessness or discomfort.

 So, it can be established that vaporub helps in eliminating congestion from the upper respiratory tract.

It is always a wise option to see a doctor for any health problem to get a proper diagnosis before trying any remedy at home. If you are noticing any of the below-mentioned signs along with excess mucus accumulation, seek a doctor’s help immediately:

  • Congestion getting worse even after taking remedies and over the counter medicines
  • Extreme difficulty in breathing
  • Breathing becomes irregular and rapid
  • Whistling sound while breathing
  • Inability or aversion to foods and drinks
  • Fever
  • Skin becoming blue or very pale
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References

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  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Water & Nutrition.
  3. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research [ IJCMR ]. Atishkumar B. Gujrathi et al. Effect of Steam Inhalation on Nasal Mucociliary Clearance in Normal Individuals and Nasal Disease State. International Society for Contemporary Medical Research
  4. Ophir D,Elad Y. Effects of steam inhalation on nasal patency and nasal symptoms in patients with the common cold. Am J Otolaryngol. 1987 May-Jun;8(3):149-53. PMID: 3303983
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Cough.
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  7. Nicola Principi,Susanna Esposito. Nasal Irrigation: An Imprecisely Defined Medical Procedure. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 May; 14(5): 516. PMID: 28492494
  8. Sarah J Barker. Honey for acute cough in children. Paediatr Child Health. 2016 May; 21(4): 199–200. PMID: 27429573
  9. Horst Fischer,Christian Schwarzer,Beate Illek. Vitamin C controls the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator chloride channel. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar 9; 101(10): 3691–3696. PMID: 14993613
  10. National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements. [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Vitamin C.
  11. Public Health England [Internet]. Government of UK. Green phlegm and snot ‘not always a sign of an infection needing antibiotics’.
  12. Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 7.
  13. Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 13.
  14. Lissiman E,Bhasale AL,Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Nov 11;(11):CD006206. PMID: 25386977
  15. Health Harvard Publishing. Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Preventing and treating colds: The evidence and the anecdotes. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  16. Ian M. Paul et al. Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms. Pediatrics. 2010 Dec; 126(6): 1092–1099. PMID: 21059712
  17. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Coughing and wheezing in children.
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