Constantly coughing in public can be quite embarrassing, can’t it? Now imagine if your cough was phlegmy on top of that! More than being annoying, though, excess phlegm can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Knowing more about it can help you treat the possible causes. Read on to learn more!
All About Phlegm…
Phlegm is a sticky, thick fluid discharged by the chest. Although it’s part of a natural process, in some cases it can be the result of an underlying health condition. If you have a cold or the flu, a phlegm buildup is called sputum. The best way to find out if your phlegm is a symptom of something else is to look at its colour. The substance has inflammatory cells, virus or bacteria in it as a response to the infection.
Phlegm often accompanies colds and other upper respiratory infections. Although it’s not serious in and of itself, if left untreated it can clog and irritate the bronchial tubes. This will cause a secondary respiratory infection. The presence of phlegm is usually announced by a constant need to clear the throat, feeling weak, difficulty breathing, runny nose or a fever. It will congest and collect in the chest and throat, where you push it out by coughing.
What Does the Colour of Phlegm Say About Your Health?
- Yellow or green: this usually indicates that your body is combating a certain disease. Various medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sinusitis, pneumonia and bronchitis may lead to yellow or green phlegm. You must look at your other symptoms to identify what you have.
- White: congestive heart failure, Gastroesophageal reflux condition and viral bronchitis are the most common conditions that cause white phlegm.
- Brown: this is commonly caused by bacterial bronchitis. It is usually rusty, a sign that blood is present.
- Pink or red: the main reason for this colour is that there is blood in it. Pink or red phlegm may be a sign of pneumonia, heart failure, tuberculosis and other serious conditions.
- Black phlegm: this may be a result of inhaling large amounts of coal dust or anything that’s black, but it is more commonly because of smoking or fungal infections like black yeast.
Symptoms of Phlegm
The most common symptoms of an excessive phlegm buildup are:
- Shortness of breath
- Soreness and congested throat
- A sinus headache
- A runny nose
- Coughing with phlegm and mucus
Most cases are caused by various infections like the flu or colds, and these can be treated easily.
If you want to make sure you don’t get a phlegm buildup, try the following:
- Limit your exposure to irritants like chemicals, paint or cigarettes.
- Blow your nose frequently.
- Inhale steam from hot water multiple times a day.
- Drink hot fluids and eat spicy foods to loosen mucus.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
- Avoid consuming dairy products, fried foods and meats, as these may increase the body’s mucus production.
Treatments for Phlegm
Here are some of the best treatments for phlegm:
- Pineapples: the rich vitamin C and vitamin A content of pineapples makes it a beneficial fruit for getting rid of phlegm. The vitamin C in particular helps relieve the symptoms of coughs and cold, which will in turn help clear out any excess phlegm.
- Cayenne pepper: this is actually one of the easiest treatments for phlegm. Since cayenne pepper has a spicy flavor, it effectively relieves congestion.
- Onions: the quercetin content of onions helps get rid of various infections. Furthermore, since quercetin is an anti-allergic agent, it helps prevent the accumulation of mucus and phlegm.
- Garlic: the allicin compound in the garlic helps break down the phlegm.
- Ginger: the polyphenols and flavonoids in ginger help combat infections and prevent any further congestion.