What causes Excess Mucus in the Lungs?
Your body naturally makes mucus every day and its presence isn’t necessarily a sign of anything unhealthy. Mucus (also known as phlegm), when it is produced by your body can help protect you from infection.
Mucus traps dead cells, debris, and/or bacteria from the upper and lower respiratory tract, so they can be coughed up and cleared from the lungs. When mucus production is chronic and your body does not remove excess mucus from the lungs, it may become a problem, causing breathing difficulties and increased risk of infection as studies have shown.
Respiratory infections such as colds, ‘flu, pneumonia, and allergies are common causes of excess mucus in the lungs.
There are also a number of chronic lung conditions that affect the general population which are characterized by excess respiratory mucus, some of which include: Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Bronchiectasis and Cystic Fibrosis.
How do you Remove Excess Mucus from the Lungs?
Your health care professional will prescribe recommended treatment for your individual medical condition. There are also a number of home practices you could do which may help control or loosen phlegm allowing you to remove excess mucus from your lungs.
These practices will work best when done on a regular basis, however, if you have any medical condition, you should always check with your health care professional prior to commencing any new programme to remove excess mucus.
Huff Coughing Technique
- Sit comfortably upright on a chair with your feet on the ground.
- Inhale through your nose, slightly deeper than a normal breath.
- Tense your stomach muscles and exhale in 3 even breaths through your mouth, while making the sound ‘ha’ ‘ha’ ‘ha’. (Imagine you are misting a mirror with your breath)
- Continue repeating this, keeping your stomach muscles firm, until you feel the mucus breaking up. You can then take a deep cough to remove excess mucus and clear your lungs
A Huff cough should be less tiring than a traditional cough, and it can keep you from feeling worn out when coughing up excess mucus.
Chest physiotherapy is used to help loosen & mobilize mucus in the lungs and respiratory tract to induce a cough to remove excess mucus. Your therapist will devise an individualized programme consisting of a variety of mechanical manoeuvres including chest percussion, vibration and postural drainage.
Some can be done alone and others may require help from a partner.
While you are having chest physiotherapy you should inhale and exhale deeply and slowly until the mucus is loosened enough to be expelled.
Airway Clearance Device
Using a handheld Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure (OPEP) device may prove effective to loosen and remove excess mucus from the lungs.
When you exhale into an OPEP device, such as Turboforte™, you create positive pressure and vibration within your airways. This pressure and vibration hold your airways open and help shake the mucus loose, so you may cough the mucus from the lungs.
Regular use of a therapeutic device like the Turboforte™ may provide relief by clearing the excess mucus from your airways and expanding lung function.
Keeping the air moist can loosen mucus and reduce congestion and coughing.
You can moisten the air by using a cool-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer. Alternatively a hot shower or bath. Breathe in the steam for as long as comfortable then have a drink of water to prevent dehydration.
Drink Lots of Warm Fluids
Staying hydrated helps by thinning phlegm, making it easier to remove excess mucus. Drinking warm fluids such as broth, warm water and herbal teas may additionally help relieve symptoms such as cough, chills or sore throat. Don’t drink fluids that dehydrate you such as coffee or alcohol.
Stay away from Smoke
Do not smoke or vape. Smoke is an irritant to your lungs, and smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke, can cause your body to produce more mucus.
Essential Oils are becoming very popular. Some oils that have been proposed as treatments for lung health include eucalyptus, peppermint, bergamot (orange), rosemary and oregano.
You can add a few drops to a vaporizer or create a homemade vapor rub by mixing 12 drops of essential oil with a quarter cup of coconut oil.
Essential Oils should not be taken internally.
When using Essential Oil for the first time, you should test for skin irritation on a small patch on the inner arm. If no reaction occurs after 24hrs, the oil can be used more liberally. Speak to your doctor before trying any oils, as some may cause an inflammatory or allergic reaction.
Although honey does not get rid of mucus, a teaspoon of honey may calm your cough temporarily. (Do not give honey to anyone under the age of 1 year.)
Foods that may help
There are some foods that have been known to help remove excess mucus from the lungs;
- Ginger is a natural decongestant and antihistamine. Drink ginger tea a couple of times a day to help remove excess mucus.
- Garlic has antimicrobial properties and can help fight viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Add extra garlic to your meals each day to help fight rid your body of infection.
- Pineapple juice contains a mixture of enzymes called bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It is thought bromelain can help with respiratory problems related to asthma and allergies and has mucolytic properties to help break up and expel mucus. Drink pineapple juice alone 3 times a day or drink mixed with other ingredients. Try with ginger and cayenne pepper.
- Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin. Research has shown that capsaicin has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. Try adding cayenne pepper to your meals or pineapple juice.
When should I see a Doctor?
Mucus itself is your body’s form of natural defence. However you should see a doctor if you experience excess mucus present for more than a week, your mucus gets thicker, changes colour or increases in volume, you have a fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing up blood. Always if you have any concerns about your health seek advice from your health care professional.
This information is designed to support, not replace, the relationship between patient and health care professional. It is not intended to and cannot provide you with health or medical advice. Always speak to your health care professional about your medical issues and concerns. No claims are made or implied in the use or results of using Turboforte™.