Mucus protects your respiratory system with lubrication and filtration. It’s produced by mucous membranes that run from your nose to your lungs.
Every time you breathe in, allergens, viruses, dust, and other debris stick to the mucus, which is then passed out of your system. But sometimes, your body can produce too much mucus, which requires frequent throat clearing.
Keep reading to learn what causes excess production of mucus in your throat, and what you can do about it.
There are a number of health conditions that can trigger excess mucus production, such as:
- acid reflux
- infections, such as the common cold
- lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Excess mucus production can also result from certain lifestyle and environmental factors, such as:
- a dry indoor environment
- low consumption of water and other fluids
- high consumption of fluids that can lead to fluid loss, such as coffee, tea, and alcohol
- certain medications
If the overproduction of mucus becomes a regular and uncomfortable occurrence, consider consulting with your healthcare provider for a full diagnosis and a treatment plan.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications
Your doctor may recommend medication such as:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Expectorants, such as guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin) can thin and loosen mucus so it will clear out of your throat and chest.
- Prescription medications. Mucolytics, such as hypertonic saline (Nebusal) and dornase alfa (Pulmozyme) are mucus thinners that you inhale through a nebulizer. If your excess mucus is triggered by a bacterial infection, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics.
Your doctor may also suggest some self-care steps you can take to help reduce mucus, such as:
- Gargle with warm salt water. This home remedy can help clear mucus from the back of your throat and may help kill germs.
- Humidify the air. Moisture in the air can help keep your mucus thin.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough liquids, especially water, can help loosen congestion and help your mucus flow. Warm liquids can be effective but avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Elevate your head. Lying flat can make it feel like the mucus is collecting in the back of your throat.
- Avoid decongestants. Although decongestants dry secretions, they may make it more difficult to reduce mucus.
- Avoid irritants, fragrances, chemicals, and pollution. These can irritate mucous membranes, signaling the body to produce more mucus.
- If you smoke, try to stop. Quitting smoking is helpful, especially with chronic lung disease such as asthma or COPD.
Mucus is produced by the lower airways in response to inflammation. When it’s excess mucus that’s coughed up — it’s referred to as phlegm.
The answer is not medical: Mucus is a noun and mucous is an adjective. For example, mucous membranes secrete mucus.
Your body is always producing mucus. Overproduction of mucus in your throat is often the result of a minor illness that should be allowed to run its course.
Sometimes, however, excess mucus can be a sign of a more serious condition. See your healthcare provider if the:
- overproduction of mucus is persistent and recurring
- amount of mucus you’re producing increases dramatically
- excess mucus is accompanied by other concerning symptoms