Infections and allergies can cause thick, glue-like nasal mucus. Several environmental or lifestyle factors can also contribute.
The membranes of your nose and sinus passages create nasal mucus. Your body produces more than a liter of mucus daily, whether healthy or fighting off a cold.
Most of the time, the mucus your body produces is probably something you’re so used to that you don’t even notice.
The consistency of your mucus is a sign from your body about what’s going on inside you.
Having a runny nose with clear mucus can mean that you have excess drainage coming from your nose. Mucus that’s green-tinged or yellow can mean that your sinuses have been exposed to an irritant, often an infection.
Mucus can also have a thick, rubbery, solid consistency. This can happen due to dry air in your home, a bacterial infection, or other causes.
This article will cover the causes of thick, rubbery nasal mucus and help you know when to get medical help.
Typically, mucus flows freely through your sinus passages, washing out dust, pollutants, and bacteria.
Then the mucus passes through your throat and into your stomach, where any irritants or bacteria are disposed of. Most people swallow mucus all day long without even realizing it.
Sometimes, your body must produce more mucus than usual to lubricate and cleanse your sinus system. That can mean that the mucus your body produces becomes stickier and rubbery.
This happens because the membranes in your nose run out of moisture to make your mucus watery and clear.
When your mucus is dry and sticky, it may accumulate in the back of your throat. This is called postnasal drip. It can feel like a clog or plug in your sinuses.
Some common causes of sticky, thick mucus include:
A dry climate can cause your sinus passages to be drier than they would generally be, resulting in thick, sticky mucus.
This can result from a dry climate outdoors or indoors. This can include buildings with dry air and can include:
- apartment buildings
Upper respiratory infections
Bacterial and viral infections cause your nose and sinuses to produce excess mucus. This extra mucus attempts to flush out the bacteria causing the infection as your body fights it off. You can also experience inflammation of the nasal passages.
Sometimes mucus becomes yellow or green as your body attempts to trap the infection, producing pus.
These hard, rubbery pieces of mucus may also have a little blood. That’s because your mucus membranes are sensitive and bleed slightly when these harder pieces of mucus dislodge.
Fungal infections can also irritate your nose and cause your mucus to have the consistency of rubber.
Fungal rhinosinusitis is a group of fungal infections that can cause this symptom. In the case of these conditions, your mucus turns a golden color while your body works to fight the infection.
Allergies cause your sinuses to work overtime to produce extra mucus to sweep out allergens.
The excess mucus production can lead to sticky, rubbery pieces of mucus collecting toward the back of your throat and inside your nose.
If your body isn’t hydrated enough, your sinuses won’t have the lubrication to keep your mucus at a thinner consistency.
Sometimes strenuous exercise, excessive sweating, and spending time outside in hot temperatures can quickly dehydrate your body, leading to thick, rubbery mucus.
Treatment for thick, sticky mucus depends on the cause.
Bacterial and viral respiratory infections
If symptoms of sticky, hard mucus persist for more than a few days, consider contacting a doctor. They may prescribe medication to help you fight the infection and breathe easier.
If rubbery mucus occurs due to allergies, you may want to try an antihistamine or nasal steroid. You can also try a saline nasal rinse. You can use it as needed, to rinse out allergens at the end of the day, or before applying nasal steroids.
Avoiding your allergy triggers is also a treatment method for managing allergy symptoms.
Fungal infections in your sinuses may require a doctor’s diagnosis. A doctor may prescribe nasal irrigation medication that lets you put antifungal ingredients directly into your nasal passages. They may also prescribe corticosteroids or other medications. This can depend on the type of infection and how severe it is.
Dehydration and dry climate
Rubbery mucus caused by environmental and lifestyle factors may be simple to treat. Treatment for sticky and rubbery mucus can include:
- drinking more water
- running humidifiers in your home
- limiting time spent inhaling dry air
- using a saline nasal spray, gel, or rinse
Thick, rubbery mucus isn’t usually a sign of a serious problem. But there are some sinus symptoms you should never ignore. You may need medical attention if you experience any of the following:
Other symptoms can indicate an emergency. Seek emergency care if your symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing
- pain in your lungs
- gasping for air or having trouble catching your breath
- a raspy, “whooping” noise when you cough
- a fever higher than 103°F (39°C)
You may be able to reduce thick, sticky mucus by avoiding irritants and staying hydrated. This can include:
Quit smoking, if you smoke
Quitting smoking can be difficult. That’s OK. Reach out to a doctor. They can help create a cessation plan right for you.
Use a humidifier
Running humidifiers in your house during seasons when the air tends to be dry can help add moisture to the air you breathe. If you live in a dry climate, you may want to use a humidifier in your bedroom and main living area all year round.
Wear a respirator mask
If exposure to pollutants, poor air quality, and other environmental irritants makes your mucus thick and rubbery, consider wearing a respirator mask on your commute or when you walk outside.
Drink more water
Drinking more water, especially when sick, can give your sinuses more to work with as your body produces mucus. Ensuring you’re properly hydrated can help your body clear the infection.
Sticky, rubbery mucus can develop from environmental and lifestyle factors. Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections in your sinuses can also trigger it.
It’s natural to have your mucus change consistency occasionally, and it’s not usually a cause for concern. But if this symptom is ongoing, consider speaking to a doctor to see if allergies are a cause and get treatment.
If you have a deep cough that doesn’t subside after 10 days, pain when you breathe, or difficulty breathing, speak with a doctor right away about your symptoms.