Thick, glue-like nasal mucus can be caused by certain types of infections and allergies. Several environmental or lifestyle factors can also contribute.
Nasal mucus is created within membranes of your nose and sinus passages. Your body produces more than a liter of mucus every day, whether you’re 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 it.
The consistency of your mucus is a sign from your body about what’s going on inside you.
Mucus that’s runny and clear 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.
One form your mucus can take is a thick, rubbery, solid consistency. This can be a sign of anything from dry air in your home to a bacterial infection.
This article will cover the causes of thick, rubbery nasal mucus and help you know when you need to see your doctor.
Typically, mucus flows freely through your sinus passages, washing out dust, pollutants, and bacteria.
Then the mucus passes down through your throat and into your stomach, where any irritants or bacteria are disposed. This is a natural process. Most people swallow mucus all day long without even realizing it.
Sometimes, your body needs to produce more mucus than normal 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, mucus may begin to accumulate in the back of your throat. This is called postnasal drip. It can feel like a clog or plug in your sinuses.
Here are some common causes of sticky, thick mucus.
A dry climate can cause your sinus passages to be drier than they would normally be, resulting in thick, sticky mucus.
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 that’s causing the infection as your body fights it off.
Sometimes mucus becomes yellow or green as your body attempts to trap the infection, producing pus.
These hard, rubbery pieces of mucus may also be tinged with a little bit of blood. That’s because your mucus membranes are sensitive and bleed slightly when these hard pieces of mucus are dislodged.
Fungal infections can also irritate your nose and cause your mucus to have the consistency of rubber.
Fungal rhinosinusitis refers to 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 fungal 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
It’s fine to treat a cold with home remedies, like a warm compress and herbal teas. You may also want to try over-the-counter decongestants like pseudoephedrine.
If your symptoms of sticky, hard mucus persist for more than a few days, call your doctor. They may prescribe oral antibiotics to help you fight the infection and breathe easier.
If rubbery mucus is a symptom of your allergies, you may want to try an antihistamine or nasal steroid. Avoiding your allergy triggers is also considered a method of treatment for managing allergy symptoms.
Fungal infections in your sinuses may require a doctor’s diagnosis. Your doctor may prescribe nasal irrigation medication that allows you to put antifungal ingredients directly into your nasal passages. They may also prescribe corticosteroids.
Dehydration and dry climate
Rubbery mucus that’s caused by environmental and lifestyle factors may be simple to treat.
Drinking more water, running humidifiers in your home, and limiting time spent inhaling dry air can all help manage mucus that gets sticky and rubbery.
Thick, rubbery mucus isn’t usually a sign of a serious problem. But there are some sinus symptoms you should never ignore. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- sinus pressure that lasts for 10 days or more
- persistent nasal discharge
There are also symptoms that can indicate an emergency. Seek emergency care if your symptoms include:
- difficulty breathing
- pain in your lungs
- gasping for air or trouble catching your breath
- a raspy, “whooping” noise when you cough
- a fever higher than 103°F (39°C)
If you experience sticky, thick mucus often, there are some lifestyle changes you can make.
Vaping or smoking cigarettes can make your mucus stickier. If you quit smoking and vaping, you may notice that your symptoms decrease.
Quitting smoking is difficult, and it may take a few tries to fully quit. That’s OK. Reach out to your 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 bring moisture to the air. If you live in a dry climate, you may want to buy a humidifier for your bedroom and main living area to use all year-round.
Wear a respirator mask
If exposure to pollutants, poor air quality, and other environmental irritants are leaving your mucus thick and rubbery, you may want to try wearing a respirator mask on your commute or when you’re going for walks outside.
Drink more water
Drinking more water, especially when you’re sick, is one simple way that you can give your sinuses more to work with as your body produces mucus. Making sure that you’re properly hydrated could resolve your symptoms quickly.
Sticky, rubbery mucus can develop from environmental and lifestyle factors. Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections in your sinuses can also trigger it.
It’s normal to have your mucus change consistency once in a while, and it’s not usually a cause for concern. But if this symptom is ongoing, speak to your 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 to your doctor right away about your symptoms.