How to Get Rid of Mucus

Four Methods:Seeking Medical AdviceMaking Lifestyle ChangesUsing Over-The-Counter ProductsUsing Natural Remedies

Nasal mucus is a clear, sticky, liquid that works as a filter to prevent unwanted particles in the air from entering your body through your nose. Mucus is a natural part of your body’s defenses, but sometimes it can be produced in excess. Dealing with excessive mucus can be frustrating and seemingly never ending. The best way to treat excessive mucus from your nasal passages is to determine what is causing it to be produced and treat the underlying problem. Common causes of excessive nasal mucus are allergic reactions, nonallergic rhinitis, infection, and structural abnormalities.

Method 1
Seeking Medical Advice

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    See your doctor if you have signs of an infection. If you have ongoing problems with nasal mucus and sinus congestion, then it is possible that bacteria can become lodged in your sinuses and develop into a sinus infection.[1]
    • Symptoms of a sinus infections include prolonged sinus pressure, congestion, pain, or a headache for more than seven days.
    • If you develop a fever, you may have a sinus infection.
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    Watch for changes in the mucus. If the mucus changes to a greenish or yellowish color instead of clear or develops an odor, then you may have bacteria growing in your sinus passages leading to a sinus infection.
    • When your sinuses get blocked with congestion, the mucus, and bacteria that is normally produced gets trapped. If the congestion and pressure are not relieved, the trapped bacteria can lead to a sinus infection.
    • You may also get a viral sinus infection if the congestion and pressure were caused by a cold or the flu.
    • Antibiotics are ineffective if the infection is due to a virus. If you have a cold or flu virus, treat with zinc, vitamin C, and/or pseudoephedrine.
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    Take antibiotics as prescribed. If your doctor determines that you have developed a bacterial sinus infection, antibiotics may be prescribed for you. Be sure you take them exactly as prescribed and for the full duration of the prescription.[2]
    • Even if you start to feel better quickly, finish the prescription as prescribed. Not doing so may result in resistive strains of bacteria.[3] It is also beneficial as the bacteria can still be lingering in your sinus passages.
    • Be aware that some doctors may prescribe antibiotics before receiving test results that identify the actual cause of infection.[4] You may ask for a culture to be taken to be sure the correct antibiotic is prescribed.
    • If the symptoms persist even after you have finished the course of antibiotics, let your doctor know. You may need another course or a different antibiotic.
    • Talk to your doctor about allergy testing or other preventive measures if this happens to you frequently.
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    Seek medical help for persistent problems. Some situations of excessive mucus production seem to go on and on, no matter what treatments you try.[5]
    • If you have persistent problems with rhinitis, or continued and excessive mucus production, talk to your doctor.
    • You may need to undergo a series of tests to determine if you are allergic to things you come into contact with in your home or workplace.
    • Plus, you may have developed a nasal polyp or other structural change in your sinuses that is contributing to your lingering problem.
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    Ask about structural abnormalities. The most common structural abnormality that causes excessive mucus is the development of nasal polyps.[6]
    • Nasal polyps can develop over time. Small polyps most often go unnoticed and cause no problems.
    • Larger polyps can block the airflow through your sinus passages, and cause irritation that leads to excessive mucus production.
    • Other structural abnormalities are possible, such as deviated septum, and enlarged adenoids, but they do not usually cause excessive production of mucus.
    • Injury to the nose or surrounding area can also result in structural abnormalities, and can sometimes have related symptoms like mucus production. Talk to your doctor if you have had a recent injury to your facial area or nose.

Method 2
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Use a neti pot. A neti pot is a device that resembles a small teapot. Used correctly, a neti pot flushes out mucus and trapped irritants, and moisturizes your sinus passages.[7]
    • The device works by putting saline or distilled water in one nostril and allowing it to drain out the other, removing unwanted irritants and germs.
    • Fill the neti pot with about 4 ounces of saline solution, then lean over a sink, turning your head sideways and hold the spout up to the upper nostril.
    • Tip the pot to fill the nostril and let it run out the other nostril. Repeat the procedure using the other nostril.
    • This process is called irrigation since you are flushing out the passages with a liquid to get rid of unwanted mucus and irritants that are causing the mucus. Use your neti pot once or twice daily.
    • Neti pots provide a moisturizing and soothing effect to the sinuses. A neti pot can be purchased inexpensively over-the-counter. Be sure to clean your neti pot thoroughly after each use.
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    Make your own saline solution. If you choose to make your own saline solution, use distilled or sterile water.[8] You can also use water that has been boiled then set aside to cool. Do not use water straight from the tap since it can contain contaminants and irritants.
    • Using 8 ounces of water, add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Do not use regular table salt. Mix thoroughly then use the solution in your neti pot.
    • You can store the solution for up to five days in a sealed container, preferably refrigerated. Let the solution reach room temperature before using.
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    Apply warm compresses to your face. The warm compresses can help relieve any pain from sinus pressure and help to loosen the mucus and allow it to drain to get it out of your sinuses.[9]
    • Wet a small towel or cloth with very warm water. Place the towel on your face where you feel the most pressure.
    • In general, cover your eyes, the area just above your eyebrows, nose, and your cheeks just below your eyes.
    • Warm the cloth again every few minutes and reapply to continue to relieve the pain and pressure.
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    Sleep with your head elevated. This can help your sinuses to drain through the night and prevent mucus buildup in the nasal passages.[10]
    • Get enough rest to help keep your body strong and help to fight off a pending sinus infection from the excessive mucus in your sinuses.
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    Humidify your living space. Dry air can act as an irritant and cause sinus problems that include runny nose and congestion.[11]
    • Humidifiers are available in two primary types, cool mist, and warm mist styles, but there are many variations for each type. If dry sinus passages that lead to discomfort, irritation, and resulting mucus drainage is an ongoing problem for you, consider adding a humidifier to the appliances in your home.[12]
    • Houseplants also do a good job of releasing moisture into the air. This may be the option instead of, or in addition to, the use of a humidifier.
    • Other simple ways to provide short-term humidification include safely boiling water on the stove, leave the bathroom door open when showering or running a hot bath, or even drying your clothes indoors.
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    Use steam. Steam helps to break up mucus in your chest, nose, and throat, allowing you to expel it from your body easier.[13]
    • Boil a pot of water and hold your face over the bowl and breathe in the steam for several minutes.
    • Cover your head with a towel to concentrate your exposure to the steam.
    • Additionally, you can take a hot shower to help break up the mucus.
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    Avoid irritants. Exposure to irritants like the smoke of any kind, a sudden change in temperature, or strong chemical odors, can cause your sinuses to create even more mucus. Sometimes the mucus will run down the back of your throat, known as postnasal drip, and sometimes the irritants can cause your lungs to produce mucus, called phlegm. You may feel the need to cough to remove the buildup of the phlegm.[14]
    • Quit smoking if you do smoke. Try to avoid being exposed to second-hand cigarette or cigar smoke.
    • If you know this is a trigger for you, also take care to avoid situations outside that may involve burning yard debris, or stay upwind of the smoke from a bonfire.
    • Other pollutants that we breathe in can cause sinus problems as well. Watch for dust, pet dander, yeast, and molds, in your home and workplace. Be sure to change your air filters regularly to limit your exposure to irritants in the air of your home.
    • Exhaust fumes, chemicals used in your work, and even smog, can trigger an episode of mucus production caused by something other than an allergen. This is termed nonallergic rhinitis.
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    Protect your sinuses from sudden temperature changes. If your work requires that you are outside in colder temperatures, it can often contribute to mucus buildup and release when you enter a warmer environment.[15]
    • Take steps to keep your face and nasal area warm during the time you are outside in the colder temperatures.
    • Use a toque for head protection, and consider wearing one that has facial protection, similar to a ski mask.
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    Blow your nose. Blow your nose gently and correctly. Some experts suggest that blowing your nose may cause more problems than it helps.[16]
    • Blow your nose gently. Clear only one nostril at a time.
    • Blowing too hard can cause small openings to develop in your sinus areas. If you have any bacteria or unwanted irritants in your nose, then you may be forcing them further back into your sinuses as you blow your nose.
    • Always use clean materials to blow your nose and wash your hands thoroughly afterward to prevent the spread of bacteria or germs.

Method 3
Using Over-The-Counter Products

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    Take an antihistamine. Over-the-counter antihistamines are very helpful with minimizing the sinus problems associated with allergen exposure, or allergic rhinitis.[17]
    • Antihistamines work by blocking the reaction caused by exposure to an allergen. The reaction causes the release of histamine, and antihistamines help to minimize the body’s response to exposure to an allergen or irritant.
    • Antihistamines are most useful in people that have known allergies. Some are seasonal, and some are year-round risks.
    • Seasonal allergic problems are caused by the release of substances from the plants in our environment as they begin to bloom and blossom in the spring and fall. Fall allergies are often caused by ragweed.
    • People with year-round allergy problems are allergic to other things that are difficult to avoid in the environment. This can include everything from dust and pet dander to cockroaches and other insects that live in and around our homes.
    • Antihistamines help, but for people that have severe seasonal allergies or year-round problems, more intense allergy therapy may be warranted. Talk to your doctor about other options.
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    Use decongestants. Decongestant products are available as oral doses and nasal sprays. Oral decongestants contain the active ingredients phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. The more common side effects cause by these products include nervousness, dizziness, feeling that your heart rate is increased, slight elevations in blood pressure, and sleep problems.[18]
    • Oral decongestants work by narrowing blood vessels in the nasal passages, helping the swollen tissues to shrink. These products cause more mucus to drain in the short term, but relieve the pressure and improve air flow so you can breathe easier.
    • Products that contain pseudoephedrine, originally marketed as Sudafed, can be purchased without a prescription but are kept behind the pharmacy counter due to concerns about inappropriate use.
    • You will be asked to provide identification, like a driver’s license, and your purchase will be recorded. This is only done for your safety to control the illegal use of pseudoephedrine.
    • Talk to your doctor about using oral decongestants if you have a heart condition or hypertension.
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    Use medicated nasal spray. Decongestant nasal sprays or drops are also available over-the-counter but should be used with caution. While these products can help to clear sinus passages and relieve the pressure quickly, using them for more than three days results in a rebound effect.[19]
    • A rebound effect means that your body adjusts to the medications being used, and the congestion and pressure returns, or is possibly worse than before when you try to stop using them. Limiting their use to no more than three days prevents that rebound effect.
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    Consider a nasal corticosteroid. Nasal corticosteroids are available are nasal sprays and help to reduce inflammation in your sinus passages, stopping the runny nose and excessive mucus caused by irritants or allergens.[20] They are used in the chronic treatment of nasal and sinus problems.
    • Some are available over-the-counter, and several still require a prescription to obtain. Fluticasone and triamcinolone are available in products that you can purchase without a prescription.
    • People that use nasal corticosteroids often experience relief from their sinus problems and excessive mucus within a few days of starting treatment. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.
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    Use saline nasal spray. A saline nasal spray helps to clear your nasal passages of mucus and to moisturize your nasal passages. Use the spray as directed, and be patient. The first couple of uses may be helpful, but it will likely take repeated uses to get the full benefit.[21]
    • Saline nasal sprays work in a similar manner to that of a neti pot. They provide moisture to damaged and irritated sinus tissues and help to get rid of unwanted allergens and irritants.
    • Saline sprays are effective for relieving a runny nose and excessive mucus that is causing nasal congestion and postnasal drip.

Method 4
Using Natural Remedies

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    Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking water or other fluids helps to keep the mucus loose. While you may want to stop the runny or stuffy nose immediately, drinking fluids makes the mucus loose and runny. The fluids can help your body to get rid of the mucus you have so you can get back to normal.[22]
    • Drinking warm fluids helps in two ways. You are providing the recommended extra fluid intake, and, also, you will breathe in more moisture since the beverage you are drinking is warm or hot.
    • Anything that is warm works fine, such as coffee, hot tea, or even a cup of broth or soup.
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    Have a hot toddy. Recipes to make a hot toddy include using hot water, a shot of whiskey or other alcohol, fresh lemon, and an added spoonful of honey.[23]
    • Scientific evidence suggests that a hot toddy may be of some benefit in treating nasal congestion, mucous buildup, sinus pressure, sore throats, and sinus symptoms associated with a cold.
    • Limit your alcohol intake since excessive alcohol can cause your sinus passages to become more swollen, causing the stuffy feeling to worsen and increase the buildup of mucus. Consuming alcohol in large quantities, or repeatedly, is not good for your overall health and should be avoided.
    • Make a non-alcoholic hot toddy by using your favorite tea instead of the water and alcohol. Still add the fresh lemon and honey.
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    Drink herbal teas. Along with the benefit of breathing in extra moisture from a cup of hot tea, adding some herbs may help to provide additional relief from your sinus problems.[24]
    • Try adding peppermint to a cup of warm tea. Peppermint contains menthol and works well to help relieve sinus pressure, congestion, and mucus when it is inhaled and by drinking a cup of tea that contains peppermint.
    • Peppermint is commonly used to help treat the excessive mucus and sinus conditions. Peppermint and menthol can also help to treat coughs and chest congestion.
    • Do not consume peppermint oil by mouth. Do not use peppermint or menthol on infants.[25]
    • Green tea and green tea-derived supplements have been shown to contain ingredients that are overall helpful in maintaining good health and can help to treat some of the sinus symptoms that are most commonly associated with a cold. Increase the amount of green tea you drink gradually to avoid any unwanted effects such as stomach upset or constipation.[26]
    • Green tea contains caffeine among other active compounds. People that have any medical conditions, and women that are pregnant, should consult their physician before starting a regular regimen of green tea.
    • Green tea can interact with common medications. Examples include antibiotics, birth control pills, cancer medications, asthma medications, and stimulants. Always check with your doctor before making changes to your regimen or diet, especially when the changes involve herbal supplements.
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    Get relief from other herbal products. Use caution if you choose to use herbal products and always check with your doctor before starting a treatment regimen that includes herbal supplements.[27]
    • Some evidence suggests that a combination of herbs may be helpful in treating sinus problems. Available over-the-counter herbal sinus products contain a mixture of herbal ingredients.
    • Look for products that contain cowslip, gentian root, elderflower, verbena, and sorrel. Stomach upset and diarrhea may be a side effect of this combination of herbal ingredients.
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    Consider taking ginseng. The North American variety of ginseng root is being studied to learn more about its properties to treat medical conditions. The research includes promising evidence in the treatment of sinus and nasal symptoms most often associated with the common cold.[28]
    • Ginseng root is categorized as “possibly effective” in adults in reducing the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms experienced with the common cold, including sinus symptoms. No results are known involving the use of ginseng root in children.
    • Side effects reported with the use of ginseng root include blood pressure changes, hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, GI problems such as diarrhea, itching, and skin rashes, sleep difficulty, headaches, feeling nervous, and vaginal bleeding.
    • Drug interactions are common with ginseng and include medications used to treat schizophrenia, diabetes, depression, and blood thinners such as warfarin. People preparing for surgery and receiving some types of chemotherapy should not use ginseng or ginseng root products.[29]
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    Take elderberry, eucalyptus, or licorice. These herbal remedies are commonly used to treat excessive mucus and sinus problems. Interactions are possible with existing prescribed medications so check with your doctor before you begin.[30]
    • People with medical conditions should not take some herbal remedies listed. Talk to your doctor first if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, kidney disease, liver disease, low potassium levels, hormone sensitive cancers or related illnesses, heart disease, or conditions that require regular use of aspirin or blood thinner drugs such as warfarin.[31]
    • Elderberry can be helpful with excessive mucus and sinus problems. Standardized Elderberry extract products that contain vitamin C and other herbs are used to help clear congestion.
    • Eucalyptus oil is a more concentrated form of eucalyptus and is poisonous if consumed by mouth. However, eucalyptus is contained in many manufactured products, particularly those that are designed to help control coughs. Products containing eucalyptus are either applied topically, such as a chest rub or is used in very small amounts in some throat lozenges. You can also use them in a humidifier as the vapor helps relieve congestion.
    • Licorice root is commonly used. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of licorice in treating sinus congestion and excessive mucus.
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    Review the facts on Echinacea. Many people use echinacea, an herbal supplement, to treat nasal congestion, stuffiness and mucus buildup, and to treat the symptoms associated with a cold.[32]
    • Scientific research has not shown any significant benefit for the use of echinacea is treating sinus congestion or mucus drainage, or the nasal symptoms associated with colds.[33]
    • Echinacea is available in a wide variety of products made from different parts of the plant itself. The manufacturing of the products is not regulated or standardized. It is not always clear which part of the plant was used, and the resulting potency of the product may not be known.[34]

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Categories: Colds and Viruses | Respiratory Health