Causes Of Phlegm

Common Causes of Phlegm and How to Clear It Up

Colds and allergies are two of the most common causes of phlegm or mucus buildup. Even though neither problem is serious or life-threatening, chronic congestion can be extremely uncomfortable and difficult to live with. More serious conditions, like bronchitis or pneumonia, can also cause excess mucus or phlegm.




Our bodies produce phlegm in order to rid the lungs of invaders. Usually the invasion comes in the form of allergies and cold germs. Other times, lung irritation is caused by bacterial or viral infections like bronchitis, pneumonia and the flu. Irritants produced by smoking can also be one of the causes of phlegm. Excess phlegm or mucus gives us the urge to cough, which helps bring the trespassing germs up and out of the lungs.

Color Helps Determine Cause of Phlegm
One of the easiest ways of determining the different causes of phlegm is by examining the color and consistency of the mucus. If the phlegm is clear and not too thick, then the cause is usually allergies or a cold. Thick green or yellow phlegm can be a sign of infection, and generally means that a doctor visit is in order. When the cause is something more serious, like pneumonia or tuberculosis, there may be blood in the mucus. Irritants caused by smoking can make the phlegm appear brown or gray in color.

How to Get Rid of Phlegm
There are a few different ways of getting rid of phlegm, along with a few actions that should be avoided whenever there is a buildup of mucus in the lungs. In some cases, the cure for phlegm depends on the cause. If excess mucus is being caused by smoking, then the solution is obvious: stop smoking! When smoking is the reason for chest congestion, permanent relief can come about within just a few short weeks of kicking the habit.

When phlegm is caused by a cold or allergies, the most common treatment is cold and allergy medicines. Of course, these products really only treat the symptoms caused by the illness, they do not actually cure it. As long as the problem is not severe, taking over-the-counter medication for relief of congestion is perfectly fine. In fact, there are a number of new drugs that are designed specifically to treat excess mucus. These medications do a good job of attacking and eliminating problems with phlegm. When the excess mucus is the result of an infection or something more serious, however, masking the symptoms with drugs may make the condition even worse.

Dietary habits can also influence both mucus production and elimination. Drinking plenty of water can help to thin out phlegm already in the system, and water is also important for overall health and proper immune function. It is generally suggested that anyone with mucus problems should avoid dairy products, because they can thicken the mucus and make it harder to expel.

People who suffer from food allergies can develop mucus as part of an allergic reaction to something they have eaten, and this is commonly seen with dairy allergies. A dairy allergy will be sparked by drinking milk, eating cheese or consuming other common dairy items, and that can mean an increase in phlegm and congestion.

Long-term chest congestion, with the presence of thick, green mucus can be a sign of a serious illness, like pneumonia. When blood is present in the phlegm, it may even be an indication of lung cancer. These kinds of serious symptoms usually require treatment with a prescription medication. Very severe cases can even lead to hospitalization for more urgent treatment.