There are plenty of possible reasons for coughing up white mucus and the causes vary based on the mucus size and consistency. In some cases, the color will give you good information on the cause of the mucus, but it isn’t typically enough to let you identify why it occurs. While it can be annoying, producing excess mucus is a positive sign as this indicates that your body is functioning well enough to clear pathogens and illness out of your system. Sometimes, you may need to go to the doctor, but other times, home remedies are enough to relieve the symptom.
Why Do I Cough up White Mucus?
1. Common Cold
Each year, an adult may get the common cold two to four times while children may get it ten times. There are over 200 viruses responsible for the cold, leading to an inevitable infection. The symptoms vary between people, but common symptoms include sore throat, sneezing, watery eyes and mucus discharge that begin clear but become thick and creamy. Eventually, the mucus enters the throat from the nose, leading to coughing up white mucus. It is normal for the color of discharge to change throughout the illness.
Sinusitis symptoms are worse than those linked to the common cold. People with this condition have white to yellow or green mucus discharge and nasal congestion. Additional symptoms include pressure on the face, ear pain, pain in the teeth or jaw, fatigue and fever. Children have slightly different symptoms, including gagging on mucus, persistent nasal discharge, coughing, and/or vomiting. This condition is more likely to affect children, particularly in winter.
Bronchitis is due to airway inflammation from a viral infection, exposure to tobacco or other irritants or illness. Bronchitis includes many cold-like symptoms such as fatigue, sore throat and runny nose. You may also notice excess mucus that is white at first. It may change to green or yellow when inflammatory cells entered the airway and start coloring the sputum. You should contact your doctor if the coughing continues over two or three weeks, produces blood, or includes wheezing and shortness of breath.
Coughing up white mucus may also be a result of smoking. That is because when you inhale smoke, you also inhale toxins and irritants which irritate your vocal cords. This leads to inflammation as well as associated dryness and swelling. The white phlegm is produced as the body’s way to hydrate your parched larynx. Smokers may cough up mucus for several weeks in a row.
5. Tonsil Stones
Tonsils frequently build up debris, bacteria and food remaining, which are held together with mucus. This combination is packed into the indents and ditches in the tonsils and when the items compact, it can lead to a tonsil stone. It is possible to experience chronic or occasional tonsil stones without any symptoms, but you may cough up white chunks or have a sore throat or painful ears. If it is left untreated, your throat and mouth may become dry, leading to mucus production for lubrication.
6. Vocal Abuse
When you overuse your vocal cords, excess throat mucus is produced in an attempt to lubricate the throat. Vocal abuse can lead to throat irritation and coughing as well.
7. Gustatory Rhinitis
Gustatory rhinitis is linked to eating and it can lead certain people to produce more mucus. This is why your nose typically runs when you eat hot peppers. In some people, drinking milk can increase phlegm production due to the same response.
8. Allergic Conditions
Nasal allergies are another common reason for coughing up white mucus. There are numerous allergens which can lead to irritation of the nasal cavity as well as mucosa. This type of irritation leads to excess mucus production which is the body’s way of removing allergens.
9. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
This condition involves gastric acid being pushed into your lower esophagus, resulting in symptoms such as heartburn. Another symptom is thick, frothy and white mucus.
10. Other Causes
Numerous other causes can also lead to white or stagnant mucus production. These include excessive use of nasal sprays, cold weather, a foreign body within the nasal cavity and head trauma.
How to Relieve Coughing up White Mucus
1. Cough It Out
The mucus contains a lot of bacteria or viruses and is better not to be swallowed. Try to carry tissue with you at all times so you can wrap up your mucus after coughing it and throw it away.
2. Steam Inhalation
Take a hot shower or boil some water and place your head by the pot. This helps thin mucus and soothes your throat. Try adding a spoonful of eucalyptus oil to the hot water.
3. Keep Hydrated
Drink lots of fluids during the day. Try plain warm water, herbal tea and soup. Fluids thin your mucus, making it easier to cough up.
4. Gargle with Salt Water
If you are coughing up white mucus, try boiling three cups of water and then add four tablespoons of salt. When the solution cools down enough to put in your mouth, gargle it three to four times daily. This brings your mucus towards the upper throat and soothes the area.
5. Cough Syrup
You can find many cough syrups in your local pharmacy. Please pay attention to the label because some cough syrup brings side effects of drowsiness.
6. Try Certain Foods and Herbs
- Bell pepper works as a natural expectorant, thinning out the mucus so you can cough it out easier.
- You can also try gargling with a quarter spoon of myrrh in warm water to cleanse your throat and decrease infection.
- Garlic has antifungal and antibiotic properties, making it a natural expectorant.
- Licorice is another natural expectorant that soothes your throat.
- You can also mix fresh ginger and honey as ginger has oleoresins which fight infection and eliminate excess mucus while honey soothes the throat.
When to See a Doctor
Any persistent symptoms, wheezing or shortness of breath lasting over two weeks indicate that you should see the doctor. Go to the doctor right away if you are coughing up mucus that is green, brown or bloody.