thick, stickyculturalÖcatarrh, Also known ascatarrh, is a symptom that usually results from an infection in the nasal passages, sinuses, lower airways, or lungs. It can be associated with a variety of medical conditions (not limited to infections), including the common cold,Asma,sinus infection,lung infection, micystic fibrosis.
Depending on the cause, frequent accompanying symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath and tiredness. This article covers the symptoms of thick, sticky mucus, common causes, how to see a doctor, diagnosis, and treatment.
Symptoms of thick and sticky mucus
In the presence of an infection, allergen, or irritant, your body can produce copious amounts of mucus to trap foreign invaders. However, large amounts of mucus can clog the airways in your nose, throat, lungs, and sinuses, making it difficult to breathe.
It can also cause coughing, a common symptom of thick, sticky mucus. If you have an increased amount of phlegm, you may cough up white, green, or brown.Sputum.
Thick, sticky mucus is rarely an isolated symptom. Depending on the cause, the following symptoms may occur:
- goose flesh
- cough (aproductive coughis when you have so much sputum that you pass thick greenish-yellow or brown sputum)
- shortness of breath
- tightness in the chest
- sore throat
- difficulty swallowing
- Muscle aches
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- skin irritation
Causes of thick and sticky mucus
from the bodymucous membranesproduce slime. These membranes line the airways from the nose to the lungs. They also produce mucus in the digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems.
Mucus is important to ensure body tissues do not dry out. It also filters dust,Allergens(substances that can cause an allergic reaction) and microbes.
While a slight increase in mucus production is sometimes natural, the presence of foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, or allergens like pollen can cause the body to overreact and create thick, sticky mucus that can clog your throat and nostrils.
Öa cold(a viral infection) andsinus infection(usually viral but can be bacterial orMushrooms) are common reasons why your body produces thicker mucus.
But a number of conditions can cause your body to produce thick, sticky mucus, including:
- allergies(Poland,Staub,animal fur,Pilzallergische Rhinosinusitis): mucus in nose, throat and/orgoteo postnasal
- Asma: A chronic condition of the airways that is inflamed and narrowed by various triggers, in which more mucus is produced and mucus plugs can form.
- Bronchitis: Inflammation of the larger airways
- lung infection: Bacterial or viral lung infection, you may cough up green, yellow or bloody phlegm
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Progressive inflammatory disease of the lungs, includingChronic bronchitismiemphysema
- Bronchial tases: Constant widening of the airways, leading to problems clearing mucus
- lung cancer: Coughing and spitting up blood or rust-colored sputum
- smoker's cough: Chronic smoking can make you cough up black or brown phlegm.
- cystic fibrosis: An inherited condition that leads to the production of thick mucus in the lungs and other organs.
- Amyotrophe Lateralsklerose(ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease): a progressive disease that attacks the nerve cells that control muscles
How to treat thick, sticky mucus
Treatment for thick, sticky mucus depends on the cause of the symptoms. A healthcare professional will monitor the underlying condition and suggest appropriate treatment for chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, COPD or cystic fibrosis.
Most cases of thick phlegm are due to respiratory viral infections, which are self-limiting (go away on their own). Manage your symptoms (under the guidance of a doctor) with over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as pain relievers,decongestants, miThe expectorantit can help you feel better. Over-the-counter cough and cold remedies should not be used in children under 4 years of age.
Sleeping in the propped position can help you breathe easier at night and relieve cough symptoms. Using a humidifier can also help.
If the cause of the runny nose is a bacterial infection (such as in some cases of sinusitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia), your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for mild to moderate cases. More severe cases may require intravenous (IV) antibiotics given in a hospital.
Viral infections like the common cold and most cases of acute bronchitis and sinusitis usually clear up on their own. You do not need antibiotics that do not work against viruses. Unnecessary use of antibiotics leads to bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics, which can mean a secondary infection that is difficult to treat.
Using antihistamines and washing linens regularly can reduce symptoms caused by allergies to pollen, dust mites, and other allergens.
If you have a rare condition like cystic fibrosis or ALS, you may experience a thick discharge that affects your ability to breathe and swallow. Proper hydration, cough exercises, and a portable suction device can help relieve your symptoms.
Complications and risk factors associated with thick, sticky mucus
If you have a bacterial infection and are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to complete the course of antibiotics and not to stop prematurely. This ensures that any bacteria are killed so the infection doesn't come back, which can lead to worse symptoms and thick mucus.
If you smoke, quitting reduces your risk of breathing problems like infections, COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and lung cancer.
There are many conditions that cause thick mucuspneumonia risk factors, which can be serious or life-threatening.These include asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis and COPD. You're also at higher risk of pneumonia if you're 2 years old or younger or 65 years old or older, have a compromised immune system, smoke, are hospitalized, or have a serious illness.
Are there tests to diagnose the cause of thick, sticky mucus?
For mild to moderate symptoms, you can use a thermometer at home to check for a fever. If you have a fever for more than five days, see a doctor.
Diagnosing the cause of thick, sticky mucus begins with a doctor taking a detailed history of your symptoms and performing a physical exam.
The exam includes taking yourvital functions(heart rate, breathing rate, temperature and blood pressure), listen to your heart and lungs, check for swellinglymph nodes, and perform a targeted examination of the head and neck to look for signs of infection.
To determine what might be causing the thick, sticky mucus, your doctor may recommend/perform other tests:
- Röntgen-Thorax (CXR): A chest x-ray is a relatively quick and inexpensive imaging tool that can be used to determine the presence of fluid in the lungs.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): ANDcomplete blood countmeasures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the blood. An increased number of white blood cells (immune cells) can indicate a viral or bacterial infection. The presence of fluid in the lungs on the x-ray and a high white blood cell count on the complete blood count may indicate the need for a sputum culture.
- Sputum Kultur: A sputum culture is a laboratory test that checks for bacterial infections in the airways. Often used inpneumonia diagnosis, tuberculosis and bronchiectasis.
When to consult a doctor
If your symptoms initially were those of a common cold and last 10 days or longer, get better and then worsen, or you have other health problems that are getting worse, see a doctor.
A high fever, chills, malaise, chest tightness, productive cough, or shortness of breath are all ominous signs that could indicate a serious problem that requires immediate medical attention.
Viral and bacterial infections are two common causes of thick, sticky mucus that can clog the airways and cause coughing and shortness of breath. Viral respiratory diseases usually resolve on their own. Over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants and expectorants, can relieve symptoms.
If symptoms of thick mucus persist for more than 10 days, see a doctor for advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
A word from Verywell
If you have a blocked nasal or sinus discharge or are coughing up phlegm, you may feel miserable. This is usually a temporary part of a viral illness, like the common cold, and will go away on its own. For other causes, treating the underlying cause of the thick mucus is the best way to resolve the symptoms.