What Is Throat Mucus?

Excessive throat mucus can cause discomfort.
Recurrent throat mucus problems might require a medical evaluation.
A crossection of the human head, including the throat.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Throat mucus is a thick, sticky substance found in the throat and produced by specialized cells. It lines both the airways and the esophagus, and is designed to act as a lubricant and trap for pollutants to prevent them from entering the body. People with medical problems may develop a buildup of mucus, and the presence of excess mucus can be a diagnostic sign used by a physician in the evaluation of a patient.

Many structures inside the body produce mucus. This substance is known for being slimy, somewhat slippery, and sticky. When small particles enter the throat, they are trapped in the mucus and can be expectorated later. This helps protect the body from bacteria, viruses, and particulates that might irritate the esophagus and airways. Mucus also lubricates, keeping tissues flexible and in the case of the esophagus, helping people swallow more easily.

Lack of throat mucus can contribute to difficulty swallowing and may expose people to increased risk of infection. More commonly, people have the opposite problem and start overproducing, usually in response to an immune threat or inflammation. If the throat becomes inflamed or infected, the cells inside can start producing more fluids in an attempt to combat the problem. The patient may develop symptoms like a hacking cough or a sense of constantly having something in the throat.

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Patients are usually advised to blow their noses regularly to prevent dripping of nasal mucus into the throat, an issue that can lead to discomfort. Clearing throat mucus can be accomplished with the help of expectorant medications to help loosen the mucus so patients can bring it up when they cough. Medications may also be offered to treat the underlying cause of excess mucus. Generally, suppression is not desired, as the mucus is being produced for a reason, but a mobile suction device can be used by a patient who is having trouble breathing because of throat mucus to suction out some of the fluid.

People who experience recurring problems with throat mucus may want to see a doctor for evaluation, as they may have a medical issue that is causing chronic inflammation and irritation. The doctor can conduct a physical exam and recommend testing to develop a diagnosis and provide treatment advice for the patient. In the case of people with chronic diseases, it may not be possible to resolve the mucus problems, but some steps can be taken for comfort.

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turquoise
Post 3

I think the best natural expectorant is lemon juice. When I have excess mucus in my throat, I make myself a large glass of lemonade. The store bought stuff doesn't work though, it has to be made from fresh lemons.

I also gargle with salt water before I go to bed. It helps get rid of mucus and it also kills bacteria and relieves sore throat. I don't like taking medications unnecessarily, so I always try these remedies before I reach for over the counter drugs.

literally45
Post 2

@fBoyle-- That's an interesting question! I think you voiced something that many people wonder about but no one really asks.

I'm not a doctor or anything but my mom is a nurse and she used to tell me the same thing growing up. The reason is because when you have an infection, the mucus in your throat contains harmful viruses or bacteria. If you swallow it, you will be giving them a second entry into your body.

So when you're sick, you need to carry tissues with you and spit out throat mucus when you get it. Also drink lots of water because it works as a decongestant.

fBoyle
Post 1

Why am I always told to spit out throat mucus instead of swallowing it? My friends tell me it's bad but they can't tell me why.

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