So if you’re ready, let’s go ahead and dive right in.
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1. Take the Right Medications
The most effective way to get rid of mucus and phlegm is to take the medications that are prescribed directly by your doctor. The is especially true for those who have underlying respiratory conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or bronchiectasis.
But if you’re looking for other means, some over the counter medications may be helpful as well. Medications such as expectorants can help to loosen up mucus and phlegm that has built up in the lungs. This makes it easier to cough it up or blow it out through the nose.
Certain types of decongestants may provide short-term relief but they are not recommended for continuous use.
2. Drink Plenty of Fluids
You probably grew up hearing your parents say, “drink plenty of water,” whenever you had a cold. It may sound cliche, but it actually does help improve the functionality of all the major systems of the body.
Not to mention, staying hydrated by drinking a lot of water helps to thin out the mucus and phlegm in your lungs as well. To speed up the process even more, drinking warm liquids can be even more helpful as it increases the temperature of your chest. You can sip on warm soup, broth, tea, or cider.
Do remember to avoid beverages such as alcohol, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks as these can cause dehydration which makes secretions thicker and more difficult to remove.
3. Take a Hot Bath or Shower
In this case, the main benefit of taking a hot bath or shower is to inhale the steam that is produced from the warm water. Steam acts as a natural way to help break up and get rid of mucus and phlegm.
Gently breathe in and out as the aerosol particles enter your airways and lungs. The humidity from the steam should work to loosen up the mucus and phlegm so that it can be removed. It also helps reduce sinus pressure, chest congestion, and other nagging symptoms as well.
4. Practice the Deep Coughing Technique
Deep coughing is an effective technique that can be used to get rid of phlegm and mucus. As opposed to a hacking cough that basically only clears the throat, deep coughing is more effective for clearing the lungs.
Begin by taking a deep breath and hold it for 2-3 seconds. Then use your stomach muscles to force the air from your lungs. Repeat this process two or three times and you should start seeing the positive effects.
5. Try the Huff Coughing Technique
Huff coughing is a forced expiration technique that is an alternative to deep coughing that is also useful in getting rid of mucus and phlegm.
All you have to do is take a breath that is slightly deeper than your normal tidal volume breath. Use the muscles in your stomach to make a series of three rapid exhalations with an open airway. This is where the technique gets its name, as you will literally be making huffing sounds. Lastly, perform a series of controlled diaphragmatic breaths and perform a deep cough if you feel secretions start loosening up.
6. Breathe Humidified Air
In general, breathing dry air can irritate the nose and throat and make it difficult to remove mucus and phlegm.
You can use a cool-mist humidifier to alleviate dryness and add humidity to the air. By breathing in the humidified air, this helps loosen up mucus and phlegm which makes it easier to be removed by coughing.
Make sure to keep doors and windows closed to maximize the effects of the humidifier. You can run the humidifier throughout the day, but be sure to clean the device frequently to remove trapped particles or irritants and change out the water each day.
7. Use Vapor Rubs
Vapor rubs aren’t meant to cure the problem, but they can provide short-term relief. They contain ingredients such as menthol, camphor, or eucalyptus oil that help to soothe chest congestion.
You can apply it directly to your throat and chest in order to relieve the stuffy feeling caused by excess mucus and phlegm.
8. Keep Your Allergies Under Control
Not only can seasonal allergies cause a runny nose, itchy throat, and watery eyes, they can also cause excessive mucus and phlegm to form as well. So, keeping your allergies in check is kind of a no-brainer.
Make sure that you’re using your typical prescription or over the counter allergy medications in order to alleviate these symptoms.
9. Eat Foods That Are Good for the Respiratory System
Anecdotal studies have shown that certain foods and drinks can be effective in getting rid of mucus and phlegm. Take spicy foods, for example. Spices such as chilli and cayenne pepper contain substances that help clear of the sinuses. This can help make removing secretions much easier.
More examples of foods that are good for you lungs includes:
- Foods with Healthy Fats
- Spices that Reduce Inflammation
- Fruits and Vegetables High in Antioxidants
10. Use an Airway Clearance Device
It can be challenging to eliminate excess phlegm or mucus from the lungs in conditions such as COPD, bronchiectasis, and cystic fibrosis. This is when an airway clearance device may come in handy.
The most common types are handheld with a mouthpiece. You simply blow into the device and they work by causing vibrations which help to break up mucus from the airways so that it can be coughed up more easily.
Thank you so much for reading and as always, breathe easy my friend.
John Landry, BS, RRT
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
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