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What is catarrh and how to treat

Cough with catarrh is a defense mechanism of the body in an attempt to eliminate the secretions of the respiratory system, arising mainly when there is an inflammation of the bronchi or lungs. When catarrh has a certain color or is thick it may be a sign of allergies, sinusitis or respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis or even cancer. So if your cough does not improve within 5 days, go to a pulmonologist.

Therefore, when catarrh does not have a clear, almost liquid form, it may be important to consult a pulmonologist to start treatment as soon as possible, so as to avoid complications, especially with bedridden, small children or the elderly.

Below are the different colors of catarrh and what to do in each case:

1. Green or yellow catarrh

What is catarrh and how to treat

These colors usually arise when neutrophils are present in the airways, which are defense cells of the body that produce a green protein that is dissolved in catarrh, and the color varies according to the amount of the protein. So this type of catarrh can indicate an infection in the airways or nasal sinuses, like pharyngitis or pneumonia, for example.

What to do: A pulmonologist or general practitioner should be consulted to identify the type of infection causing the catarrh and to begin treatment with the appropriate antibiotic.

2. Red catarrh or catarrh with blood

What is catarrh and how to treat

When the blood present in the catarrh is in small quantities it is usually a sign of bronchitis. When the amount of blood is in greater quantities it may indicate more serious problems such as tuberculosis, pnuemonia or lung cancer.

What to do:  You should consult a pulmonologist to do diagnostic tests, like X-ray, microbiological assessment from the catarrh to identify the problem and initiate appropriate treatment, which is usually done with bronchodilators in the case of bronchitis or antibiotics in the case of tuberculosis, and treatment should be done as indicated by the physician.

3. White or grey catarrh

What is catarrh and how to treat

This type of catarrh is usually a sign of an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, but may also arise during an influenza or sinus infection, when the sinuses become very full and begin to drain into the throat.

In rare cases, this coloration can also occur when eating too many dairy products, as the milk derivatives make the catarrh thicker, presenting a whitish color when it is eliminated.

What to do: You should drink about 2 liters of water a day to help eliminate the catarrh, and if there are no improvements, you should consult a general practitioner to start treatment for the problem that is causing the catarrh.

In cases of influenza, for example, the treatment goal is to relieve the symptoms, and the doctor recommends the use of Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, for example. Sinusitis can also be treated in this way, but the doctor may also recommend the use of corticosteroids or antibiotics depending on the cause of sinusitis.

4. Brown or black catarrh

What is catarrh and how to treat

Smokers and people who work in polluted areas, like mines and quarries, normally have brown or black catarrh. This happens because particles such as tar or resin stick to the airways. In addition, brown catarrh can also arise due to the ingestion of some foods, such as chocolate, coffee or red wine, for example

What to do:  It is recommended you avoid areas with a lot of pollution or dust, and stop smoking, if it your case.

5. Pink catarrh

What is catarrh and how to treat

Cough with pink catarrh is usually an indicator that there is fluid in the lungs and is therefore very common in cases of heart problems, such as heart failure, in which blood collects around the lungs, causing fluid to enter the lungs.

What to do: In this case it is important to consult a pulmonologist or general cardiologist to adjust the treatment of the problem that is causing pink catarrh, which can be done with the intake of diuretic medication such as Furosemide in cases of heart problems.

What can catarrh consistency indicate

Normal catarrh has a more liquid consistency and is easily reabsorbed by the body and doesn't complicate breathing. But catarrh can become thicker in situations like:

  • Being in a dry environment, such as a room with air conditioning;
  • Not drinking enough water during the day;
  • Having a respiratory allergy to pollen or dust, for example:
  • Taking medication that can dry secretions, like antidepressants, antihistamines or nasal decongestants.

In addition, catarrh also gets thicker during flu or colds, for example, but any other infection can also have this result. This is because the body has more work to eliminate viruses and bacteria and therefore needs more water to function, leaving the catarrh drier.

Thick catarrh can lodge itself in the throat turning breathing difficult, making the voice hoarse and for it to be eliminated it is very important to drink about 2 liters of water a day and do nebulizations with water or saline, because it helps to fluidize the secretions and facilitates their elimination. 

What is catarrh and how to treat

How to treat cough with catarrh

When you have a cough with transparent catarrh you should do:

  • Nebulizations with saline to decrease the thickness and quantity of mucus, helping to breathe better or inhaling hot boiling water or hot water from the shower;
  • Drink at least 2 liters of water, juice or tea a day, to fluidize the secretions, facilitating their withdrawal;
  • Cough whenever you feel the presence of secretions, not swallowing the secretions;
  • Take expectorant teas, which facilitate the elimination of catarrh.

In some cases, it may be necessary to take medication through medical recommendation like a Vick cough syrup.

Home remedies to free catarrh

  • Inhale the steam from boiling water and 1 tablespoon of coarse salt and 1 drop of eucalyptus essential oil;
  • Drink the tea made from an onion peel with honey and 1 pinch of white pepper, 2 times a day;
  • Drink the juice of 1 orange with 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of honey and 3 drops of propolis extract;
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin C like orange, mandarin and raw pepper because this strengthens the immune system.
  • Also, you can make an orange juice with watercress and take it every day.

When you have a cough with catarrh it is important not to take any medication for dry cough because it is vital you eliminate the catarrh to avoid complications such as pneumonia, for example.

Home remedies to treat cough with catarrh in pregnancy

Cough with catarrh can also occur in pregnancy, and can be very uncomfortable and to treat it is essential to drink plenty of water, juices or teas, so that the catarrh becomes more fluid and is eliminated more easily.

Orange juice is also great for moisturizing the body and as it is rich in vitamin C. It is a great home remedy to strengthen the immune system to fight the flu and the cold.

During pregnancy, one should not take any medication without medical advice because they can harm the baby, so before taking any medication consult your physician.

When to go to the doctor

Medical help should be sought when the cough has green, yellow, blood or brown catarrh because these colors may indicate the presence of microorganisms in the lungs that may have to be treated with antibiotics, for example.

It is also recommended to go to a clinic when there is fever, hoarseness and when the cough with catarrh makes breathing difficult and has not passed after 5 days.

The doctor may order a lung x-ray and a catarrh exam to evaluate the color, consistency, and microorganism involved, so as to make the diagnosis and indicate the best treatment,

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