Mucus in the throat occurs when there is excess mucus production in the throat due to an upper respiratory infection or allergy, for example.
Generally, you feel that something is stuck in the throat, and this is due to irritation of the throat tissue from mucus, or the lack of moisture in the mucus, which can cause discomfort.
To relieve this symptom, you can consider trying a few methods to relieve this irritation or to moisten the mucus so that it can be eliminated easily with coughing without sticking to the throat walls.
What causes mucus in the throat?
Mucus in the throat can occur for the following reasons:
1. Common cold
Mucus in the throat is a common symptom of a cold. It occurs due to increased mucus production in the respiratory airways along with throat irritation. Mucus worsens when lying down, and can occur with symptoms like fever, coughing, sneezing and a stuffy nose.
See the main differences between a cold and flu and how to treat each infection.
What to do: You can perform nasal irrigations with saline water throughout the day, especially if you notice lots of mucus build-up. Other symptoms like fever and headache should be assessed by a doctor, who may prescribe analgesics and antipyretics.
Check-out some home remedies for the cold that you can use at home to treat mild symptoms naturally.
COVID-19 can cause mucus in the throat due to secretions and irritation of the airways caused by the virus. It usually present with other symptoms, like fever, coughing, stuffy nose or runny nose, as well as loss of taste or smell. Read more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how it is transmitted.
What to do: If you suspect you may have COVID.19, you should consult a lung specialist or family doctor for treatment with analgesics and antivirals. The mucus in the throat tends to disappear as the infection resolves.
In more serious cases where you additionally have symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain and drowsiness, further treatment may be needed in a hospital setting.
Allergies are another common cause of mucus in the throat. It usually occurs with symptoms like runny nose, coughing, sneezing and tearing in the eyes.
Symptoms tend to be triggered by contact with dust, pollen or animal fur.
What to do: Mucus in the throat caused by allergies usually resolves if triggers, like dust or pollen, are avoided. You should keep your home well-ventilated and store newspapers or magazines appropriately to avoid dust build up. Be sure to clean your home with moist towels to keep dust levels low.
You should see an allergy specialist or family doctor if your symptoms are frequent and intense. Confirmed allergies can be treated with medications, like anti-allergenics and corticosteroid nasal sprays.
4. Chronic bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a condition that is most common in smokers. It can cause mucus in the throat due to increased secretion production in the airways.
Patients with chronic bronchitis may also experience a productive cough that can last for months.
What to do: If you suspect you may have chronic bronchitis, you should see a family doctor or lung specialist for assessment, If diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe puffers like bronchodilators and corticosteroids to decrease the mucus and coughing.
Chronic bronchitis caused by smoking tends to improve following smoking cessation.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal cavities, which are hollow cavities in the face. Swelling in these areas can cause mucus in the throat.
Many people also report yellow secretions from the nose, as well as facial pain, fever and coughing.
What to do: If you have symptoms of sinusitis, you should see a doctor or ENT for assessment. The doctor may recommend nasal irrigation with saline water, as well as medications like antibiotics and analgesics as necessary. Check-out some home remedies for sinsusitis to complement your prescribed medical treatment.
Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) can cause mucus in the throat. This is because acidic stomach content can back-up into the esophagus and irritation the airways, causing increased mucus production.
Other common symptoms of GERD include burning in the throat or chest, and backflow of stomach content toward the mouth, especially when lying down. Read more about the symptoms of GERD and acid reflux and what can cause it.
What to do: GERD symptoms should be assessed by a family doctor or gastroenterologist. If confirmed, treatment with medication, like antacids, can be initiated, and these will usually help to relieve the sensation of mucus in the throat.
GERD can also be treated with other measures, like weight loss, avoiding meals at bed time, and decreasing intake of spicy food, fatty food and alcohol. Learn more about a GERD diet and which foods to avoid.
7. Laryngeal cancer
Although it is rare, laryngeal cancer can also cause mucus in the throat, as well as hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. This type of cancer is more common in older adults and smokers.
What to do: If you suspect you may have laryngeal cancer, you should seek medical assessment urgently to confirm a diagnosis and start treatment. Treatment may involve surgical removal of any tumors, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
Home remedies for mucus in the throat
Five ways you can clear the mucus in your throat include:
1. Salt and water gargles
Throat gargles are very easy and help to relate throat discomfort, because the salt draws water to the throat walls. This creates a barrier that not only hydrates the throat and protects it from dust, but it also helps to protect it from further irritation.
To perform a salt and water rinse, you should:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of salt in half a cup of warm water.
- Stir this well, until the water has completely dissolved.
- Pour the mixture into your mouth and tilt your head back.
- Gargle the water for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat until the you have gargled all of the water.
This method provides quick relief, and therefore you can use it anytime you feel intense discomfort, up to 3 to 4 times per day.
2. Rubbing essential oil on your chest
Eucalyptus essential oil is a natural way to loosen mucus that is stuck in the throat and open the airways. It can relieve throat irritation and improve discomfort caused by post-nasal drip.
To use essential oil, you can mix 1 or 2 drops of it in coconut oil or another vegetable-based oil, and rub this mixture over your chest. In the beginning, this method may trigger a slight cough, however, the cough will reduce and throat irritation should improve.
In most cases, using eucalyptus essential oil diluted in another vegetable oil should not trigger any skin irritation. However, if you notice any redness or itching, you are advised to wash the skin with water and refrain from using the essential oil.
3. Drink lemon tea with honey
Lemon has the capacity to break-up mucus molecules, which makes it more fluid-like and easier to eliminate. Honey helps to coat the throat, which reduces irritation of the throat tissue. Therefore, this tea is an excellent way to relieve the sensation of something stuck in the throat.
To prepare this home remedy, you should mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a cup of hot water and add 1 teaspoon of honey. Stir well and drink the tea while warm. Learn about other teas you can try to relieve throat inflammation.
4. Vapor inhalation
Nebulizers are great for hydrating the throat lining, but also to loosen any mucus in the throat, which allows it to be easily eliminated.
To do a nebulizer at home, you are advised to:
- Pour 1 to 2 L (about 30 to 60 oz) of boiling water in a bowl.
- Place a towel over your head and cover the bowl as well.
- Inhale the vapor that rises from the bowl.
This inhalation can be done with an actual nebulizer tool, which is equipment that creates steam for inhalation via a mask.
When using a nebulizer or when doing your own vapor inhalation, you can add some eucalyptus essential oil to relieve throat irritation and relieve coughing.
5. Drink 2 liters (or 12 cups) of water
Although this may seem like a simple tip, it is one of the best ways to relieve excess mucus in the throat. Drinking water moisturizes secretions that are stuck in the throat, allowing them to be easily eliminated through coughing. Fluids can be consumed as tea or with coconut water.
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor for further assessment if you have constant mucus in the throat that does not improve, as well as:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss with no apparent reason
- Burning in the throat, chest and mouth
In these cases, mucus in the throat can be related to more serious conditions, like sinusitis, GERD or even cancer. For this reason, it is advised to seek assessment to determine the underlying cause.