Mucus has many names, including “snot,” which is the sticky glue-like material that pours from our nose during a cold. Mucus is also known as phlegm, the dirt that can block your lungs and cause coughing during a cold. No one is probably a fan of mucus, but it is a lot more beneficial to our health than a runny nose. Our bodies make mucus all the time and it plays a significant role in keeping it healthy and functioning correctly.
Mucus is present in the lining of the moist surfaces in our body, such as the sinuses, mouth, intestines, lungs, and stomach. Even our eyes have a coating of mucus, which is very thin and provides the eyes with moisture to protect themselves from dust and microorganisms. The main function of mucus is to provide lubrication so that the tissues do not dry out and act as a defense line against pathogens or foreign bodies. Dr. Andrew Lane, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at John Hopkins University says, mucus is very significant for clarifying the materials we breathe in through our nose, such as allergens, microorganisms, and dust particles. Anything that we breathe in entraps in the mucus-like flypaper.”
- Mucus At Work
Every passing hour, we are inhaling hundreds of thousands of bacteria through our nose, but you will never get a hint of it. Bacteria start landing on the mucus-lined surfaces of the nostrils and start entrapping. The tiny hairs are known as “cilia” do their work and push the mucus up and leave it outside the lungs with all the trapped dust, viruses and bacteria. Dr. Boucher says mucus usually comes up at a gradual rate towards the backside of the throat. And if you are normal and healthy, you will not feel it and it will just move down to the abdomen.”
The body makes loads of mucus, although there is no record of how much is present actually in the body. Water is the major component of mucus, but it also consists of sugars, proteins, and specific molecules that aid the body reduces the penetration of harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Usually, you are not conscious of all the mucus that gradually moves through the body until you get ill. The mucus, including the bacteria and other waste substances, then moves towards the stomach and eventually moves out of the body.
- Excess Of Mucus
We can usually notice mucus only when our body produces excess amounts of mucus or if the consistency of mucus starts altering. Infection can produce mucus stickier and thicker. It might also lead to inflammation in the membranes lined with nasal mucosa and the rest of our airway. This might cause certain glands of the airway to make an excess of mucus. The mucus might get thicker with bacteria and cells arriving for the attack against the infection, stimulating even more mucus production. Dr. Bruce Bochner, an allergy expert at Northwestern University, says, “When the mucus is especially excessive, it can be troublesome in terms of the clogged nose, post-nasal drip, and runny nose. Post-nasal drip occurs when too much mucus from the back of the nose starts gathering and drips down the back of the throat. It is a common cause of cough during the winter season.
Allergies might also be the cause your body makes excess mucus. When you are suffering from an allergy, your immune system starts overreacting to a harmless substance such as food, animal dander, dust, or pollen. The cells in the airways and lungs release specific substances such as histamine and cytokines. Histamine makes a person sneeze and causes the nose’s mucous membranes to get inflamed and the glands to make too much mucus. Bochner and his team studied how some proteins are linked to inflammation, swelling, and other types of allergies. They are also exploring how some components of mucus might aid in fighting inflammation.
Dr. Bochner further explains, “There are two main types of secretions produced in the nose. Factors like going out in the cold, eating spicy food and allergies might result in extra watery leakage from the nose. The body makes the watery leakage thicker when there is a sinus infection (due to bacteria) or when you suffer from a cold (due to viruses). Most mucus problems are usually temporary, but excess production of mucus might lead to some chronic conditions such as “cystic fibrosis.” It is a genetic disorder in which there is a thickening of mucus in the lungs, becoming stickier. Bochner and his team are working to look for new treatments for cystic fibrosis and other associated lung diseases.
- Colors Of Mucus
Mucus might come in several colors, and this would not surprise a person if he or she ever closely observes it after blowing their nose. Usually, mucus is clear and mostly contains water. During a cold, you might find that your snot is yellowish or cloudy. According to Dr. Lane, the special proteins released by the cells might get stuck in the phlegm and contribute to its color. Lane is studying how a cell in the sinus and nose involves chronic sinusitis, a long-term inflammation. Black or brown mucus is way more common in patients with lung diseases and heavy smokers. While bloody, greenish, or brownish colors might hint towards bacterial infection. But it is not always the case. It is problematic to figure out what is actually wrong by looking at the color of your mucus. Since many factors might cause your body to make an excess of mucus, doctors might rely on other factors to treat and diagnose the problem.
- Wonders Of Mucus
While excess phlegm and snot may not seem pleasant, it forms a layer of protection between your body and the outside world. So it is very significant for our body. Mucus is not just beneficial for our body, but it is also the mucus that allows a snail to move around the ground. Mucus or slime is a slippery coating that protects the fish from bacteria’s attack in the water. Dr. Bochner termed mucus a very remarkable matter.
Wise Choices When There Is An Excess Of Mucus:
- Talking with your healthcare provider if the congestion or runny nose lasts more than three weeks or occurs along with a fever.
- Trying a nasal saline rinse or spray to clear out mucus so that you breathe more easily. There are plenty of commercial products available, but you can also make one at home by distilled or boiled water in a pot.
- Apply a moist, warm washcloth to your face.
- Use a vaporizer or humidifier to keep your nose and throat lubricated to reduce phlegm or mucus production.
- Consider taking over-the-counter medications. Expectorants thin the mucus to help clear it from the chest, while decongestants might shrink blood vessels, so you might produce less mucus. Antihistamines might also help if your mucus is resulting from allergies.
Causes of Constant Phlegm and Mucus in Your Throat (Clearing Congestion)