Coughing Up Mucus Can Be Good For You

Did you know coughing up mucus is often a good thing? We usually associate a cough with an illness, or a sign that something in the body isn't quite right. A cough therefore has somewhat of a bad reputation, a reputation which is not fully deserved. Coughing is the body's way of trying to cure or fix something, even if that something is just a harmless tickle in the throat. When we have a cold, mucus accumulates to protect the throat and air passages. Coughing is a means of regulating the accumulation of mucus, by attempting to prevent or clear up congestion. Coughing usually doesn't make the situation worse. Quite the opposite. Coughing is the body's way of trying to keep things from getting worse. It's also a way of telling us whether whatever is wrong with us is getting better or is getting worse.

We usually clear our throat a number of times during the day, a natural activity we aren't even aware of most of the time. Clearing the throat is really a mild form of a cough, and when we do it it's usually to help keep our throat and ear passages clear. Mucus is always present in our throat and esophagus, performing a protective function. When we find ourselves coughing up mucus, it's most often due to the fact that more mucus than normal has accumulated and coughing helps to get rid of the excess.

A Cough Is Not A Disease

The cough itself is not really the problem most of the time. The problem is either whatever is causing an excessive amount of mucus to form, or is causing irritation. Dust and smoke are two examples of the latter case, as either can irritate the lining of the throat. Coughing can reduce the irritation although when dust or smoke are the problem, the cough is apt to be a dry cough.  Whatever the cause, a cough is in effect our friend, at least up to a point. A persistent or heavy cough is a sign that something is wrong.  A chronic cough can also mean that something is wrong, or things are headed in that direction. A smoker's cough for example should serve as a warning, although that warning all too often goes unheeded.

Colored Mucus Often Equates To A Problem

Whenever an abnormal amount of mucus is being coughed up, and the reason for the coughing is not obvious, one should take note of the color of the mucus. In its natural form, mucus is white or clear in color. Usually if a cough is due to a minor throat irritation, a “tickle” for instance, or one is suffering from bronchitis, the mucus will be white or clear.  Even mucus coughed up due to smoking tends to be its natural color. If the mucus is some other color, or contains blood, it's often a sign of something more serious, such as a disease or the presence of an infection.

Yellow mucus, especially very thick yellow mucus is a sure sign of infection, and yellow mucus can also indicate a lung problem infection, such as pneumonia. During an asthma attack a person also may cough up yellow mucus. The yellow color is due to an accumulation of inflamed and infected cells. Green mucus is also indicative of either pneumonia or some other disorder centered in the lungs or bronchial tubes. If you should ever find yourself hospitalized with pneumonia, don't be surprised it the doctor or nurse provides you with plenty of tissue paper and encourages you to cough. They'll periodically check the color of the mucus that's being coughed up. If the mucus is green it's regarded as a good sign. It means the infection in the lungs is being cleared out. What no one wants to see, however, is blood in the mucus. It could simply be due to an open wound in the throat, which may or may not be serious, but blood in the mucus could also be indicative of a severe infection in the lungs, potentially a very dangerous condition.

Taking Cough Medicine Is Usually The Wrong Approach

Insofar as treatment is concerned, it's probably worth remembering that it's usually the accumulation of mucus or inflammation, and not the cough, that's at the root of the problem. Whether the mucus is in the throat, the bronchial tubes, or in the lungs, we need to cough to help get rid of it, and get rid of any infection as well. The medicine we take should be designed to break up the mucus so we can cough it up more easily, to fight infection, or both.  Eating warm rather than cold foods and inhaling steam can also help break up mucus. Citrus fruits and garlic, and plants belonging to the onion family, can be helpful as well. Cough medicine is not always as helpful as it’s claimed to be. While it can have a soothing effect, it seldom actually cures anything. As irritating as it can be at times, coughing up mucus is actually good for us. Just try not to get into the habit of spitting.