Coughing Up White Mucus: Causes and Treatments

Coughing up white mucus from lungs for months or weeks can be really disturbing and alarming. The color of the mucus helps to determine the cause and how severe your cough is. Coughing up white phlegm could be a sign of an infection, allergies or irritation of the upper respiratory tract.

When your respiratory tract is infected or irritated, your body produces mucus to protect your airways and respiratory organs from germs, pathogens and particles.

The purpose of mucus is to:

  • Lubricate the respiratory tract
  • Filter out germs, viruses, bacteria and infectious particles

What does it mean when you cough up white Jelly Mucus

Constant or consistent coughing up of white or grey phlegm is a sign of an infection of the upper respiratory tract.

The infection could be caused by viruses or bacteria. The body produces mucous to fight off the infection.

Although a healthy and normal phlegm should be white and should not cause any disturbance or discomfort.

But when you are coughing white phlegm from the lungs non-stop, it indicates that the mucus membrane of the lungs are irritated, infected or inflamed.​

Reasons For Coughing UP White foamy mucus

White phlegm is usually caused by:

1. Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a constant cough with phlegm. It is usually caused by smoking. It can last for up to 3 months or more.

It is an infection of the bronchial tubes.​

2. ​Common Cold

Common cold is a popular cause of whitish mucus. Cold is caused by various viruses and bacteria.

It usually begins 2- 3 days after getting infected. And can last up to 14 days.

Common symptoms of cold are:​ coughing, mucus discharge, sneezing.

​The mucus could be watery, thick or creamy.

A prolonged cold could lead to sinuses infection.

3. Sinusitis​

Sinusitis or sinuses infection is a condition that occurs when the inner lining of the sinuses becomes infected, inflamed or swollen.

Sinuses are air cavities inside your skull or your face. Sinuses infection is usually caused by a viral infection.

Symptoms of sinuses are: pain, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, cough, throat irritation, sore throat.

4. Smoking​

Smoking damages the lining of the lungs. it damages and scars the small air ways.

Your lungs contain natural filters called cilia. When you smoke, you inhale impurities that build up in the lungs.

These impurities affects the way your cilia functions and makes it less efficient. With time the cilia will stop functioning and become paralysed.​

You produce mucus secretion, as a response to the inhaled impurities and chemicals.

Also, when you quit smoking, your cilia starts working again. You may also notice an increase in white phlegm after quitting.

This is your cilia or natural filter working hard to get rid of the toxins and build up in your lungs.​

The phlegm after quitting smoking may be brownish and sticky.

5. Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones is also known as tonsilloliths, are whitish or yellowish formations on or in the tonsils.

The tonsils are the structures that resembles glands at the back of your throat. They are made up of tissues that fight and prevent infections.

The tonsils help prevent unwanted objects from entering into the lungs. 

Tonsil stones are formed when debris, foods, dead cells and bacteria accumulate in the tonsil over a long period of time. This accumulated build up overtime gets harder and forms a stone.

Tonsil stones, after a while causes sore throat and dry throat. Excess mucus is then produced to help fight the dryness.

6. Strained vocal cords

Over used or strained vocal cords causes excessive mucus to be produced, to help lubricate the throat.

The symptoms of strained vocal cords are:  difficulty swallowing, production of excessive mucus and ear pain.

7. ​Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease(GERD) is a digestive disorder that happens when the stomach acid or stomach content flows upward back into the oesophagus.

The oesophagus is the gullet or a muscular food pipe that connects the mouth to the stomach.

Acid reflux is similar to heart burn and they both irritate the lining of the oesophagus causing GERD.

GERD causes excess mucus secretions.

8. Allergy

There are many allergens that can cause irritation of the nasal cavity. Allergen can cause dry cough once inhaled.

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is one of the common causes of white watery mucus. And it generally starts immediately after exposure to allergens such as pollens, grass, weeds, molds ,pets and dust mites . 

Symptoms of hay fever are: coughing, itchy eyes, sinuses pain running and watery mucus discharge.

9. Gustatory Rhinitis​

Gustatory rhinitis occurs when some people consume certain foods like hot peppers or spicy foods.

Eating such foods causes symptoms like watery running nose that resembles allergy or hay fever.​

Symptoms of gustatory rhinitis are : Sneezing, runny nose, post nasal drip and stuffy nose.

Home Remedies For white thick mucus

Home remedies or natural treatments for white colored mucus are:

1.  Drink lots of water

Dehydration can contribute to mucus production. Drinking lots of warm liquids can help loosen the mucus.

2. Gargle Salty Water

Warm salty water can help kill germs and clear mucus that are present at the back of your throat.

Make sure you gargle warm water and not cold water. Warm water help to dissolve the salt and loosen the mucus faster.​

3. Take Cough Remedies

Some cough remedies work to dry up phlegm or thin mucus. 

Try guaifenesin it help to thin out mucus.​

Is White Phlegm Lung Cancer

Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells or tissues grow in the lungs.

Symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • Cough that won't go away​
  • Chest infection
  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up phlegm or mucous

Coughing white phlegm is caused by a variety of reasons. If your phlegm is mixed with blood or brownish, it may be a sign of lung cancer.

Any abnormal or persistent cough for over 2 or 3 weeks should be reported to the doctor immediately.​

Coughing up clear phlegm with bubbles

Coughing up clear phlegm with bubbles can be an indication of pneumonia or GERD, postnasal drips or chronic bronchitis.

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