Causes of Excessive Phlegm & Mucus in the Throat

By Patricia | June 30, 2009

While chronic phlegm does become a serious cause for worry for many, the truth is that there are a number of reasons for phlegm or excessive mucus in throat.

For some, it may just be a case of morning reflux, with no excessive production of flem during the rest of the day. However, it could be a more serious problem such as lung cancer as well. If blood is present in the phlegm, it should be immediately checked with a medical health care provider.

In this article, we will discuss what causes excessive phlegm and mucus in throat and what can be done to reduce phlegm in the throat.

What is phlegm?

Phlegm is a thick liquid substance that is secreted by the mucous membrane in the windpipe or airways. This fluid is secreted mainly during an infection. Phlegm is a mixture containing the pathogen that caused the infection such as bacteria or virus, inflammatory cells that were produced as a response to the infection, as well as other particles.

Phlegm in Throat

The purpose of phlegm in the throat is to filter the air we breathe so that the tiny particles of dust that we breathe in do not enter the respiratory system. Phlegm is usually white or clear in color which means that the person is healthy. If for some reason, there the phlegm is a different color; it could indicate that the person is suffering from some kind of infection. Dark yellow phlegm signifies either a lower respiratory tract infection or a bacterial infection. People who smoke have dark brown colored phlegm. If there is blood in the phlegm or you are coughing up blood, it could be a symptom of bronchitis. Green colored phlegm is usually seen in people suffering from pneumonia. Phlegm occurs after eating due to the excessive mucus production that collects at the back of the throat. This is usually after eating a great deal of dairy products.

Mucus in Throat:

The yellowish greenish substance that clogs your throat all the time is the mucus in your throat. Throat and nose mucus is made by the cells lining the sinus passages. The glands in your nose and throat produce mucus throughout the day. About 1-2 quarts of mucus are produced by the linings of the sinus daily. Mucus plays an important role during the breathing process as it acts as a filter to stop foreign particles being accumulated into the respiratory system. Mucus in the throat all the time is an annoying condition and the causes are the same as that of post nasal drip.


Phlegm is produced as a result of an infection, an irritation to the throat, or a consequence of a serious disease or condition. Listed below are some of the causes of phlegm in adults and in children.

  • Infections: Infections such as the common cold, flu, bronchitis, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can result in excessive phlegm production.
  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reaction to irritants such as in asthma and hay fever and other irritants that are present in the air can also result in excessive production of phlegm.
  • Damage to vocal cords: Over exertion of the vocal cords can result in the vocal cords rubbing against each other, resulting in inflammation and excess mucus production. This is common for those who yell a lot, scream a lot, or sing a lot. Certain professionals are more prone to this problem than others as they tend to abuse their vocal cords much more.
  • Smoking: Smoking results in damage to the larynx. This is because the smoke particles get deposited over the larynx, drying out the vocal cords. In order to ease the dryness caused by smoke deposits, the airways produce more phlegm in order to line the passage.

How to reduce phlegm in throat?

Treating phlegm depends on what causes the phlegm in the first place. Removing the root cause is the most effective way to reduce phlegm in throat.

  • Avoiding things that trigger phlegm formation in the throat such as smoking and irritants in the air (by avoiding places that are dust prone), and trying not to not strain the vocal cords by screaming or yelling helps reduce excess phlegm.
  • If the phlegm in the throat is due to an infection, it will usually go away on its own in a few days and there is usually no need for medication. On the other hand, if the phlegm causes a lot of discomfort, simple home remedies such as inhaling steam or forcing the phlegm out by coughing or simply spitting it out can provide some relief from the discomfort experienced during this time.
  • Antibiotic use is to be restricted as much as possible as phlegm can be caused by viruses too, making the antibiotic not effective at all. Additionally, research suggests that abuse of antibiotics have created more resistant strains of bacteria than ever before.
  • Getting a lot of rest, eating a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of fluids are the best remedies for any mild illness. Good care can help prevent the infection from recurring as it provides the body the time it needs to heal itself.

Home Remedies:

  • Drink hot tea to which honey and lime has been added.
  • Mix ginger, cinnamon and carnation together. Add a cup of hot water to this mixture and then stir and strain it. Add some honey and drink the strained mixture.
  • Consume a few cloves of raw garlic before going to bed.
  • A mixture of hot milk and turmeric will give you relief as well.
  • Add a pinch of white pepper to a teaspoon of raw honey. Take this mixture twice a day for five days to dry up the phlegm from a sore throat.

Also, remember to expel phlegm whenever possible and especially during an infection as infected mucus can go on to affect other parts of the body as well.

Phlegm is not something to be anxious about; it is normal to have phlegm that lasts up to a week during an infection. On the other hand, if symptoms persist, or there is blood in the phlegm, or if there is excessive phlegm during pregnancy, it is best to consult with a doctor to help treat the problem effectively.

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