So, don’t even pretend, you know that you have always wondered how your body produces so much mucus. It’s mind-blowing, and disgusting, at the same time. There seems to be no end to the constant stream of fluid vacating your nose, and the pile of used tissues seems to grow by the hour.
Let’s discuss how and why the human body produces so much mucus, the different types that occur, and the 8 simple ways to feel less weighed down by mucus while you wait to recover from illness.
What Does Mucus Do?
Mucus, or snot, is what the body uses to get rid of invaders. When the body catches a virus, bacterial infection, or foreign object like allergens or dirt, the invader migrates to the mucus membrane of the nose, causing an inflammatory reaction. This sets off a red alert, resulting in a bunch of signal substances being released into the membranes, including proteins, antibodies, and dissolved salts.
As long as the foreign body, bacteria, or virus is still in your body, your mucus production will not slow.
The Mucus Color Meaning
The color of snot can be deceptive. Our parents and grandparents were taught a mucus color chart for telling how sick they were. Some of that information may have made its way to you. The truth is, though, clear and colorless phlegm does not necessarily mean we are healthy, and yellow or green tint isn’t a surefire indication of a viral or bacterial infection.
How Does Mucus Get its Color?
When the body is infected with a viral or bacterial sickness, in particular, our immune system sends neutrophils (also known as white blood cells) to the site of infection. Their purpose is to help the closest mucus membrane fight the infection. These are the little havoc-wreakers that lead to increased production of mucus and changes in color or texture.
The neutrophils are made up, in part, of an enzyme that has a slightly yellow-greenish color. The more neutrophils that are sent, the greener the color. However, the same color can be present whether the infection is from a virus or a bacterial invasion.
Some people will have snot that runs clear, yet testing by their doctor indicates a serious bacterial sinus infection.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests waiting 12 days for your body’s immune system to beat the infection. If you aren’t better by then, contact your doctor, as it may be a bad bacterial infection after all. That sure seems like a long time to suffer, doesn’t it? Their reasoning is because our immune systems do have the capability to beat both viral and bacterial infections. That’s not to say we don’t feel miserable while it’s happening.
8 Hacks* for Getting Rid of Mucus
Reducing the mucus that is produced from infections can be a tricky thing. However, we’ve collected some tips and tricks below to help with the drainage. In order to feel better, you ultimately want to help your body cycle through the nasty phlegm, a.k.a. get it out of you.
#1 – Blow your nose properly.
The correct way to blow your nose is one nostril at a time, blowing gently. Blowing too hard can cause tiny breaks in the sinus area and move bacteria further into the body.
#2 – Drink half your body weight in liquids.
Particularly warm liquids, and preferably plain water.
#3 – Inhale steam.
Try this personal steam inhaler or a steam vaporizer. You can also use a large bowl and towel. For this method, boil a few cups of water and let it cool in the bowl, so it doesn’t burn you. Sit in a chair with your face atop the bowl, covering your head with the towel. Some people even prefer neti pots.
#4 – Crank up the humidity.
If you have a humidifier built into your furnace, this is an excellent whole-home feature. Otherwise, you can use this USB-powered portable humidifier. Another inexpensive option is to sit in the bathroom with the shower running and the door closed.
#5 – Apply a warm compress.
Place it on the sinuses or even over your entire face.
#6 – Gargle warm salt water.
The salt helps pull swelling and irritants from the throat and sinuses.
#7 – Adjust your pillows into an elevated position.
Lying on your back (this is going to be gross) can have the effect of gargling the mucus and restricting it from moving through your sinuses. Elevating your head helps work with gravity to keep it discharging.
#8 – Limit exposure to irritants, such as dust, cigarette smoke, pollen, and pet dander.
Your body is already taxed from its current fight. You do not want to give it extra work.