Words of Wisdom

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What is Mucus and Phlegm?

You might not know that mucus and phlegm are technically different things. You’ll often see them together because they serve the same function in the body. Though everyone produces them, you may be wondering; what is mucus? What is phlegm? Both are great questions with interesting answers. Keep reading, you might be surprised with what you learn.

Woman with red and congested nose

What is mucus?

  • Mucus is the gelatinous, watery or slippery fluid made by mucous membranes in the body, often noticeable when you blow your nose during a cold. 
  • Mucus also acts as a filter for irritants such as dust, bacteria, smoke and allergens. It contains natural antibodies and enzymes to help fight off bacteria and infections. It protects your lungs by capturing toxins and debris you inhale through your mouth and nose, which are then passed out of your system. 
  • Have a runny nose? That’s actually a combination of mucus and ‘water secretions’ made from your sinuses.

What is mucus made of?

  • Mucus is made mostly of water, inorganic salts and proteins.
  • Cells in mucous membranes from the nose and sinuses produce mucus and use it as a protective, moisturizing layer to keep your organs from drying out. 
  • The body produces about 1.5 liters of mucus per day. That sounds disgusting, but you don’t even notice most mucus unless it changes or increases due to illness. 

What is phlegm?

  • Phlegm is a different form of mucus made by the lower airways (throat and lungs) in response to inflammation.
  • You typically cough up phlegm from your lungs and blow mucus out of your nose. 

What is phlegm made of?

  • Phlegm, like mucus, is produced by your body naturally and made mostly of water, inorganic salts and proteins.
  • Phlegm tends to be thicker than mucus even though it serves the same purpose.
Mucus colour chart

Contrary to popular belief, mucus colour does not necessarily signify an infection. It just means your body is working harder to fix the problem.

What does your mucus colour mean?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the meaning of mucus colour. First of all, the medical term for mucus and phlegm that has been coughed up or expelled through the nose is sputum. Sputum can be clear to varying shades of yellow, green, brown or red. When you’re sick with a cold, flu or infection, your body sends white blood cells (neutrophils) to repair the damage. These cells contain green enzymes that affect your mucus colour (sputum). The more white blood cells, the greener the sputum. Contrary to popular belief, mucus colour does not necessarily signify an infection. It just means your body is working harder to fix the problem.

What causes phlegm in the throat?

Though our body needs mucus and phlegm to function, it becomes a problem when it goes into overproduction and you find yourself constantly blowing your nose or coughing up sputum. Nasal mucus and phlegm in the throat is caused by:

  • Environmental factors like heating or air conditioning drying out the passageways
  • Dehydration
  • Drying medications
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Colds & Flus
  • Sinus and respiratory infections
  • Eating really spicy food

How to treat mucus and phlegm?

If you’re wondering how to get rid of phlegm in the throat or how to get mucus out of your nose, you’re not alone. Mucus and phlegm can leave you in a sticky situation. Here’s how to treat it:

  • Expectorants: Expectorants are the most effective at getting rid of phlegm in the throat. They thin out mucus and phlegm, making it easier to expel. The main ingredient to look for is guaifenesin, which will help get that phlegm up and out.
  • Decongestants: These come in pills, syrups and sprays. They reduce inflammation in nasal passageways, clearing nasal congestion and reducing mucus production. Take decongestants when you have a cold with a stuffy nose.
  • Antihistamines: If your mucus is caused by an allergic reaction, these will block the production of histamines, which cause nasal tissues to swell up, giving you a runny nose. 
  • Natural Irrigation: What do your nasal passageways and farming have in common? Natural irrigation! This works by spraying a saline solution mixed with sterile water up your nose and through your nasal passageways, effectively rinsing them out. 
  • Natural Solutions: Drink plenty of water, use a humidifier and use clean air filters in heating and air conditioning systems.

Recommended Buckley’s Products

With Buckley’s products, relief comes in any form you want it. If you’ve got a problem with sticky nasal mucus or want to get rid of phlegm in the throat, these Buckley’s syrups and pills have got you covered. 

Buckley's Complete + Mucus

Box of Buckley's Complete + Mucus
  • Cough
  • Mucus & Phlegm
  • Sore Throat Pain
  • Headache
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Fever & Chills
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Body Aches & Pain

Buckley's Cough, Mucus & Phlegm

Buckley's Cough Mucus & Phlegm
  • Cough
  • Mucus and Phlegm

Buckley's Complete + Mucus Liquid Gels – Day/Night

Box of  Buckley's Complete + Mucus Liquid Gels – Day/Night
  • Dry Cough
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Runny Nose

When to See a Doctor

Though mucus production is healthy and most overproduction can be treated by over the counter medications, see a doctor if:

  • Mucus and phlegm is accompanied by fever, chills and night sweats
  • You have unexplained weight loss
  • You have nose bleeds