Diseases & Conditions

How to Get Rid of Phlegm: Home Remedies & When to See a Doctor

When your body is over-producing phlegm, it can be extremely uncomfortable and even affect other breathing processes. Unfortunately, at some time or another, everyone experiences a phlegm problem. When this issue occurs, it’s essential to know how to manage the issue and understand when a doctor should be contacted.

In this article, we’ll get into all the details surrounding phlegm and its relation to your body. Additionally, we’ll provide some tried-and-true home remedies to help you combat phlegm and ensure you’re on the right path to feeling better!

What Is Phlegm?

Phlegm often appears when you’re sick as an extra, although necessary, aggravation. Your mucus membranes produce mucus regularly to help protect your respiratory system from things like viruses, allergens, and dust particles. Your mucus membranes can be found in your lungs, throat, sinuses, mouth, and nose. When you’re sick, your mucus membranes essentially go into overdrive to protect your respiratory system. Your phlegm, while always there, is also suddenly much more noticeable during illness.

At this point, you may be wondering what the difference is between mucus and phlegm; the two are often confused. To break it down, mucus is thin and often found in the sinus and nasal cavity area. Phlegm is created in your throat and lung area, and it is usually much thicker.

Methods for Reducing and Eliminating Phlegm

While phlegm is a necessary part of a healthy respiratory system, an increase in phlegm while you’re battling a cold or infection can be very uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are some methods and approaches you can use to try and effectively reduce phlegm and feel better faster. Below are some popularly used phlegm and mucus reduction methods. Always be sure to coordinate any treatments you implement with your physician.


Staying hydrated while sick is one of the best things that you can do for recovery. By drinking plenty of fluids, you can also help ensure the phlegm and mucus stays thin and easily cleared. Hydrating properly can also help prevent further congestion.

Salt Water

The next time you have phlegm or mucus build-up, try gargling with a warm salt water rinse. Doing this can help soothe a sore throat and clear any mucus that’s bothering you.


When you keep the air moist and humid while you’re sick, it can help to keep the throat and nose lubricated, which can potentially prevent more mucus and phlegm from forming. When the air is too dry, it can actually act as an irritant for your nose and throat, leading to more phlegm and mucus being produced. Try using a cool-mist humidifier in the room you spend the most time in to keep the air moist.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are believed to help with congestion due to the presence of the chemical compound capsaicin. It’s thought that spicy foods can help clear mucus and phlegm and thin it enough to keep it moving out of your system.


Echinacea, or the purple coneflower, has been utilized in various teas and herbal treatments for a long time. Among other presumed health benefits, echinacea is also thought by some to assist with respiratory illnesses.


While unproven, there is some evidence that ginseng has qualities that can assist with supporting respiratory health. Licorice roots, pomegranates, guava tea, and other natural herbs were also shown as potentially helpful in the same publication.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus is used as an essential oil by some to promote the thinning and loosening of mucus. Eucalyptus is also thought to help with cough suppression and reduction.


By keeping your head elevated when sick, it can often help to increase your comfort level. When you are dealing with an increased production of mucus and phlegm, many people will experience the uncomfortable feeling of it collecting at the back of their throat and being challenging to clear. Try propping your head up on pillows when you sleep, if possible, to increase comfort levels and better breathing.

Saline Sprays

Saline sprays can be excellent for use in clearing mucus from nasal passages. By using saline, you can help thin and clear mucus from your nose, as well as reduce any allergens that may be present and intensifying mucus production.

Hot Showers

When you take a hot shower or bath, the steam from the water can offer some comfort by thinning and clearing mucus. Many people report improved breathing following steam inhalation. If you can’t take a hot shower or bath at the moment, breathing in steam from hot tea or hot water with lemon can sometimes help.


Some studies have shown that consuming fruit while sick can help improve various respiratory issues. This fact is most likely due to the fiber present in many fruits.


If you’re looking for an over-the-counter (OTC) option, there are various expectorants and decongestants that can help clear and loosen mucus and phlegm that’s present.

When to See a Physician

As with any sickness, it’s vital to know when to contact a physician for additional help or to be seen. While it’s reasonable to experience congestion or increased phlegm and mucus at times, if it’s occurring more often or with any regularity, it may be due to an underlying health condition. Some health problems that can cause over-production of phlegm and mucus are:

You’ll want to keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms accompanying your phlegm or mucus also, such as:

  • Wheezing or rattling
  • Blood when coughing or clearing mucus
  • Pain or tightness in your chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • An increased phlegm amount that seems unusual
  • Any other unusual symptoms that concern you
  • Phlegm production has suddenly dramatically increased

If you experience any of the symptoms above, contact a physician or healthcare provider right away.

Many people believe that the color of mucus and phlegm can be an indicator of a potentially serious illness or infection. However, according to the CDC, the color of mucus alone does not indicate any further conditions being present.

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