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Why do humans sneeze out mucus if it's a good thing?

Why do humans sneeze out mucus if it's a good thing?


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The Wikipedia article on mucus says that mucus acts as protection from bacteria and other microorganisms.

Given that mucus plays this positive role, why do humans sneeze out mucus?


Indeed, mucus is essential for in this case protecting the respiratory pathways, which includes the nasal cavity and the pharynx, against different threats, such as microbes. Sneezing, which is initiated by virtue of the activation of mechanoreceptors in the upper parts of the respiratory system, leads to a buildup of intrathoracic pressure, due to the contraction of expiratory muscles against a closed glottis. The pressure gradient, when the glottis opens, will then lead to the rapid flux of air from the lungs, through the respiratory tract and out through the mouth and the nose, whereas mucus containing the initial irritant will follow, merely due to the forces at play.

Note that the epithelia in the resp. tract normally transport the mucus containing everything from microbes which have been breathed in, and different particles, to the oropharynx, so as to allow you to swallow and take it to the GI tract instead.

For further reading, I recommend Boron Boulpaeps Medical Physiology chapter 32 on the "Control of Ventilation" (2012).


Home remedies for phlegm and mucus

Phlegm is a type of mucus produced in the lungs and lower respiratory tract. It is most noticeable when a person is acutely sick or has a longstanding health condition.

Mucus forms a protective lining in certain parts of the body, even when a person is well. Mucus keeps these areas from drying out and helps to defend against invaders, including viruses and bacteria.

Though a healthy body requires some mucus, too much can be uncomfortable. Excess may be caused by:

  • infections, such as the common cold or flu
  • allergies
  • irritation of the nose, throat, or lungs
  • digestive conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • smoking tobacco products
  • lung diseases, such as pneumonia, lung cancer , cystic fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Share on Pinterest Drinking fluids, keeping the head elevated, and using nasal sprays may help to get rid of phlegm and mucus.

Taking the following actions can help to eliminate excess mucus and phlegm:

1. Keeping the air moist. Dry air irritates the nose and throat, causing more mucus to form as a lubricant. Placing a cool mist humidifier in the bedroom can promote better sleep, keeping the nose clear and preventing a sore throat.

2. Drinking plenty of fluids. The body needs to stay hydrated to keep mucus thin. When a person is sick with a cold, drinking extra fluids can thin the mucus and help the sinuses to drain. People with seasonal allergies may also find that staying hydrated helps to avoid congestion.

3. Applying a warm, wet washcloth to the face. This can be a soothing remedy for a pounding sinus headache. Inhaling through a damp cloth is a quick way to return moisture to the nose and throat. The heat will help to relieve pain and pressure.

4. Keeping the head elevated. When the buildup of mucus is particularly bothersome, it may help to sleep propped up on a few pillows or in a reclining chair. Lying flat can increase discomfort, because it may feel as though mucus is collecting at the back of the throat.

5. Not suppressing a cough. It may be tempting to use suppressants when experiencing a nagging, phlegm-filled cough. However, coughing is the body’s way of keeping secretions out of the lungs and throat. Use cough syrups sparingly, if at all.

6. Discreetly getting rid of phlegm. When phlegm rises from the lungs into the throat, the body is likely trying to remove it. Spitting it out is healthier than swallowing it.

Share on Pinterest A saline nasal spray or rinse may help to clear out mucus.

7. Using a saline nasal spray or rinse. A saline spray or irrigator can clear out mucus and allergens from the nose and sinuses. Look for sterile sprays that contain only sodium chloride, and be sure to use sterile or distilled water when irrigating.

8. Gargling with salt water. This can soothe an irritated throat and may help to clear away residual mucus. One teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water can be gargled several times per day.

9. Using eucalyptus. Eucalyptus products have used to subdue coughs and reduce mucus for years. They are usually applied directly to the chest. A few drops of eucalyptus oil can also be added to a diffuser or a warm bath to help clear the nose.

10. Not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke. Smoking and secondhand smoke cause the body to produce more phlegm and mucus.

11. Minimizing the use of decongestants. While they dry secretions and can alleviate a runny nose, decongestants may make it harder to get rid of phlegm and mucus.

12. Taking the right medicine. Medications known as expectorants can help to thin mucus and phlegm, making them easier to cough or blow out. However, check to make sure that these medications do not also contain decongestants.

13. Keeping allergies in check. Seasonal allergies can lead to a runny or stuffy nose, as well as excess mucus and phlegm.

14. Avoiding irritants. Chemicals, fragrances, and pollution can irritate the nose, throat, and lower airways. This causes the body to produce more mucus.

15. Keeping track of food reactions. Some foods can cause reactions that mimic seasonal allergies. They may cause the nose to run and the throat to itch, leading to excess mucus. Make a record of any foods that trigger an increase in phlegm or mucus.

16. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Both substances lead to dehydration if consumed in excess. When mucus and phlegm are an issue, drink plenty of warm, non-caffeinated beverages.

17. Taking a hot bath or shower. Time spent in a steam-filled bathroom will help to loosen and clear mucus in the nose and throat. Allowing hot water to pulse on the face can also bring relief from sinus pressure.

18. Blowing the nose gently. It may be tempting to keep blowing until thick mucus comes out. However, doing so too forcefully may hurt the sinuses, leading to pain, pressure, and possibly infection.

19. Eating plenty of fruit. One study found that a diet rich in fiber from fruit, and possibly soy, may lead to fewer respiratory problems linked to phlegm.

20. Avoiding foods that cause acid reflux. Acid reflux can lead to an increase in phlegm and mucus. People prone to heartburn should avoid trigger foods and ask a doctor about proper management.


Mucus and Phlegm: What to Do If You Have Too Much

Excessive mucus and phlegm may not be much of a conversation starter (unless you’re 14 and trying to spit the furthest). But if you have too much mucus, it can drive you crazy in search for solutions.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

First, consider that mucus has a purpose. This fluid is naturally made by your body every day, says laryngologist Paul C. Bryson, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Voice Center.

“While the exact amount your body makes isn’t known, most experts think it’s about one liter a day,” he says. (That’s half of a 2-liter bottle of soda!)

Why does your body overproduce mucus?

Mucus has an important role in the body. It lines many of your tissues. Its slippery consistency helps protect and moisturize, and it also traps potential irritants.

Your body can go into overdrive creating mucus and phlegm when you:

• Have a cold
• Have irritated sinuses (sinusitis)
• Have allergies
• Are exposed to smoke or pollution

“Environmental allergies can cause excess mucus or phlegm, as can food allergies, but the latter is harder to diagnose based on this symptom alone,” Dr. Bryson says.

Is excess mucus ever a sign of something more serious?

If the amount of mucus your body makes is uncomfortable, you might worry it’s a sign of a more serious problem.

According to Dr. Bryson, mucus is typically not a symptom to worry about if it’s your only symptom.

“Worrisome signs are mucus accompanied by fevers, chills and night sweats, especially if you also experience weight loss, nasal obstruction or intermittent nose bleeds for more than two weeks,” he says.

Are there natural ways to address mucus or phlegm?

If you have chronic problems with phlegm, try the following:

Hydrate more. Drink more water. Also, consider your medications or any dehydrating beverages you regularly drink, such as coffee, alcohol and some teas. “A good rule of thumb is to drink enough water to make your urine pale,” Dr. Bryson says.

Use a humidifier. This can help your body moisturize your throat and nasal passages and may help you reduce mucus and phlegm production.

Check filters on heating and cooling systems. Make sure the filters are clean and functioning well to keep dust and other potential irritants out of the air.

Use a nasal saline spray. This helps rinse and hydrate tissues in your nose and sinuses.

These remedies also help if your problem with mucus and phlegm progresses to a post-nasal drip.

Other options for phlegm and mucus

“If you’re concerned about allergies, remember that the testing is easy and straightforward. You can also try over-the-counter allergy medications, which may solve your issue,” Dr. Bryson says.

Also, if in doubt, don’t hesitate to discuss your problem with your primary care doctor or an otolaryngologist, who can dig into your particular symptoms and history to find solutions.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy


Its a myth among the 5 year old's im afraid.

You're 5 years old, and word on the playground is that if you sneeze with your eyes open, they'll pop right out of your head. Given that you've got a nasty cold, this rumor is relatively terrifying for you. After all, what could be worse than your eyeballs shooting out of your face like bullets?

Now let's fast-forward to adulthood, a time in which you're no longer terrified of eyeball expulsion but nevertheless still wonder about that sneezing myth of yore. Does it have any truth to it? Exactly how securely are your eyeballs attached to your head?

To debunk this myth, let's first take a look at what's going on inside the body during a sneeze. Sneezing is a protective mechanism that the body uses to expel dust, pollen, pet hair and other allergens. Some people sneeze when they're exposed to cold air. It's common to sneeze when you have a cold because the inside of the nasal cavity becomes swollen and more sensitive than usual. This sensitivity triggers sneezing at the slightest irritation.

The act of sneezing is involuntary, but the body goes through a very systematic process during the act. When an irritant comes in contact with the nasal lining, the nerves in the area send a message to the lower portion of the brain, known as the medulla. The brain then triggers the activity necessary for the body to sneeze:

The muscles in the chest expand, the diaphragm contracts, and the lungs fill with air. The muscles that are in the back of the throat and vocal cords also contract, and then the stomach and chest muscles follow suit. Finally, the sneeze is expelled through the mouth, sending between 2,000 and 5,000 droplets of mucus and air flying away from the body at between 70 and 100 miles per hour (112.6 and 160 kph) [source: Washington Post]. The spray from a sneeze can extend 5 feet (152.4 centimeters) from the sneezer [source: Library of Congress]. This spray is made up of saliva and mucus. Expelling the mixture through the mouth clears the nasal cavity.

One other thing happens during this process: Your eyes squeeze shut. But why? There's got to be some legitimate reason, right?


Shedding — and recreating — skin

Although humans don't exactly shed their skin as a snake would, we still get rid of, and recreate, our skin. The American Academy of Dermatology put this into prospective with some pretty incredible statistics. While we may think of our skin as a unit, it's actually made up of many skin cells. So many, in fact, that each and every inch of our bodies contains around 19 million skin cells.

By the time you go to sleep tonight, your body will have gotten rid of around 40,000 old skin cells and, by the end of the month, all of your current skin will have been replaced with new skin. This process may sound totally creepy, but it's an important one.

"Cells transitioning from below the skin's surface to the topmost layer bring with them essential lipids and moisture," Holly Sherrard, education manager for Dermalogica Canada told Best Health. You can even safely help the process along by exfoliating your skin weekly. Sherrad explained, "Exfoliating increases cell turnover to reveal newer, healthier skin cells."


This is why you should sneeze into your elbow

It’s worse than we thought. When you sneeze, you don’t just produce a spray mist of potentially infectious saliva droplets. Instead, you launch a wide sheet of fluid that starts off ballooning, then bursts like a bubble, and finally disperses into a spray - much like the dynamics of tossing paint into the air.

Researchers at MIT captured over 100 high-speed videos of people sneezing to determine this pattern, and published their results last week in the peer-reviewed journal Experiments in Fluids.

“It’s important to understand how the process of fluid breakup, or fluid fragmentation, happens,” says lead author of the study, Lydia Bourouiba. “What is the physics of the breakup telling us in terms of droplet size distribution, and the resulting prediction of the downstream range of contamination?”

Top and side views of the rapid fragmentation process of mucosalivary fluid occurring during a healthy sneeze. From the paper, “Visualization of sneeze ejecta: steps of fluid fragmentation leading to respiratory droplets,” Bourouiba et al.

Scientists at MIT's Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory hope that understanding the dynamics of infectious droplets can help map infections as they spread through the environment.

Back in 2014 these MIT researchers also demonstrated that coughs and sneezes produce not just infectious droplets, but whole clouds of gas. These sneeze clouds can travel from five to 200 times farther than they would have if the droplets were simply a disconnected group.

As these gas clouds are highly capable of remaining airborne, it means there’s high potential for indoor ventilation systems to spread the disease.

Do cover up, please

All this disgusting footage means that covering your mouth as you sneeze is vital for limiting the spread of nasties - but which is the best way to do it?

Most people instinctively just use their hands, which is a terrible idea. All that fluid - a nice mixture of saliva, mucus, and germs - ends up on your hands, and will transfer to the next surface you touch, where it can live for at least a few hours. Furthermore, the hands usually don’t cover all of the droplet cloud, and the potential for spreading disease is still high.

NSW Ministry of Health advises that you should use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing - and importantly, throw that tissue out afterwards. This advice is echoed by health departments worldwide. If you don’t have a tissue or paper towel handy, it’s best to sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

According to a non-scientific test done by Mythbusters back in 2010, sneezing into your elbow can effectively prevent the fluids from spreading, whereas you could still sneeze through a tissue or hanky and end up with gunk all over your hands.

So, whatever you do, cover up that sneeze. And it remains crucial to wash your hands afterwards - and maybe wash your shirt if you have a cold and sneeze a whole bunch into your elbow.


How to Get Rid of Phlegm and Mucus in Your Chest

Have you ever had a stuffy nose? It happens when the tissues and blood vessels in and around your nose get swollen with fluid and mucus. That makes your nose feel clogged. The same thing happens in your chest when it fills with phlegm.

Some mucus in your airways is a good thing. You need it to protect and moisturize your tissues. But congestion means there&rsquos too much mucus in your body. It builds up when you have a cold, irritated sinuses, or allergies, or when you breathe in smoke or pollutants.

Long-term conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or asthma can also cause mucus buildup. Here is information you can use to help you deal with it.

Remedies for Clearing Mucus From Your Chest

Most of the time, you don&rsquot need a prescription to take care of congestion. Here are a few things that can help you clear your chest:

  • Humidifiers: These small appliances fill the air with water vapor and moisturize your nose and throat. That helps combat the dry air that could be causing the problem. Your body makes thicker mucus (and more of it) to soothe dryness. When humidifiers moisturize your nose and throat, your body won&rsquot create as much mucus.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water when you&rsquore congested. It&rsquoll help loosen the mucus. If you&rsquore dehydrated, the mucus will become dehydrated too. That makes it thicker and harder to get out of your body. So avoid drinks like alcohol, coffee, and other caffeinateddrinks.
  • Exercise:Walking quickly, biking, or jogging can help loosen the buildup in your chest. That will make it easier to cough up. But, since congestion usually comes with sickness, your body also needs to rest to get better. So, don&rsquot wear yourself out. If you have a condition that causes you to make more mucus when you exercise, such as exercise-induced asthma, you may want to try a different remedy or technique.
  • Expectorants: These medications thin mucus, which can help you get it out of your system. Guaifenesin is the only over-the-counter expectorant. It has the same effect as drinking more liquids. You&rsquoll find it in brands like Mucinex and Robitussin.
  • Vapor rubs: These don&rsquot cure the problem. But, they can help soothe the symptoms of congestion. Vicks VapoRub, perhaps the best known one, combines cough suppressants and pain relievers. The active ingredients are camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. You rub it on your throat and chest to let the vapor reach your nose and mouth.
  • Decongestants: These medications narrow your blood vessels. This helps open airways. When air can pass through more easily, mucus dries up. The two most common decongestant ingredients are pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed) and phenylephrine. You may want to take decongestants in the morning. They can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. They may also keep you awake.
  • Essential oils: People use essential oils to help treat a range of illnesses, including sinus infections and chest colds. Limited research shows they may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. So, if you breathe in the vapors of the oils, it may help drain your sinuses.

To make your own vapor rub, dilute an essential oil in water or another oil and put the mixture directly onto your skin. A few essential oils that may help congestion include:

  • Infants: 1 drop of essential oil with 4 teaspoons water or carrier oil
  • Toddlers: 1 drop of essential oil with 2 teaspoons water or carrier oil
  • Older children and adults: 1 drop of essential oil with 1 teaspoon of water or carrier oil.

Always test the mixture on a small part of your skin to check for irritation.

You can also add drops to a diffuser or steaming water and breathe in the scent. Follow the directions that come with the diffuser.

But first, and always, check with your doctor before using any essential oils. Some are not safe to use on or around children. Store all essential oils and preparations in childproof containers out of reach. Just a tiny amount of essential oil can be poisonous if you or a child swallows it. Researchers have also found that some essential oils can disrupt the hormones in the body. They don&rsquot know how this might affect children or adults. Allergic reactions are also possible.

Special Coughing Techniques

There are a couple of airway clearance methods you can try to clear your chest. These are especially helpful for everyday buildup. Your doctor may recommend them and demonstrate them for you.

  • Deep cough: To deep cough, you&rsquoll take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, then use your abs to push out the air. But try not to hack or clear your throat.
  • Huff cough: If the deep cough doesn&rsquot help, you may want to try a huff cough. Take a deep breath through your nose, then use your abs to breathe out of your mouth in three short huffs. This puts air behind the mucus to pull it away from the lung wall. It should be easier to cough up after a few repetitions.

Is Congestion Serious?

Most of the time, congestion is just uncomfortable. It may cause a cough or a sore throat. But, if it comes with fever, weight loss, or nose bleeds, or lasts for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor.

(c)2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Cough Medicine: Understanding Your OTC Options.”

American Thoracic Society: “Treating Bronchiectasis.”

Baylor College of Medicine: “Tips help manage pesky sinus symptoms.”

CDC: “Chest Cold (Acute Bronchitis).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Mucus and Phlegm: What to Do If You Have Too Much.”

Cough: “Efficacy of cineole in patients suffering from acute bronchitis: a placebo-controlled double-blind trial.”

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: “Coughing and Huffing.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “What to do about sinusitis,” “No coughing matter.”

Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy: “Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact.”

Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: “Frankincense (?? Ru Xiang Boswellia Species): From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases.”

Mayo Clinic: “Nasal congestion,” “COPD,” “Asthma,” “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt,” “Exercise-induced asthma,” “Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?”

Michigan Medicine: “Cystic Fibrosis: Helping Your Child Cough Up Mucus.”

National Jewish Health: “Techniques to Bring Up Mucus.”

Scientific Reports: “The antibacterial and antifungal activity of six essential oils and their cyto/genotoxicity to human HEL 12469 cells.”

Pediatrics: “Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “LABEL: VICKS VAPORUB (camphor- synthetic, eucalyptus oil, and menthol ointment).”

UnityPoint Health: “Why Boogers are Gross but So Good for Your Health (Infographic).”


Why do we feel good when sneezing and bad when coughing?

Both sneezing and coughing are ment to remove foreign material or mucus from the lungs/upper airway passages, but many people feel really good after sneezing and nobody likes coughing. I can not find any explanation of this sneezing pleasure, can anybody help?

Sneezing is an involuntary reaction in response to foreign agents in the nasal cavity. The feeling of satisfaction that it evokes is (as you may already know) almost identical the one we get from scratching an itch. It is the first line of defense for your respiratory system just as your skin is the first line of defense for your integumentary system. From an evolutionary stand point it would not make sense for this to be painful as it would be unnecessarily debilitating.

Coughing is a reaction to fluid in the lungs and/or tachea which is usually caused by an infection (whether its actually infected or just full of smoke/drink that just went down the wrong way doesn't really matter bc your body knows it should not be there). The pain is caused by pro inflammatory cytokine signals that help to activate and boost the immune system and also exaggerate pain. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense as it debiltates the body in a helpful manner until your immune system has had the time to make the necessary repairs.


Why Do Some People Sneeze So Loudly?

It starts with a tickle in the nose. Something maybe a piece of dust or a speck of pollen irritates the mucous lining of the upper respiratory tract and sets nerve endings jangling. The nerves flash a signal to the most primitive part of the brain, the brainstem, which springs into action, commanding the lungs to inhale deeply. The vocal cords snap shut, the eyes close and air explodes out of the mouth and nose: ah-choo!

Or maybe it's more like: AH-CHOO!

The mechanics of a sneeze are the same for everyone, but what comes out when this reflex kicks in differs from person to person. What separates the dainty sneezers from the loud-and-proud types is likely a mixture of individual anatomy and personal control.

The output of a sneeze depends on factors such as lung capacity and the size of the pre-sneeze inhale. More air makes for a bigger sneeze.

Some people can control their sneeze volume, or dial back on the vocalizations. A 2006 survey found that 45 percent of people have public sneezes that are different than their private sneezes, according to a spokesperson for the allergy drug Benadryl.

For some, one sneeze isn't enough. These multiple, or "paroxysmal," sneezers sometimes have allergies , according to NetWellness, a non-profit health education organization. In rare cases, patients with epilepsy also exhibit protracted sneezing fits, but for most people, the number of sneezes is a personal tic or a response to a particularly stubborn speck of dust .

Got a question? Email it to Life's Little Mysteries and we'll try to answer it. Due to the volume of questions, we unfortunately can't reply individually, but we will publish answers to the most intriguing questions, so check back soon.


Pink-colored phlegm is anything but pretty. Coughing up pink phlegm is an indicator of pulmonary edema, also known as fluid in the lungs. It can also be a sign of bleeding when seen in small amounts, which show up as a stain or streak. This type of phlegm can also have a frothy texture, which usually occurs in people with pre-existing heart problems, according to the UK’s National Health Service.

Blood found in phlegm is known as haemoptysis, while streaks of blood in phlegm is a benign sign of bronchitis. Coughing up a significant amount of blood could also be a sign of tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer, or pulmonary embolism, Okhravi said. If there’s excessive bleeding, more blood than phlegm, or it doesn’t stop, you should seek medical attention immediately because it could mean you’re dealing with a more serious health problem.


Watch the video: УСИЛЕННАЯ МОЛИТВА (May 2022).