Coughing Up Excessive Phlegm (Mucus, Sputum) from the Throat

What Is Phlegm?

Phlegm (pronounced flem; from Greek phlegma = inflammation) is an informal name for mucus coughed up from the throat. In this article, a term phlegm will be used only for mucus produced in the mucous layer of bronchi and windpipe (trachea). Medical term for phlegm is expectorated matter or sputum.

Phlegm appears as thick, jelly-like fluid of various colors and consistency, depending on the cause.

Phlegm is composed mainly from water and glycoproteins secreted by mucous glands.

Colors of Phlegm

Clear phlegm means there is no pus or blood in it. Yellow or green (not translucent) phlegm is mucus mixed with pus. Rusty or brown phlegm may be due to smoking, air pollution, blood or infection. Blood in phlegm may appear as read streaks. Pink phlegm may be from asthma. Frothy phlegm originates from the lungs. Read more about phlegm colors.

Symptoms Caused by Phlegm

Phlegm may irritate the lower airways and trigger cough. Cough and constant movements of tinny hairy-like projections (cilia) in the lining of the lower airways push phlegm into the throat, from where it can be coughed up or swallowed. Swallowed mucus is degraded by bowel bacteria that produce gas, what may result in abdominal bloating.

Acute Diseases with Phlegm

Phlegm may be produced in the following acute diseases:

  • Chest cold (acute bronchitis) – an infection of the windpipe (trachea) or airways that lead to the lungs (bronchi). It is often preceded by a common cold. Itchy throat, coughing up clear phlegm and moderate chest pain during coughing are main symptoms, which usually resolve within two weeks. There is usually no or only moderate fever.
  • Influenza (flu), including swine flu, can present with clear phlegm, high fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache and muscular pains.
  • Bacterial pneumonia, coughing up yellow or green frothy phlegm, high fever and rapid breathing are main symptoms. In viral pneumonia, dry cough is characteristic, though.

Chronic Diseases with Phlegm

Coughing up phlegm may be a long lasting problem:

  • In chronic bronchitis, mostly caused by smoking or air pollution, coughing up thick phlegm is the main symptom. In severe bronchitis, phlegm may obstruct the bronchi, resulting in lack of oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia), reflected in bluish lips and skin around the mouth (cyanosis).
  • In tuberculosis, yellow or green phlegm, often with blood, may be coughed up. Low grade fever, coughing, low appetite and generally feeling ill are main symptoms that usually lasts over 3 weeks.
  • In asthma, an allergic inflammation of the bronchi, a small amount of clear or pink phlegm may be produced and coughed up along with difficult breathing.
  • Certain types of lung cancer produce mucus. Chest pain, coughing up blood or yellow phlegm, low appetite and losing weight are main but late symptoms.

Phlegm in Small Children

  • Acute viral infections, like chest cold or influenza are main causes of coughing up phlegm in small children.
  • A baby with cystic fibrosis, a rare genetic disease, can cough up thick yellow or green phlegm, and have blocked nose, diarrhea, and respiratory infections shortly after birth and later in life.

Does Drinking Milk Cause Phlegm?

Drinking milk does not cause phlegm, but it may make it thick and thus hard to expel.

Other Causes of Mucus in the Throat

Mucus produced in the nose or peri-nasal sinuses and dripped down the throat is informally called post nasal drip or, medically, catarrh.

Bacterial infection of tonsils or epiglottis (membrane that covers the voice box during swallowing) usually causes high fever, strong pain in the throat, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and white-yellow pus that covers tonsils and the throat walls.

About Jan Modric (249 Articles)
Health writer

Please note that any information or feedback on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a health care professional and will not constitute a medical diagnosis. By using this website and the comment service you agree to abide by the comment terms and conditions as outlined on this page

  • Pingback: Mucus; Causes of White, Yellow, Brown, Grey, Black Phlegm | Current Health Articles 2009()

  • Pingback: Coughing and Spitting Up Blood or Bloody Mucus | Current Health Articles 2009()

  • Pingback: Causes of Chronic Cough - Persistent, Constant Coughing | Current Health Articles 2009()

  • Pingback: Stuffy Nose - Nasal Congestion | Current Health Articles 2009()

  • Pingback: Pain Under Left Rib Cage | Current Health Articles()

  • Pingback: List of Respiratory Infections; Causes, Transmission, Symptoms | Current Health Articles()

  • sim

    i have a cough,running nose and no headeache.Could this be a flu related to AIDS in stage one?

    • Jan Modric


      I do not know if you are HIV positive or not. Cough and runny nose withouth headache may be caused by rhinoviruses (common cold), and other viral infections, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), viral tonsillitis, sinusitis…In flu a headache commonly (not always) appears, and tiredness (muscle pains) are typical.

      • Somali-turk

        hey,i have been smoking for 10 years and last week quit cold turkey,i am in bed now,spitting out mucus/phlegm from
        my lungs into my throat,the mucus just comes to my throat and i expel it,it is not painful but allowing when you have
        to do it every 30 seconds,i am keeping water near which is helping,doc tells me cilia is regrowing and my body
        is expelling toxins from my lungs,no headache,no body pain,nothing just spitting mucus continuosly.

  • tim

    i have a brownish phlegm, which comes along an irritating cough that tries to pinch my lungs at certain points.this happens every now and then….yesterday i saw some reddish streaks of blood in my phlegm. what can this possibly mean? i do smoke half a pack a day and i am 21, smoking for three years.

    • Jan Modric


      one possible cause is bronchitis. I recommend you to see a doctor who can evaluate how serious it is.

  • Asad

    I have thick white phlegm which is very hard to expel. I don’t know what it is, because I am suffering from it since my childhood (roughly from 1994) now my age is 26 years. In 2003 I started hard exercise for martial arts which healed this problem and physicaly and mentaly I (specialy my memory) became strong. I stoped exercise after 7 months and the problem started again after one and half year (roughly from 2005). The problem becomes more severe in cold weathers. I am also suffering from long-sleep problem and I don’t eat meat from childhood. After getting-up from sleep the stored phlegm comes out very quickly for an hour or two and its quantity and duration is reduced after that. When I suffer from common flu the phlegm becomes gradualy thin and looks normal but after the flu ends it comes back to orignal form. My nose is usually blocked from it and the phlegm flows towards my throat hole (More inside and less outside), there is no blood with it, no pain, no fever. I don’t know what it is and what to do with it … Please help.

    • Jan Modric


      an ENT should know which investigations to perform. It could be some inherited disorder, or persistent inflammation. You may also consider to make exercises that helped you, again.

  • reinier heere

    I regularly cough up a whitish/light yellowish phlegm. It comes out easy. I have no pain, no coughing, do not smoke since 25 years and I am 80 years old.

    • Jan Modric

      reinier heere,

      an ENT or pulmologist can take a sample of the mucus and send it to laboratory to check for eventual inflammation or infection.

  • Lola Hoi

    I see you have an advertisement for a product called Cold-FX, This product is overhyped as a cure for the flu and cold. It does not work. This I know from personal experience and from others. The science behind this product is overhyped pay for what you want research.
    There is no cure for the common cold and flu.

    • Jan Modric

      Lola Hoi,

      ads in the articles are generated automatically and are not shown in all countries equally..I don’t see the one you’ve mentioned. I also don’t know for any efficient cure of flu or common cold…

  • dennettagreen

    for the last past 8 days i been coughin up mucus first it was thick and white. Then around the 3rd day it became like a thick mustard yellow, now its like brownish at night and white in the day time. I cough alot and i get specified chest pains watery eys and wheeze at the end of every cough,as if im gasping for air. What should i do how can i handle this?

    • Jan Modric


      it sounds like an inflammation/infection of small air passages in the lungs, so I recommend you to visit a pulmologist to get an exact diagnosis and treatment.

  • L. Nogy

    I am cughing for 1 year & 6 months, thick frothy phlegm. I never smoked. Iam 58. I need help , please !

    • Jan Modric

      L. Nogy,

      a pulmologist can take a sample of the coughed up mucus and send it to microbiological laboratory to check for eventual infection.

  • mudbug

    I have been sick on an off for the last year almost every three to four months. It starts out my body is soar.. Then the side of my throat starts to hurt i cough up flem every morning when i wake. I have a cough that deosnt stop. I been to the doctors at first they said it was an allergy then they said it was broncittis now there saying its GERD so im on acid reliever but it still hasnt gone away and now the side of my throat feels like sand paper again and the cough is still there… Have to go back to doctors again… anyone have any clue what is wrong with me..I cant gain weight ither havent lost or gained…

    • Jan Modric


      GERD would likely cause heartburn after eating (pain behind the breastbone and acidic feeling in the throat), the coughed up mucus could be frothy. You could maybe feel burning pain in the stomach – in the upper middle abdomen, few inches below the breastbone.

      A doctor can take a sample of the mucus and send it to laboratory – the test would show is it bronchitis or allergy.

      You may check this personal medical history questionnaire that can help you to recall more symptoms – write them down; this may help the doctor to give you a diagnosis.

  • maria

    i have been coughing a lot of phlegm for the past week in a half. the color is white to veryy light green. however for the past 3 days i have been having pain on my left side side below my ribs. what could this be?

    • Jan Modric


      pain may be due to coughing, or lung infection, for example. I recommend you to visit a pulmologist.

  • Amanda3

    I have been coughing up clear, and yellow phlem for the past few months and its gotten worse within the past few weeks. not sure what is causing this. I am caoughing because its blocking me from breathing.

    • Jan Modric


      it can be chronic bronchitis, or viral pneumonia for example. A pulmologist can give you a diagnosis after examining you and testing the mucus.

  • katieginth

    I have been coughing up white mucus, sometimes its clear, sometimes thick and gross, something its really white and looks like cottage cheese.. I have been coughing this up for 7-8 months, i recently started having trouble breathing and just coughing really bad in general, i as a child had child asthma which doctors said would go away, and recently was told it was a respitatory infection and the medication didnt not take anything away. its only gotten worse and the coughing and swalowing are getting harder to do, and i have a very hard time coughing up this mucus but if i dont i cant breath or swallow at all.. I dont know what else to think.. I just know my family has bad genes and i just keep thinking im probably dying

    • Jan Modric


      I recommend you to visit a pulmologist. It could be an inflammation of the bronchi, for example.

  • bennyboy

    i have been coughing up white phlegm at random times, however more often when i am eating, during these coughing fits i find that i am gasping for air and just trying to suck in air is extremely hard, alot of saliva builds up quickly so i try to expel it in a sink. sometimes if the coughing is really bad i would vomit a little with the phlegm and saliva

    • Jan Modric


      is the phlegm dense white like pus, or translucent or frothy? Any heartburn?

  • j. monroe

    I have been coughing up very thick and sticky white mucus for 2 weeks now,sometimes brown in color, followed by a stuffy and runny nose. not being able to expel the mucus at times I have had to swallow it,followed shortly by huge amounts of gas of unbelievable stench. I have tried every otc remedy to no avail.could this be an infection, a lung problem or the result of quiting smoking 2 weeks ago.? there was a slight fever 10 days ago that didn’t last, however I was down with flu like symptoms for several days, even having ha the lue shot 2 months ago…thank you….jm

    • Jan Modric


      it’s quite possible that the mucus you are coughing up is a combination of reaction after quitting smoking and a respiratory infection. If it is a viral infection, like flu, hardly any remedy will help you. Try to drink enough fluid – this may make the mucus a bit thinner. void drinking milk, since milk maay mix with mucus and make it thick and hard to expel. If your body temperature will rise I recommend you to see a doctor who can judge if a bacterial infection has developed. Try to spit the mucus out to prevent gas.

  • mr64

    what would cause a person to have mucus in the throat after sleeping? while coughing it out blood comes up too. Its not every morning, just a little concerned?

    • Jan Modric


      mucus could come into the throat from the nose (infection, polyps) or nasal sinuses, throat itself, trachea…hard to say without knowing more details. If you do not have an obvious infection, like common cold or flu, I strongly recommend you to visit your doctor, who can examine you and decide if you need to be checked by an ENT or pulmologist.

  • Craig Smith

    Hi, i have recently been in hospital from suffering a asthma attack. i was woken up not being able to breath. and since this morning i have had a really bad cough generally mornings and also evenings and rarely through the day. I suffer from a runny nose the majority of the time and i cant remember when i could last breath through my nose. When coughing on a morning i bring up mucus which is clear and quite a thick substance. i have now started to bring up like mouthfulls of this mucus but it feels like i am being sick but im coughing it up projectively and not being sick at all. i do not understand what is wrong i do smoke and suffer from asthma but never had problems ever. i have been trying to seek advice on this matter from my doctor but apparently everything is okay. can you please help me on this matter? many thanks craig smith.

    • Jan Modric

      Craig Smith,

      certain viral respiratory infections do not necessary cause many symptoms except stuffy nose and coughing up mucus. Inflammation of trachea or bronchi (chronic bronchitis) can be also caused by smoking; morning coughing is a typical symptom. I recommend you to stop smoking and ask your doctor if you have chronic bronchitis and if you need to see an ENT or pulmologist.

  • Sarah

    I have been very ill for the past week and still have a blocked nose and bad cough, i do have to expel very thick green mucus. May i add that i do have sleep apnea and always have to breath from my mouth and always have to gasp for air when i wake up to cough

    • Jan Modric


      you might want to visit your personal doctor or ENT to get an exact diagnosis. It could be a sinusitis combined with a throat infection or bronchitis, for example.

  • lixzy199

    I am 24 with chronic sinusitis. I am having really bad post nasal drip with now pink mucus. I am having trouble sleeping at night because of the post nasal srip. Any ideas on what to do to make it less bad.

    • Jan Modric


      I recommend you to arrange an appointment with an ENT and ask for a thorough examination to find out the cause of the sinusitis. There could be some anatomical reason or nasal polyps which prevent the sinusitis and therefore post-nasal drip to heal.

  • ramakanth1387


    i dont have cough but i found blood in sputum and even i am suffering from mild headach…can you tell me what could be the problem

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Ram

      There is no way to diagnose this online. You can find a list of causes above. You should see your doctor as soon as possible so that a sputum cytology and culture can be conducted. This will help with the diagnosis. Do not leave it unattended as some infections that cause these symptoms can progress quickly and lead to severe complications.

  • neuza marc

    my mother died last sunday 2.1.2011 of pneumonia .i was with her a lot at the hospital.the day before i start coughing a lot with mucus sometimes frosry or cream.i cant lie on bed and spend the nights half seated.or i wont stop coughing.the doctor gave me antromicine for 5 help.the next intern i saw canceled the antybiotics and put me yesterday on dropropyzine but i still cant lie to sleep. can you please give me some advice. I have no fever or aches .

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Neuza Marc

      Despite the lack of a fever, it could still be an infection. At this point you should follow up with your family doctor and a sputum sample may be then sent of for analysis and culture if necessary. This will help identify a possible cause.

  • Jmccann

    I have had a throat infection for the past 3 days possibly tonsillitis i have had no cough but i have had a sore throat,sore head and back also my temperature has been going up and down tho today i coughed up some phlegm it seemed to be meaty or fleshy it was pink with some blood with some white on it,it looked like my tonsils with the infection, since coughing it up i have had a pain in my chest when i take a deap breath,the pain in my throat has went away tho the swollen glands havent

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi JMCcann

      This appears to be an acute respiratory tract infection, possibly the flu with a bacterial infection of the tonsils and throat, which is common. You need to see a doctor to confirm this. Your symptoms are characteristic of the flu or even a cold, however, if it persists then the concern about other conditions like bronchitis and even pneumonia arises. Swollen lymph nodes can persist for a week or two after the infection. Your doctor will be able to advice you further.

  • kiki

    Have had chest pain on deep exhalation for 6months now and jus recently developed dis cough that produces yellow sputum though i also have sneezing and night temp as well as night sweats. What cud be the cause of all dese? And could this recent flu-like symptoms b in anyway related 2 the 6months depressing pain on exhalation i feel in my left chest just above my heart region? Pls help!

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Kiki

      It is quite likely that these are two separate conditions. The recent flu-like symptoms could have just been an acute respiratory tract infection. The concern however is about this long term chest pain that you are experiencing. It could be related to the respiratory or cardiovascular system which needs careful monitoring so you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will decide on the necessary investigations based on any findings upon examination, your age, risk factors, current health status and medical history. This pain could also be related to the chest wall and you can read more here on chest wall pain. Another possibility, if you are a smoker, is that this may be the start of COPD, particularly chronic bronchitis. Speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

  • sweet_dreamer_7600

    I had a cold about a month and a half ago, when the cold went I continued to have a cough usually just a dry cough but occasionally phlegmy, the past two weeks the coughs been getting worse and green/brown phlegm has been coming up. I’ve now got a cold and have done for a few days. I’ve been taking covornia for my cough but the phlegm seems to have turned into a more green more solid substance. I am a smoker and I assumed this was why the cough didn’t ease from when I had the first cold but this is getting ridiculously annoying and my throat is really painful now..

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Sweet_Dreamer

      You very likely have bronchitis, which is more frequently seen in smokers, especially about a bout of the flu/cold. This recurrence of the cold may actually be the persisting infection and you need to see your doctor as soon as possible for antibiotics. Green mucus usually indicates a long standing infection. With smokers, a bout of bronchitis following the cold or flu can last for months. Medical attention is necessary. You also need to verify why, if it really was a flu followed by a cold, you have these recurrent infections. Smoking of course does increase the likelihood but there could be other causes of impaired immune functioning.

  • Carl

    I got operated on Feb.23 for a compressed disc, C$-C5. They fused it and used some bone from a bone bank. The operation is successful but on Feb. 27 I started coughing and spitting up green phelgm.Doctor put me on azithromycin. I have been on it for 3 days. (5 doses). The mucus is not green anymore and it is not as sticky but the coughing is worse, in spurts. Especially when I lie down. No fever or pain. Could the anesthesia have caused it?

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Carl

      It sounds like a case of acute bronchitis that could be totally unrelated to the surgery, although it can be contracted while in hospital (nosocomial). Since the sputum has subsided, it is fair to assume that the antibiotics worked. The cough can persist for a period of time afterwards (weeks) and will subsequently subside. You should follow up with your doctor to confirm this and exclude other respiratory conditions like pneumonia. There is no reason to assume that it is related to the anesthesia just yet given that you had the typical symptoms of bronchitis.

  • Harshi

    Hello Doc!
    I have coughing problem since many years, like more than 10 years. I am currently 22. While coughing, there is almost every time some sputum (salty-tasting) which is TRANSPARENT most of the times. sometimes it is significant in quantity, sometimes just a trace.
    The irritation in the throat is CONSISTENT, tickling, itching, sometimes inflamed. I keep trying to clear my throat.
    Needless to say, nothing has worked out. Even ENT specialist failed.
    There is a slight difference in my right and left the NOSTRIL sizes (ENT spec. told me). But I don’t think that’s the problem.
    Any clues, sir?

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Harshi

      This sounds like post nasal drip but would not have been missed by the ENT. Since you do not mention any symptoms with the airways or lungs, it is reasonable to assume that the problem lies either within the nasal cavity or mouth and esophagus. In terms of the latter, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) due to acid reflux can cause many of these symptoms. It can cause a constant irritation of the throat and lead to mucus production. From what you describe the irritation does not seem to involve the airways but it is important to keep conditions like asthma and chronic bronchitis in mind. I would advise that you seek a second opinion from another ENT.

  • Frank

    My wife had gastric surgery in Nov 2010, the cancer has metasticied to lungs and several lymp nodes. The only problem she is currently having is eating, she coughs up a slimy clear liquid with her meals, which she is able to keep down about 30%. In order for her to beat the cancer she has to be able to eat more and keep it down. Can you tell me what is the cause of the slime and how to fix?

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Frank

      While there may be excessive mucus production in the airways, this sounds like pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). You can read this article on the condition and certain medication may be prescribed by her doctor if it is appropriate. Remember that once metastases occurs to the lungs, liver, brain, etc then the approach to management has to be very careful and overlooked by her oncologist. This is a very delicate stage so please do not try any treatment without first discussing it with her doctor. Read more on fluid in the lungs, different types of sputum and sputum color and meaning.

  • Ric07

    Hi, last night I woke up feeling quite sick with a sickly burning taste/feeling in my throat.. After glass of water I felt quite phlegmy and preceded to bring it up, it was a clear colour at first, but then my throat started bringing up it’s own mucus/phlegm without effort and when I spat that out it was unmistakably dark brown coloured. I brought a fair amount of this up and have continued too till now. What could this be, I have never experienced this colour mucus before n am curiously concerned. Thanks. Rick

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Ric07

      This sounds like a case of acid reflux (burning feeling) and excessive mucus and saliva is associated with it. The dark brown mucus is however a possible cause for concern since you do not report any symptoms of an infection and this could be the sign of bleeding, most likely gastrointestinal bleeding. Often though it is just related to something you ate (especially chocolate/cola) with an acute case of acid reflux. However it is best to be cautious and see your doctor even though you have not experienced any other symptoms.

  • Dasha

    For the last couple of weeks I’ve been pretty sick. It started with just a bit of clear phlegm, nothing serious. No sore throat, no nothing. Then, had some really intense stressful stuff go on about two weeks before March break, start feeling a bit under the weather. I get over the stress, I start feeling better. March break comes along, and for any teen that means staying up late, partying; you know the deal. The Saturday before school started, my throat started getting sore, couldn’t sleep at night due to a stuffy nose. Monday I didn’t wear my contacts because my eyes felt irritated. A friend of mine actually remarked that they seemed a bit red. Tuesday, felt a bit better, wore my contacts, and at work after school, I notice my eyes are irritated again. I go home, wash my eyes with tea, then put aloe on them and go to sleep. I wake up in the morning with one eye sealed shut, a bit of a fever, sore throat, stuffy nose, and a bit of an ear infection. Needless to say, I’ve been home since then. The eye infection, sore throat, and stuffy nose were the only things that stayed – oh, and I’m pretty sure it’s bacterial. Delicious amounts of greenish phlegm everywhere. Now, I’m developing a dry cough and there’s small streaks of blood in the phlegm. Help? Oh and my routine several times a day includes gargling with saltwater, running saltwater down my nasal passages to clear the phlegm, (there’s so much that comes out), and washing my eyes with organic black tea, and water and sodium bicarbonate. If there’s anything I should do to aid in my recovery, please let me know. I rarely ever get this sick and it’s been about 8 years the last time that I’ve gotten this poor. Thank you.

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Dasha

      Hopefully at this point you have sought proper medical attention. You need to see your doctor because the original infection may have recurred or an new infection is setting in which from your report is progressing. Please stop with the “home remedies” like washing your eye with black tea and so on. You need proper medical attention, medication and monitoring. Failure to do so can lead to very serious complications, that could cost you your eyesight or progress to septicemia (blood poisoning) or even an infection in the brain (encephalitis) and/or linings (meningitis). I hope this highlights how a “simple” infection can be life threatening without proper medical attention. These “home remedies” that you are using may actually worsen the condition.

  • aliza

    hi, i have been suffering with a chronic cough for approximately 8 months. It started as a dry cough only when i wake up in the am, but now it has progresed to a clear mucus cough that only starts at night and lasts about 3-4 hours. I have been treated for asthma as well as sinus. I have taken different antibiotics, nasal spray and allergy meds which are all futile in alleviating my symptom. I am totally fed up as my doc does not really know what is causing my cough.any suggestions is greatly appreciated.

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Aliza

      You have not mentioned if you are a smoker or not. If you are, then you need to be assessed for COPD which is a common cause of a persistent cough in smokers. From the symptoms you describe, both allergic rhinitis and asthma could be a cause. Chronic sinusitis is another possibility. In terms of allergic conditions, rhinitis and asthma, it will not resolve overnight even with medication. The prescribed medication is there to limit the extent of the symptoms and prevent acute exacerbations as part of chronic management. This means that the condition may not be able to be “cured” but just managed. It may reduce the intensity of the symptoms but not alleviate it entirely. Finding the root cause would be helpful, although if you have a family history of atopy (allergic rhinitis/asthma) or structural problems like a deviated septum, the options are very limited. You should see an ENT specialist if it is sinusitis or allergic rhinitis and then follow up with a pulmonologist (lung specialist) if it is asthma. Your doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialist

  • ruth

    Hi Doc,

    I just want to ask if the symptoms I have is similar wd Bronchitis..I have sputum expectorated not by coughing but by only spitting it out. It comes from my throat. When I’m stressed from work or have no enough rest or laugh very hard, my throat get itchy associated wd continuous(paroxysmal) and unproductive cough. It lasts for days until I’m well rested again. More importantly, the sputum from my throat has red streaks and I’m sure it’s not from my lungs because I didn’t cough. Please help me determine my condition. It has been bothering me for a long time since last year…


    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Ruth

      Yes, this could be related to bronchitis but what may be a more likely cause here is acid reflux. This also causes mucus in the throat (spat out, not necessarily coughed up), more like to occur with stress, cause itchiness of the throat and so on. You should see an ENT specialist to first exclude other throat and nasal conditions before taking it further.

  • Dasha

    Actually, the home remedies made me better. I did in fact go see a doctor, and it was viral. In my area TONS of people were getting sick with something nasty. If I had taken antibiotics it would’ve caused much worse side effects.

  • Camilla

    Hi, recently I have been coughing up small little blood in my phlegm whenever I woke up in the morning. It started since last yr December while I was having cough. And this yr Feb I start having cough n there goes again. blood in phlegm. And during April. This morning I clear my phlegm and I saw redish brown in it. But after I drank water it has no more blood coming out. I m now 23, non smoker. Pls advice. thanks.

  • jo

    I was told I have anemia I’m coughing and its with colored veins are showing through my skin very clearly.I’m now on second day of rx for iron when will veins disappear. My dr has me goin for chest xray due shotness of breath..could this b symptoms of cancer?

  • Mrs.Sohaila Kermani

    Dear Doc.
    I am 70. I have had chronic cough and phlegm problem since I was very young.I have lived in several hot countries from time to time Sometimes hot atmosphere has minimised this condition but it has never gone away. I came to live in UK in 1969 and I got very unwell with ENT illnessses.I have consulted Specialists many times but no one has helped me so far.I can get this condition even without a cold Please help.

    • Dear Mrs.Kermani. It is important to identify the exact cause of this chronic cough and phlegm. Has no doctor provided you with a diagnosis thus far? If if it was a problem with the lower airways and lungs then by now you would have had other symptoms like difficulty breathing and so on, which you don’t mention.

      It is possible (from the limited information provided) that you have post-nasal drip related to inflammation of the nasal passages. This can cause a chronic cough and mucus. Nasal inflammation is known as rhinitis and often occurs together with sinusitis.

      Rhinitis can occur for a number of different reasons and often when persistent, it is allergic in nature. Sometimes it is seasonal (worse only at certain times of the year) and at other times it can persist throughout the entire year (perennial). Seasonal allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever. A cold is a short term viral infection and allergic rhinitis is independent of a cold. It may get worse when you have a cold but persists even without a cold.

      This is not a definitive diagnosis but rather just one possible cause. As mentioned earlier, without knowing the exact diagnosis it is difficult to advise you further. If it is allergic rhinitis and still persisting, then no treatment may ‘cure’ the condition. Instead you may have to be on chronic medication.

      But there are many other types of rhinitis that can be the cause of post nasal drip. You can read more here about rhinitis (

      • jen

        Hi, first off I’d like to say I just had rny gastric bypass on Nov 13th .
        I’m in severe pain when drinking and taking my antibiotics for my lung whch got infection after surgery. Now I keep throwing up Flem tons of it. I need help and not getting any from Dr or surgeon seems like I’m to bloated to drink like my pouch is full of Flem

  • Fiamatta Cross

    Dear Doc,

    When I was in first year college, I had to go through a medical examination, including chest x-ray, for school enrollment purposes. The result showed scarring in my lungs, and that I had PTB, but I have no history of developing such, nor have I been exposed to people with active TB or something, as far as I am concerned. I went to a doctor and as prescribed, I took medications but I developed allergies. We tried different methods, but the allergy continued, so the doctor advised me to pause from my treatment and resume after a few months. However, I got absorbed with school activities that I forgot about it, even my parents forgot about it.

    When I reached the fourth year in college, I had to go through the same examination for OJT purposes, then I received the same results. This time, I went to a different doctor. He gave me prescriptions, and fortunately, there were no allergies this time. After 6 months of religiously taking the medication, my x-ray showed great results of healing. And after a few more months, the doctor declared me non-infectious, but asymptomatic.

    Currently, I have a boyfriend who also was diagnosed with TB before, but totally cured now. I was a bit worried when he said me this because of my history, but decided to trust that I won’t get a recurrence (or TB in an active sort) since I had medication years ago.

    However, I am recently experiencing itchy throat and coughing up mucus. It’s been 2 months now, and it usually happens at night, or in the morning, though not everyday or regularly.

    I’m worried that this may lead to something serious but I don’t know how to address this condition to a doctor personally.

    • Hi Fiona. Being exposed to a person with TB puts you at risk, especially with close contact. However, if your boyfriend is totally cured after completing treatment then the risk is minimal at the moment. Nevertheless there is still the possibility that you or your boyfriend could have TB, irrespective of your previous history.

      You need to speak to your doctor and inform him/her that both you and your boyfriend had TB and that you are concerned about a recurrence given your recent symptoms. A sputum test may suffice in diagnosing TB if present and a chest x-ray is also advisable. Your doctor will run the necessary tests based on your current symptoms and previous history.

      There is no harm in being cautious. It is better to be safe than sorry. Rather undergo the necessary tests and rule out TB and put your mind at ease if the tests are negative. Remember that there can be other conditions that may be causing these symptoms which your doctor will subsequently diagnose.

      • Fiamatta Cross

        Your words are very encouraging and helpful. I feel more at ease now to see my doctor.

        Thank you so much! 🙂

  • robyn lundgren

    Dear DR. Hi. For the last 10 months I get mucus in my thoart all day long and night. if I. Don’t cough it up I choke on . Plus I have to spit on the timme and most of the time it looks like bubbles. I cut out all most all greesy foods maybe once a month I might eat I was on acid reflex med for 3 months off and on. I had a scope done twice they found nothin. I have lost a lot of weight I don’t feel like eating just makes it worse. Plus I don’t feel like doin nothin. Noone can find out what’s the matter I don’t know what to do . I want to get better. I do hav really bad teeth most to the gums could that be my problem ?

    • HI Robyn. The focus on this point should be to isolate where the mucus is coming from. From what you say it does not seem to be arising in the lower airways or lungs. One possibility is that it is arising from the nose and/or sinuses in what may be post nasal drip. Reflux is a common cause of persistent nasal conditions and can also cause mucus formation in the throat from repeated irritation. Your dental problem could be a possible cause but this is something best discussed with your dentist. The simultaneous loss of appetite is also a cause for concern here. It may be a good idea to have more extensive investigations done like blood tests for conditions like HIV and so on. This is not to say that your symptoms are due to HIV but from what you say the investigations thus far have been localized. It is difficult to say with any certainty what may be the cause. Consult with another doctor if necessary.

      • robyn lundgren

        I had a test done for hiv and hep they came back fine. My scopes show nothin wrong. The reason I don’t eat. Much is cause when I drink I have to spit cause I have a lot of spit it my mouth that looks like foam or bubbles and when I eat. It get mixed in with mucus and have to cough it up

        • Hi Robyn. The excessive salivation (hypersalivation) that you now mention is very relevant, along with the dental problems. Collectively, these symptoms could be indicative of a number of different conditions ranging from mercury poisoning to syphilis. Once again we are not saying that you have these conditions. There are autoimmune diseases and so on that can also present in this way. You should possibly consult with an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT specialist) for further insight.

  • Donyavangogh

    Clear, and Phlegm is more viscous than ever before!

    Last May of 2013 I noticed my dairy had changed. I’m a super-taster/smeller. With research and trial and error, using myself as a guinea pig I have come to the conclusion that the phlegm you are experiencing is a direct result of the mandatory new pasteurization process in the U.S. Now, all dairy must be Ultra-heat-treated. What this does is make all milk have a shelf-life of 9 months unrefrigerated. However the reason it can stay on shelf is because the process U.H.T. kills all the healthy enzymes and proteins that is meant to aid human bodies. Over 1000 scientists (independent) have signed an affidavit with evidence that UHT Milk is a major health hazard. It causes respiratory problems, food sensitivities & Allergies and compromises the human immune system! If you eat anything with dairy from the U.S. in it, be it caramel candies, milk chocolate, butter, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, cheese, milk, and numerous other milk products you will suffer a very viscous hard to get rid of phlegm problem. My Phlegm was so bad I was choking on it to the point of wretched vomiting and convulsions. It was clear, but more sticky than ever before. I don’t have the problem if I stay clear of all milk products now. I drink Silk almond milk unsweetened with vanilla and it breaks my heart because I was the hugest milk lover and miss it very much! This is why we are seeing an outbreak of illnesses and allergies in our young children and it’s as if the AMA have all turned a blind eye. This MANDATORY U.H.T. Dairy process is preposterous and a major health hazard yet authorities keep it swept under the rug. So the Headline above: “Does Milk Cause Phlegm” answers, no, however with U.H.T. Dairy the answer has to be changed to an emphatic, “YES!”
    The other danger for us all is the GMO foods that have been amped up recently with intentional poisons on a molecular dna level and can cross-contaminate non-GMO crops to become GMO, kills off our bee population, and contains pesticides, chemicals, bacteria, and viruses intentionally placed to “slow kill” people as a form of population control by people so rich their twisted minds actually think you and I are consuming THEIR resources and must be stopped. The truth is, if we allowed our soils to rest and grow without chemicals we’d yield enough foods to feed a world population of 20 billion people. So don’t fall for the old, “GMO foods are here to feed the masses.” It’s a ruse for monopolies and for control of the masses. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our foods lately have been linked to leaky gut, sulfuric acid, liver problems, organ failure, cancer, bloody stools, allergies, and pneumonia. Yes, I’m scared and no, I’m not crazy.

    • Hi Dony. Thank you for your input. There is an ongoing debate as to whether diary products, and specifically the milk protein caesin, is associated with increased mucus production. We have shared your opinions on the UHT process and how it may contribute to mucus production. As per our comment policy, the publication of your comment does not necessarily mean that we agree with its content. Thank you for sharing.

  • Paula

    I have been sick for about a week now. Violent cough attacks, sinus congestion, fatigue, loss of appetite, low grade fever (after three days of being sick) headache, sore throat. After one day, the sore throat went away but everything else magnified. Did see a dr 4 times last week and finally on Sunday, he put my on Augmentin and some prescription strength cough suppressant with codeine. The syrup isn’t working as good as I would like it to and I am still coughing violently, sinus congestion is worse, darker output mixed with blood. Coughing up (when I can get it up and out) yellow to dark yellow thick mucus. Last night was a tough night, was dizzy and felt extremely winded and weak after each coughing attack. This morning I woke up with slight numbness to the fingertips (kind of tingly feeling) on my left hand. Any ideas? I really am tired of being sick and I am hoping that the antibiotic will knock out whatever is keeping house in my body. I appreciate any ideas.

    Thank you

    • Hi Paula. Respiratory tract infections are very common and usually short-lived. Yours is obviously significantly severe. It is difficult to make an assumption on the diagnosis at this point. The presence of blood in the mucus is a cause for concern. Antibiotics will work if it is a bacterial infection but not for viral infections. Of course it also depends on using the right type of antibiotic at the right dosage. Sometimes a second course may be needed. If your symptoms are not improving at all after day 3 of using the antibiotics then it may be advisable to speak to your doctor again. And if you are not satisfied with your current medical care you should then consider seeking a second opinion from another doctor.

  • Ann


    I’ve been having some cold symptoms for the past few days. Sweats, body ache, headache extreme fatigue and now coughing up thick yellow phlegm especially in the morning. Could this be symptoms of bronchitis?
    Thank you

    • Hi Ann. It could be bronichitis but many of these symptoms are also related to common upper respiratory tract infections caused by viruses like a cold or the flu. While it may pass on its own within a few days, it is advisable to get it checked up by a doctor. You may need medication like antibiotics if it is a bacterial infection and delaying treatment could make matters worse.

  • sam

    I need some advice, please offer real advice. Xray showed hardening inlower lung, not caused by anything inhaled. patient sent home after bloods taken.
    Patient tolld to attend hosp as blood results
    suggest liver damage or blockage,maybe gaul stones and jaundice, which docter must assess. Patient sent home toawait ultrasound. Ultrasound concludes no gaul stones. Meanwhile patient deteriorating daily.
    Painful cough producing yellow phlem with streaks off blood, breathlessness increasing now unable to do light activities. excessive rapid weightloss, cant eat a normal portion feels full or gets sick.

    • Hi Sam. The hardening of the lung tissue that you are describing is probably what is known as fibrosis. Here the normal tissue is replaced by a type of scar tissue. It is usually the sign of a long term or very serious lung disease that was not treated properly. The patient should be consulting with a pulmonologist for this problem.

      There are many possibilities for the respiratory symptoms ranging from TB to cancer but there are also other less serious conditions that could have caused this. The rapid weight loss and poor sense of wellbeing are ominous signs and it is likely a serious condition that needs specialist management.

      A gastroenterologist would be able to advise further on the liver/gallbladder problem. The patient should be going to the hospital as advised and get a referral to the medical specialists discussed above. It may be difficult if you are an NHS patient since you are in the UK but if possible try to see a private medical specialist for a quicker turnaround time. Wasting anymore time can lead to even more serious outcomes.

      We’re not sure what you mean by real advice but you should read our
      comments policy. This simply an online platform to offer assistance and
      not medical advice. We cannot replace a medical consultation with a
      health care practitioner and any information provided here does not constitute a medical diagnosis. You need to speak to a doctor in person about your medical concerns.

  • Julie

    Hi there,

    A few months ago I had bronchitis. I took ammoxicilin (but didnt take the last 3 doses, because I’m a dummy and my symptoms were gone). I also used to smoke, but only for about 2 years. For the past few months, however, I have still been having a lot of mucus-usually dark, yellowish green or brown. I don’t cough, have any chest pain, or have a fever, so I’m not sure it’s the bronchitis again, and the mucus has been persistent for so long. The mucus is usually just worst in the morning and I spit it out, then again maybe a couple times during the day. What’s going on????
    Thanks so much,

    • Hi Julie. You may have heard this before but it is important to understand why it is said. ALWAYS finish a course of antibiotics. Your symptoms may ease significantly by day 3 of using a 5 day course of antibiotics but the infection has not necessarily resolved. Missing the last few doses can ultimately contribute to drug resistance. It is advisable that you consult with a doctor. We cannot say for sure what is going on. The current symptoms could be an infection, it also could be chronic bronchitis (COPD) which is not due to an infection, or it could be some other airway and lung disease. The fact that you are not coughing at all could also mean that the mucus may not be coming from the airways but from the nose and paranasal sinuses. Your doctor will be able to advise you accordingly after evaluating your case.

  • Emily

    Hi, I’m 14 years old and for about 3 weeks I’ve had mucus in my throat. I haven’t been eating that much because I’m scared that it will make my throat worse and I don’t know what to eat. I’ve been spitting up what looks clear but then also it sometimes looks yellow for about two days and my lips are all sore and red. I’m weak and upset about this and I need to get rid of it as I have exams next week! Help??

    • Hi Emily. Hopefully you’re feeling better and your symptoms have cleared. This could be an upper respiratory tract infection which is common and usually short lived. Mucus production may be ongoing for days or weeks after the main symptoms resolve. But there are many other possibilities, even conditions like acid reflux can cause this throat soreness. You should speak to the school nurse or a parent to see a doctor.

      • Emily

        Hi. Thank you for replying! I’m feeling better now and actually last Sunday at 2am I went to hospital. I saw a doctor and she said it could be due to stress from my exams and that my throat was red and she gave my a throat spray. I’m now eating but I’ve lost a lot of weight. I still feel like something is there and after eating I feel like my throat is bringing up something and it burns and feels weird? Thanks for the help!

        • Hi Emily. Stress can lower your immunity which may increase the likelihood of infections. Or it can worsen acid reflux which can then irritate the throat. It is unlikely that stress on its own will directly cause a throat problem. So it is difficult to say what exactly may be going on without an exact diagnosis. If the symptoms are persisting then it is worthwhile going back to your doctor for a follow up.

          • Emily

            Hi. I’m getting a little worried again. I feel like there is or lump or bubble in my throat and sometimes I have chest or back pain. Am I overthinking and there is actually nothing there? I honestly don’t have a clue what to do and haven’t told my parents. Thinking I will have this forever and don’t even see the point in life anymore. What do I do??

          • Hi Emily. Given your age and persisting symptoms you need to speak to your parents about this. They will very likely need to take you to a doctor. Don’t delay or things could turn out worse.

  • Kim davies

    Hi, I’m a 47 year old asthmatic (been asthmatic for 46 years), I saw the nurse practitioner at my surgery when I was having trouble coughing because of pain in chest/throat and trouble breathing, when I was able to cough I was coughing up thick green/yellow phlegm. On examination she said my chest was clear and green/yellow phlegm is not always an infection. This doesn’t sound right to me, as I said I’ve been an asthmatic for many years and know when I’m getting a chest infection. After 5 days on antibiotics I feel no better. Last winter I had a lung infection followed by a chest infection which took 4 courses of antibiotics to clear. I have an appointment with my regular GP next week to hopefully get some better advice.

  • Aaron Jones

    My name is Aaron and I am writing on behalf of my
    mother Edna Jones. My mother will be turning 91 next month and I have been
    taking care of her for the last twenty years, for the past three years or so
    she has had a swallowing problem along with very thick saliva that has been relentless.
    First they told us there was nothing that they could do for her saliva problem.
    Than we had an appointment with her Neurologist he said that there were a few
    things that we could do. He then prescribed her an antidepressant for the side
    effect of dry mouth. We used that for a while with no effect on her at all.
    Then he recommended to her a chemotherapist to see if there was anything that
    he could do he said that he could do nothing.
    She was getting speech therapy for her swallowing and that did help
    somewhat, her Speech Therapist said that she might benefit from Botox
    injections and knew of an ENT that did it. We went to see him and he did one
    side first then the other side, again with no effect at all. He also prescribed
    her something he gives people to dry them up before surgery and that did
    nothing. From there we went to see a Radiologist and he said that they only do
    it for ALS patients, and said that he didn’t see any reason it would not work
    on her. I thought that would finally set her free from her thick saliva and
    that she could get some relief. We did one side and waited six weeks to see if
    that would be enough, it was not it had no effect. Then we did the other side
    she had some relief for about a week and then it started up again. Then we went
    to an allergist to see if she was allergic to anything and found she was
    allergic to dust mites.

    All this time no one could tell us what the thick saliva was and what caused it, I have
    to save her life at least three to four and sometime more times a day with a
    suction machine because it is choking her. She is a very strong woman and I
    believe if she could get rid of the thick saliva she would be doing a lot
    better. On the very rare night we get a good night sleep you can see the
    difference in her. Another side effect from the saliva is she has to sleep with
    her head down which causes her back to hump.

    Some of the other medical problems that she has had were a stroke in 1994, which she
    recovered 95 percent from and she also has a G-Tube. Also she has on her tongue
    has a very shiny coat. We do exercises everyday and she walks with a lot of
    assistants from me. And we do voice exercises as well.

    I refuse to believe that there is nothing that can be done for her, and I will not let her
    die from very thick saliva. It robs her from sleep; she will not speak because
    when she opens her mouth the spit runs out. And it has also taken its toll on
    me as well.

    please help me find a solution for her problem. With all this modern medicine
    there has to be something else that can be done. Or some other reason she has
    the very thick saliva.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Thanks you, Aaron

    • Hi Aaron. You mother should be consulting with a geriatrician (geriatric physician) who can liaise with the other specialists she had seen to find a cause for her current problem. Firstly, the problem may not be the thickness (viscosity) of the saliva but rather than her swallow and gag reflexes are impaired. This can happen with age or a stroke (if she had one in the past). Without swallowing saliva in the mouth it can accumulate to cause choking. Secondly it has to be ascertained whether the thick secretion you are seeing is really saliva or not. Mucus from the nose and sinuses for example can drain into the throat. We cannot say for sure so it is best that her case is managed by a geriatric physician in the long term.

  • sophie

    Hi there, i really need advice!
    For about a year now i have had thick clear mucus in my throat that i would have to expell constantly. It would come out when i tighten my throat muscles or even sometimes when im just talking etc. Its getting really frustrating but my dr has just said it could be caused by dehydration but no matter how much i drink it doesnt go away

  • stephanie Feltham

    Hiya there I’m Stephanie and since September last year I’ve had tonsillitis, an infection in my big toe, a sickness bug and had 4 colds ( including the one I’ve currently got! But this time I’m finding my breathing is all over the place, I’m having heart palpitations and pains in my stomach and abdomen as well as chest! I’m coughing up a creamy yellowish phlegm as well as having a feeling like either snot or phlegm is hanging down in my throat and the other night when I went to blow my nose and a big blop of jelly like stuff came out my nose! Do I have to be concerned about this and about the fact that I had so many illnesses in such a short period of time? Plus also I’m getting dry skin patches/blocthes all over my arms and legs? Can you please help me out? Stephanie.

  • Darker Dey

    i cough at night and my mucus is clear. the whole coughing occurs occasionally but while at night it is more frequent then before. i dont have wheezing problem and neither i am lossing weight earlier i use to smoke but i stop it completely. this problem occured when i used to take ciggrette and all that stuff too frequently.. its been nearly 2 months that this problem occured. so is there any serious problem.

    • Hi Darker. We cannot say for sure whether this problem is serious. It could be and you should have it assessed by a medical professional. Even if you have quit smoking you can still develop related conditions like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This may explain your current symptoms. Other serious conditions include TB and even lung cancer. So as you can see there are too many possible causes for these symptoms and you will need further diagnostic investigations like a chest x-ray.

  • joe

    Hi there, I’m having trouble with a cold flu at the moment. lower right abdominal pain only when coughing, struggling to bring phlem up, straining to cough gagging on my own cough sometimes & also really hard to breathe…what’s should I do in terms of relief, medication and your view on symptoms.

  • Julie Ann

    Hi my name is Julie Ann and I’m writing with some serious concerns and questions. I have a surgery in May 2017 because I had a large ulcer. While in surgery my doctor was to revise my gastric bypass I have 8 years ago. While in surgery my stomachs was so bad that they had to remove it and create a stomach pouch. So they took my esophagus and directly attached it to the small intestine. Two days after the original surgery they found a tear so I was rushed back in for them to repair. Two days after that they find a leak during my swallow test. By the time it was all said and done they had to open my incision because I developed a internal infection. So I now Ave an open wound that’s 9 inches long and 6 inches wide. I ended up so sick that my lungs and kidneys were shutting down. I also was going sepsis. They decided to put me into an induced coma. I was in Ho hospital for over a month. Once they got me out of the coma I immediately had this very thick slimy frothy saliva / mucus. I’ve tried everything to make it go away. It’s so bad that I can’t hold anything down (food or water). I’m constantly gagging and I can’t leave my home because of the severity of the situation. Been to the doctor and they did Endoscopy and I had cat scan and chest x-Ray and they still can’t tell me why this is can’t happening. I’m desperately seeking some professional advice!!!! Please!!!!!! Thank You for your time..