What Causes White Phlegm in Cough? How to Cope

When infection has invaded our bodies, we secrete mucus as one way to eliminate the invading pathogens. Phlegm, mucus and sputum are produced by the body every day in order to keep the nasal passages moist and resistant to infection. When illness or irritants invade, more mucus is produced in order to clear the passages.

Excessive mucus production is in fact a good sign rather than a bad one. It means your body is functioning properly to clear your system of illness and pathogens trying to enter the body.

Causes of Coughing Up White Mucus

1. Common Cold


There are more than 200 viruses that can cause a common cold! This is why it’s almost impossible to avoid catching a cold. Common symptoms include sore throats, watery eyes, sneezing and white mucus discharge. Mucus goes from the nose to the throat where it is coughed up and often changes color as the cold runs its course.

2. Sinusitis


Sinus symptoms are most often caused by an infecting virus and most often appear during the winter months when cold and flu viruses are present. The telltale symptoms of sinusitis are nasal congestions and white mucus discharge that can become yellow or green. You may experience pressure in the face, fever, ear pain, pain along the jaw and teeth, and fatigue. Children’s symptoms are different and often more severe including things like vomiting, gagging and constant nasal discharge.

3. Bronchitis


Exposure to irritants or viral infections causes inflammation in the airways that is an infection known as bronchitis. Cold-like symptoms are most common, yet they will be more severe. The excess white mucus may change to yellow or green, which is a sign that the inflammatory cells have moved into the airway, coloring the sputum there. Persistent symptoms, shortness of breath and wheezing that last more than 2 weeks should be reported to a doctor.



This stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, and is a condition where fluids from the stomach backflow into the esophagus. The throat becomes irritated and white phlegm is coughed up. Other symptoms are chest pains, sore throat and the feeling of lumps in the throat.

5. Asthma


Asthma is a chronic condition that can cause people to cough up white or pink mucus. They often experience difficulty breathing as the airways tend to constrict. Asthma is caused and aggravated by allergic reactions that cause the bronchial tubes to become inflamed and swollen.

6. Milk


Drinking milk, while not a direct cause of white phlegm, does thicken mucus making it harder to expel it from your body. Avoid excessive consumption of milk and dairy products if you have a throat infection.

Remedies for Coughing Up White Mucus

1. Cough It Out. You don’t want to swallow phlegm as it can cause bloating in your stomach. Be sure to cough it up and spit it out. Carrying tissues with you will make it easier to expel mucus when a trash can or sink is not readily available.

2. Inhale Steam. Boil water in a pot or turn the shower on hot and inhale the steam. Steam thins mucus and also soothes the throat. Adding some eucalyptus to your boiling water can also help.

3. Use Cough Syrups. Over the counter cough syrups can aid in alleviating symptoms and helping you to expel phlegm and mucus. Some formulas can make you drowsy so be sure to get ones with a non-drowsy label if you do not want to go to sleep. Read all labels as syrups differ for adults and children.

4. Try Homemade Remedies. Following lists some effective ways to help you combat this condition.



Plenty of Fluids


Soups, herbal teas and water keep you hydrated and help thin and break down mucus and shorten infection time.

Bell Pepper


Bell peppers contain natural expectorants and help to thin out mucus. Try having bell pepper in at least one meal a day.

Salt Water


Gargling with warm/hot salt water will help bring mucus to the upper throat while soothing it, making coughing out the mucus easier. Boil 3 cups of water and add 4 tbsp. of salt to it. Gargle 3-4 times a day.



Add ¼ spoon if myrrh to warm water, gargle for a few seconds, then swallow the substance. Myrrh is cleansing so it helps to expel mucus and decrease infection.



Garlic possesses both antibiotic and antifungal properties. It is also a natural expectorant that will help you to cough up mucus and phlegm. Crush 2-3 garlic cloves and eat them throughout the day until your infection ceases.

Licorice Tea


Licorice is a natural expectorant and helps to soothe the throat. Make tea with licorice to ease pain and help expel mucus. Add peppermint and honey to your licorice tea for even more soothing effects and drink twice a day.

Honey and Ginger


Ginger has oleoresins in it that help to get rid of excess mucus and fight infection. Honey coats the throat and soothes inflammation. Mix fresh ginger and honey; chew slowly and swallow.

If you are coughing up bloody, brown or green mucus, see a doctor immediately. These are all signs of severe conditions that can escalate without medical attention.

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