From moisturizing your body to protecting it from harmful bacteria, mucus plays an important role in health. When it thickens because of allergies, smoking, dry air or an infection such as the flu, a cold or sinusitis, it can make breathing difficult and interfere with your overall well-being. Simple steps can help minimize these issues. For long-lasting or severe symptoms, consult your doctor.
Humidifiers and vaporizers help ease mucus symptoms by adding moisture to the air you breathe. This is important because dry air makes it tougher for mucus to flow through your sinuses and nose normally, causing blockages. Vaporizers use heat to create boiling water, which adds steam to the air. Humidifiers release cool mist. For best results and safety, follow the instructions for the device and keep the device you use clean.
Decongestants, expectorants and antihistamines can go a long way toward managing mucus. Decongestants limit blood flow in your nose and reduce the amount of mucus produced there. If allergies are causing your flare-up, antihistamines can help by limiting or blocking histamine, which your body produces during allergic reactions. Expectorants, such as Mucinex®, thin mucus down, making it easier for your body to get rid of it.
Avoid overusing decongestants and antihistamines, which can lead to increased congestion. They may also cause side effects, such as nervousness and high blood pressure. No matter which medication you use, always follow dosing instructions.
Nasal irrigation can help ease a stuffy nose caused by mucus buildup. Useful options include neti pots, squeeze bottles and syringes. All of these methods involve shooting saline up your nostrils to loosen the mucus. Make sure you use new or sterile equipment and rinse it well after each use, letting it air dry afterward. Irrigate only occasionally because frequent use can reduce the good bacteria in your nose as well.
You can also take steps to prevent mucus from recurring or happening in the first place.
- Wash your hands well and routinely to prevent catching an infection, such as a cold or the flu.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot annually as the number one way to prevent the flu.
- If you're prone to allergy flare-ups or sinus infections, consider using a humidifier consistently – particularly during cold, dry months.
- Avoid smoking or take steps to cut back or quit. Limiting how much time you areexposed to secondhand smoke can also help.