It’s icky, but you need it – the truth about mucus.


Mucus has a crucial role to play when you are feeling under the weather.

The role of mucus within your body

It’s gross, and you may wonder why it exists in the first place, but mucus has an important job – this sticky gelatinous material lines your lungs, throat, mouth, nose, and sinuses and keeps them from drying out. Your nose and throat glands make up just under two litres of it every day.

Most people only notice mucus when they are sick. But there’s more to it than what you think when you have a cold or the flu. Mucus also helps shield your lungs from bacteria, dust particles, exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, viruses, and other intruders.

When mucus turns into a dilemma

When you’re coming down with a cold or flu, mucus starts to thicken as it helps you to fight off viruses and ward off infections. If you have an infection that blocks the normal passage into the airways and throat, the mucus doesn’t get drained, and it accumulates. It becomes harder to clear and tends to pool, making you feel miserable. This mucus is known as phlegm – it is made up of mucus, dead bacteria and viruses, living and dead white blood cells (immune cells that are there to battle a cold), and various tissues and cells, all of which thicken the discharge. It’s a goop that contains cells and chemical compounds that help fight off whatever bug is making you ill. Think of excess mucus production as the body’s way of doubling down on viral or bacterial invaders.

Although a cough is an important reflex defence mechanism to protect your lungs and keep them clear when there is over-production of mucus, it can have a major impact on sleep, and school and work performance. Coughing also disturbs other family members’ sleep and may be disruptive in the classroom or at the office.

How to deal with the mucus dilemma relating to a cough

As coughs may often be caused by thick, sticky phlegm irritating the chest, a solution for these coughs may be to target the phlegm, and thin it down so the body can absorb it or expel it more efficiently. A recent survey of liquid cough syrups found no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of these medicines in an acute cough. One alternative to ease a chesty wet cough is an over-the-counter mucolytic treatment such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC).

NAC helps to clear excessive phlegm in the chest. It is the active ingredient in products like ACC 200, Solmucol and Mucofizz. NAC is a quick and effective OTC treatment method, which breaks the links that bind the phlegm together, loosening or breaking down mucus in the chest, making it easier to cough up, and helping to alleviate congestion and coughing. Scientific studies have shown that NAC reduces cough and has good overall safety in children older than 2 years.

Ask your healthcare provider for a mucolytic suitable for the whole family that can help you and your children feel better, sooner.

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