Mucus is a healthy protective sticky gelatinous material that covers your lungs, throat, mouth, nose, and sinuses. It is very annoying when you fall ill; however it is one of the protective mechanisms of the body and is needed to keep it healthy. It is produced by mucous membranes of the nose and sinuses. Another term similar to mucus, called phlegm is used interchangeably to describe nasal mucus, although phlegm is produced by lungs and respiratory system.
Nasal mucus plays two important functions in a healthy body:
- It prevents lungs, throat, and nasal and sinus passages from drying out as well as provides a protective coat to the lung tissues.
- It acts as a medium to trap microorganisms and allergens, trapping them and preventing them from spreading through your body. It is first line of defence against pathogens. Mucus is also rich in antibodies that help initiate an immune response against these infecting organisms.
Nasal Mucus production when you are sick:
Change in Texture:
Though it may sound weird, but the mucus production doesn’t increase when you are sick. The quality and the texture of the mucus however, may change. Infections my either cause the mucus to become watery thin or becomes thicker and stickier, making it difficult to gulp down. Either condition implicates the first sign of an infection and would warrant proper treatment.
Pathogens might instigate the mucous membrane, causing it to become more productive. However mucus when exposed to these materials triggers histamine release. Histamine causes the tissue in your nasal passages to swell, causing thinner mucus production and runny nose. Infections sometimes may also lead to thicker or stickier mucus and in severe conditions may lead to lung congestion.
Change in Colour:
Not only the texture, but also the colour of the mucus changes when you are sick. In healthy state, the body produces mucus with no colour. But colour such as yellow or greenish colour indicates infections and should be treated for the same. This colour is usually given by neutrophils, which are type of WBCs and part of the immune armamentarium.
Handling Nasal Mucus:
Thin watery mucus or thick, sticky mucus can be troublesome and should be treated for. There are several ways in which it can be handled.
- Decongestants: Can help in preventing excessive mucus buildup but should be used with caution and overuse should be avoided
- Antihistamines: Indicates for handling mucus buildup in allergic conditions. These drugs are very handy in treating runny and itchy nose but are known to cause drowsiness, dizziness.
- Expectorants: These help in handling the thick mucus, helping it to become thinner and expelling it from the body.
- Steam: A very natural way of handling mucus, it helps in breaking down the thick mucus and facilitates its elimination.