What Causes Throat Mucus?

Staff Writer
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Mucus certainly isn’t a pleasant topic to chat about in a friendly conversation, but it’s an essential substance that is continuously produced by your body to provide some front line protection against infections. Slimy and sticky, mucus basically acts as a trap for contaminants that try to enter the body through the mouth and nose.

Mucus also works to keep the sensitive tissues of the nose and throat moist, and it’s normal for the human body to produce more than a liter of mucus every day. Most of it goes down the back of the throat without being noticed, but if your body's mucus production increases, it can lead to some irritating mucus issues. Let’s take a look at some common factors that could potentially cause increased throat mucus.

1

Pollen

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Besides leaving you with itchy eyes and a runny nose, seasonal allergies and hay fever are likely to cause a buildup of mucus at the back of your throat. As the airborne pollen enters your airway, your body starts to react to the allergen. Mucus production increases as part of your body’s way to catch and trap the pollen particles and prevent them from entering your airway.

2

Smoking

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Whether you smoke yourself or spend time around others who are smoking, the smoke and its toxins cause many negative reactions when you breathe them into your lungs. From the tar to the nicotine, the components in cigarettes come with a host of dire health warnings. Comparatively, the increase in mucus production caused by smoke irritating the sensitive linings in the nose and throat seems like a minor issue. Quitting smoking results in a long list of health benefits, including a return to normal mucus levels.

3

Pet Fur

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Your fluffy pet may be the most adorable furball you’ve ever seen, but all that fur can wreak havoc on your sinus passages and the lining of your throat. You don’t have to be allergic to animal hair — although it’s certainly worse if you are — for all those silky fibers to irritate your mucous membranes and kick mucus production into overdrive.

4

Dehydration

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Not drinking enough water or other fluids always poses a danger to your health. All the organs in your body, including your brain and heart, need to remain well hydrated to function at peak efficiency. If your fluid consumption is too low, you could experience dizziness, confusion, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and fainting. It also causes the mucous membranes in your throat to dry out, so your body overcompensates and produces a thick mucus.

5

Caffeine and Alcohol

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Drinking even a single cup of coffee causes minor dehydration if you don’t drink plenty of water along with it. If you don’t stop there and drink several cups of coffee in a day, the problem intensifies. The same is true for alcohol consumption. Even a single drink causes a certain degree of dehydration. As we already noted, this fluid loss causes a thickening and an increase in mucus production. If you drink a lot of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, this could explain issues with constant mucus in your throat.

6

Dust and Dust Mites

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You know what dust looks and feels like, so it’s certainly no surprise that it would irritate the sensitive linings of your throat and nose. If you dig a little deeper — like to a microscopic level — the household pests known as dust mites are tiny enough to infiltrate just about anything, from your bedding to your carpet. If you're allergic to these mites, you can expect to deal with higher levels of mucus production in your throat all year round.

7

Viruses

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When you become ill with a cold or the flu, which are both caused by viruses, your body will overproduce mucus. It’s gross and annoying, but it occurs because extra white blood cells are made to defend your body against the infection in your airways. A substance inside the white blood cells called neutrophils causes your mucus to thicken and change color. This is often the first sign that you have been infected by a virus.

8

Mold

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Mold growing on a surface is always ugly and sometimes smelly, but the problem goes deeper than that. Some mold spores are more dangerous and toxic than others, but they are all harmful to your health to some extent if you breathe them in. To prevent these harmful particles from spreading within your body and leading to an illness, mucus production increases to trap them.

9

Dry Conditions

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Much like the concept behind what happens when the body doesn’t receive enough fluid and dehydrates, the air around you can create very dry conditions that affect the sensitive tissues in your nose and throat. Air conditioning and heating systems try to combat this by stabilizing the temperature, but it’s not always possible to control the moisture in the air. If you’re experiencing more mucus in your throat during the winter, your heater could be drying out the air. Just like when you don’t drink enough fluids, your throat's mucous membranes dry out, prompting your body to produce more mucus.

10

Environmental Pollutants

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All kinds of pollutants in the air around you can negatively affect your health. Environmental pollutants range from factory smoke to car exhaust fumes. As with other harmful particles that enter your body, environmental pollutants trigger a defensive response from mucous membranes. This generally results in thicker mucus produced in greater volume to combat the exposure.

Resource Links:

https://www.nbcnews.com/healthmain/chronic-throat-clearers-were-you-1C6436920

https://www.entandallergy.com/how-we-help-you/article/throat-and-mouth-throat-mucous-lump-sensation

https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/cough-that-lasts-may-be-sign-of-underlying-problem/

https://entforchildren.com/causes-excessive-mucus-phlegm-throat/

https://lunginstitute.com/blog/21-foods-trigger-mucus-production-21-foods-reduce/