Is It Good to Cough Up Phlegm?

Medically Reviewed on 10/21/2022
Is It Good to Cough Up Phlegm
It is good to cough up phlegm because it helps clear viruses and bacteria from your body

Coughing up phlegm is good if you are sick with the flu or another respiratory illness as doing so helps clear mucus from your lungs and prevents infection.

Learn about effective ways to get rid of phlegm.

What is phlegm?

Phlegm is another name for mucus and is produced by the respiratory system. This mucus lines the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs and protects the body from infection.

Some of the functions of phlegm include the following:

  • Keeps tissues moist and healthy
  • Traps harmful pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria
  • Picks up the inflammatory cells produced by the body

When viruses and bacteria attack the body, mucus production increases, thickening the mucus and causing discomfort. The body tries to expel this mucus by coughing.

How to get rid of phlegm

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids. Limit beverages that are dehydrating, such as alcohol, coffee, and tea. 

Use a humidifier

A humidifier can help soothe your nasal passages and reduce the production of mucus and phlegm. Choose a cool-mist humidifier and clean it regularly.

Use a nasal saline spray

Saline sprays help rinse tissues of the nose and the sinuses. Use a sterilized spray that contains sodium chloride.

Gargle with salt water

Saltwater (1 teaspoon of salt in a warm glass of water) can soothe irritation in the throat and help eliminate mucus.

Try inhaling eucalyptus

Put eucalyptus balm or essential oil in a diffuser; the aroma may help release mucus from the chest.

Take over-the-counter medications

Decongestants can reduce nasal swelling. Expectorants, such as guaifenesin and potassium iodide, help reduce the amount of mucus.

Try coughing techniques

Techniques to expel mucus are usually done with an inhaled bronchodilator medication. The medication helps loosen phlegm and open the airways, making the methods more efficient. The most common methods used to get rid of mucus include those that can be requested or demonstrated by your physician.

  • Deep coughing:
    • Inhale deeply and hold your breath for about 2-3 seconds. 
    • Use your stomach muscles to expel the air vigorously.
    • Cough long and deep, as this is less tiring and more efficiently removes mucus from the lungs.
    • Avoid a hacking cough or clearing your throat.
  • Huff coughing:
    • Inhale slightly more deeply than usual 
    • Use your stomach muscles to create three rapid exhalations while keeping the airway open, resulting in a “ha, ha, ha” sound.
    • You can follow this with carefully controlled respiration and a deep sneeze if you can feel mucus moving.
  • Other methods:
    • Acapella or Aerobika are small devices that help you exhale.
    • Postural drainage is a procedure that uses gravity to help remove mucus from the lungs.
    • Exercise can help remove mucus from the lungs.


Which illness is known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection? See Answer

When to contact your doctor

Typically, phlegm is not something to worry about. However, contact your doctor if you observe the following symptoms along with coughing up phlegm:

If you are concerned about allergies, you can ask your doctor to order allergy testing. If you have other concerns, speak to your primary care physician or an otolaryngologist, who can examine your health and medical history to determine the best course of treatment.

Medically Reviewed on 10/21/2022
Image Source: iStock image

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