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General Practice 2023

Cough with phlegm: what it can be and what to do

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Cough with phlegm: what it can be and what to do
Cough with phlegm: what it can be and what to do

Cough is a defense mechanism of the body in an attempt to eliminate secretions from the respiratory system, arising mainly when there is inflammation of the bronchi, bronchioles or lungs, mainly due to infection by microorganisms.

Some diseases that can cause coughing with phlegm are bronchitis, bronchiolitis and tuberculosis, for example, and therefore if the cough does not improve in 5 days, you should go to the pulmonologist for an evaluation of the symptoms and it is possible to start the most appropriate treatment.

To combat coughing with phlegm, nebulize with serum, cough to try to eliminate secretions, drink at least 2 liters of liquid and drink teas with expectorant properties, such as onion skin, for example.


1. Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a respiratory disorder characterized by inflammation of the bronchi, which are structures responsible for transporting oxygen to and from the lungs. Thus, due to the change in its functioning, it is possible to have a cough with phlegm, wheezing, shortness of breath and excessive tiredness, for example.

What to do: The symptoms of bronchitis usually disappear on their own, without the need for any type of treatment, however, to promote recovery and relieve symptoms, the doctor may indicate some remedies, such as analgesics, anti-inflammatory, mucolytics and expectorants. See more details about bronchitis treatment.

2. Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a more common alteration in babies under 2 years of age in which there is inflammation of the bronchioles, which are the narrowest airways in the lung, with difficulty for air to pass, which causes difficulty breathing, fever, persistent cough and with phlegm and wheezing when breathing.

What to do: It is important that the baby is consulted by the pediatrician so that the best guidelines are given. It is usually only indicated that the baby is at rest and well hydrated, and nebulizations may also be recommended. Check out how bronchiolitis is treated.

3. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium, which can reach the lungs, compromise their functioning and lead to the appearance of some symptoms, such as coughing up phlegm and blood, pain when breathing, cold sweat and sensation of shortness of breath. Know how to recognize the symptoms of tuberculosis.

What to do: It is important that the pulmonologist or infectious disease specialist be consulted so that the diagnosis can be made and treatment with antibiotics can be started, which must be taken according to the doctor's guidance. It is important not to interrupt the treatment, because in this way it is possible that the infectious agent is not completely eliminated, and the symptoms or a more severe form of the disease may develop again.

4. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses caused by viruses or bacteria, in which secretions accumulate, which causes headache, pain in the face, nasal congestion, fever and cough with phlegm. Check out other sinus symptoms.

What to do: In the case of sinusitis, to relieve symptoms, it is important to promote the elimination of accumulated secretions, which can be done by washing the nose with water and s alt or with saline. In cases where sinusitis is caused by bacteria, the doctor may recommend the use of antibiotics.

5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also called COPD, occurs due to a chronic inflammation of the bronchi and bronchioles, which causes difficulty breathing, rapid and wheezing, shortness of breath and constant coughing with white phlegm., yellow or greenish.

What to do: COPD treatment should be guided by a pulmonologist and aim to relieve symptoms and prevent the development of complications. For this, the doctor may recommend the use of bronchodilators, corticosteroids or mucolytics, in addition to respiratory physiotherapy. See more details on COPD treatment.

When to go to the doctor

You should seek medical help when the cough presents with green, yellow, bloody or brown phlegm because these colors may indicate the presence of microorganisms in the lung that may need to be treated with antibiotics, for example. See what each color of phlegm can indicate.

It is also recommended to go to the consultation when there is fever, hoarseness and when the cough with phlegm makes breathing difficult and has not passed for more than 3 days. The doctor may request a lung X-ray and sputum examination to assess the color, consistency and microorganism involved so that the diagnosis of the disease can be made and, thus, indicate the best remedies.

How to fight phlegm cough

If the person has a cough with transparent phlegm, it is recommended to use nebulization to reduce the thickness and amount of mucus, helping to breathe better, in addition to coughing whenever you feel the presence of secretions, avoiding swallowing them, in addition to drinking at least 2 liters of water during the day to fluidize secretions and thus facilitate their elimination.

Also, an option to fight cough is drinking teas with expectorant properties, such as mallow tea with guaco and onion syrup, for example, which facilitate the elimination of phlegm. In some cases, especially when the cough is persistent, the doctor may recommend the use of specific cough syrups, which should be used as directed.

Home remedies to loosen phlegm

Some home remedies to cure clear phlegm cough include:

  • Inhale steam from boiled water with 1 tablespoon of coarse s alt and 1 drop of eucalyptus essential oil;
  • Have onion skin tea with honey and 1 pinch of white pepper, 2 times a day;
  • Take the juice of 1 orange with 1 lemon, 1 spoon of honey and 3 drops of propolis extract;
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, tangerines and raw peppers, as this strengthens the immune system. In addition, you can make an orange juice with watercress and drink it every day.

When you have a cough with phlegm, it is important not to take any medicine for dry cough because it is important to eliminate phlegm to avoid complications such as pneumonia, for example. Check out some other options for home remedies for sputum.

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