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Infectious Diseases 2023

White phlegm: 6 main causes and what to do

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White phlegm: 6 main causes and what to do
White phlegm: 6 main causes and what to do

White phlegm usually arises due to infections or respiratory inflammation such as bronchitis, sinusitis, or more complicated diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But it can also be related to changes in the digestive system, such as reflux or food allergy, for example.

Normally, phlegm is produced and attaches itself to bacteria, fungi or viruses to expel them, through coughing, protecting the body against diseases. In addition, phlegm is also composed of antibodies, which are proteins that help in the defense of the organism, fighting viruses, fungi or bacteria.

When you have frequent white phlegm, whether or not accompanied by symptoms such as fever, headache or tiredness, it is important to consult a general practitioner, so that an assessment of the possible causes can be carried out and the indication of the most appropriate treatment.

The most common causes of white phlegm are:

1. Sinusitis

White phlegm can be formed during sinusitis, which is an inflammation that happens in the sinuses, in the nose, eyes and cheeks region, which can last between 4 or 12 weeks. In addition to the presence of cough with white phlegm, other symptoms of sinusitis are fever, pressure in the ears, tiredness, runny nose, headache and bad breath. See more about what it is and how to treat sinusitis.

What to do: some measures that can help in the elimination of white phlegm, is to drink at least 2 liters of water a day and avoid the use of air conditioning, as it can dry the nose and mouth, which makes it difficult to eliminate phlegm. To treat sinusitis, it is essential to consult a general practitioner, who may prescribe the use of saline solution in the nose, pain relievers, antibiotics or decongestants.

2. Acute bronchitis

In acute bronchitis, phlegm can be colorless or white and is caused by inflammation in the bronchi, which are the structures responsible for carrying oxygen to the lungs. Normally, this inflammation lasts an average of 1 month and its main symptoms are cough with white phlegm, which tends to get worse at night, tiredness, wheezing and chest pain.

What to do: To treat bronchitis, it is important to consult a general practitioner, who will assess the symptoms and may prescribe paracetamol for pain or a known bronchodilator popularly as a firecracker. In addition to medication, drinking plenty of water and hot drinks, such as teas, help improve breathing, relieving the symptoms of acute bronchitis.

3. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammation in the lungs that can cause the production of white phlegm. Asthma is a genetic disease, starting during childhood and some factors such as obesity or exposure to dust, perfume or cockroaches, can worsen symptoms that usually include shortness of breath, coughing, tightness and wheezing.

What to do: to treat asthma it is essential to receive an evaluation from a pulmonologist so that the best therapy is indicated. Asthma treatment recommendations usually include the use of corticosteroid medications and firecrackers, avoiding exposure to environmental pollution, such as dust mites, animal hair and cleaning materials, and quitting smoking, as tobacco makes the disease worse. Find out about other medications to treat asthma.

4. Backflow

Reflux is a disease where stomach acid rises up into the esophagus or mouth and can be caused by obesity or old age. The main symptoms of reflux are burning, cough with the presence of white phlegm, hoarse voice, throat clearing, and wear of the teeth, caused by the presence of stomach acid in the mouth.

What to do: It is important to have an appointment with a gastroenterologist to confirm the diagnosis and to carry out the appropriate treatment, which can usually be started with the use of medication to reduce the stomach acidity like omeprazole.It is also recommended to avoid drinking alcohol, avoid smoking and avoid wearing tight clothing. In addition, it is important to adopt a balanced diet, guided by a nutritionist. Understand how to go on a diet to treat reflux.

5. Food Allergy

Food allergy is a reaction of the body to certain foods, such as peanuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, wheat or soy. Symptoms appear between 20 minutes and 2 hours after eating the food and range from an itching and blistering of the skin, coughing up white phlegm, nausea, vomiting, to more serious reactions such as anaphylaxis, which is a decrease in blood pressure, swelling of the lips. and difficulty breathing. Learn more about the causes, symptoms and how to treat food allergy.

What to do: to treat mild food allergy, it is important to consult an allergist or immunologist, who, after evaluation, may indicate the use of nebulization, antihistamine or corticosteroids.If more serious symptoms such as shortness of breath or a feeling of a swollen throat develop, call an ambulance or go to a hospital immediately. Medical evaluation is essential to identify and exclude foods that can cause allergic reactions from the diet.

6. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a chronic disease that occurs due to prolonged exposure to smoke, dust, or other irritating substances. The disease causes the airways to close, gradually preventing air circulation in the lungs. Difficulty breathing, coughing with excessive production of phlegm, which can be white or have other colors, are the most common symptoms of the disease. Understand better what it is, the symptoms and how to treat COPD.

What to do: It is essential to receive an evaluation from a pulmonologist. The treatment of COPD varies according to the degree of the disease, being recommended to stop smoking, and the use of medications such as firecrackers, corticosteroids, oxygen, pulmonary physiotherapy and regular physical activity may also be indicated.In addition, a balanced diet, supervised by a nutritionist, is essential during the treatment of the disease.

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