What does a cough with mucus means?

The airways of the throat and lungs also produce mucus. And the body makes even more mucus when we're reacting to an allergy or have a cold or infection. If you're coughing up mucus, it's an indication that you have an irritation or possible infection in your respiratory tract.96

What are the causes of cough with mucus?


Viruses cause colds. You cough because your body is trying to get rid of mucus that's full of germs. You’re more likely to get a cold in cooler months. But you can get one at any time of year.


A cough coupled with body aches could be a sign of a more serious illness. The flu, caused by the influenza virus, can have symptoms similar to a cold. But you’ll usually feel a lot worse when you have the flu. You could have fever, chills and muscle aches.

Acute Bronchitis

This “chest cold” usually lasts about three weeks. It makes you cough because the airways in your lungs swell and make a lot of mucus. This kind of inflammation usually shows up after a viral infection. But bacteria can cause bronchitis, too.


A lung infection - which is what pneumonia is - can make your air sacs fill up with fluid or pus. You may cough up a lot of green or yellow mucus. It may have blood in it. Usually, bacteria cause pneumonia. But fungal or viral infections, like the flu, can bring it, too.

Postnasal Drip

If you find yourself coughing every night, it may be a sign of postnasal drip. That’s when mucus drips down the back of your throat.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

You might make more mucus than normal when you have COPD. Your airways and air sacs can also stop working the right way. That’s because they get hurt or inflamed.

Smoking cigarettes is the most common cause. But it can happen because of air pollution, asthma, or your genes.

Cystic Fibrosis

Your cough could be a sign of a genetic condition. If you have cystic fibrosis (CF), you cannot clear out mucus very well. Bacteria can grow inside all that phlegm. That could give you a higher chance of getting other lung infections, which can also make you cough.


Your airways can get loose and scarred. When this happens, mucus can get stuck. Your body coughs to move it out of your lungs. Cystic fibrosis is just one condition that leads to bronchiectasis. It can also happen after a lung infection, like pneumonia or tuberculosis. Blockages like tumors can also cause it. Sometimes, you’re born with it.97

What are the different types of mucus?

The color of mucus differs according to the cause

Brown White Black Clear Red
allergic rhinitis
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
congestive heart failure
cystic fibrosis
fungal infection
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
lung abscess
lung cancer
pulmonary embolism

Different mucus textures

The consistency of your phlegm can change due to many reasons. The scale ranges from mucoid (frothy) and mucopurulent to purulent (thick and sticky). Your phlegm may get thicker and darker as an infection progresses. It may also be thicker in the morning or if you are dehydrated.

Clear phlegm that’s associated with allergies is generally not as thick or sticky as the green sputum you see with bacterial bronchitis or the black phlegm from a fungal infection.98

How to get rid of cough with mucus

A – Home Remedies

  • Drink lots of fluids. When sick, mucus can trickle down the back of the nose. Staying hydrated thins the drip so it’s less likely to irritate the throat and trigger a cough.

  • Swallow some honey. It soothes the scratchiness in the back of your throat. One study found that honey works just as well as over-the-counter drugs for calming nighttime coughs.

  • Other natural remedies include aloe and menthol. These can help reduce inflammation of the upper airways.

  • Sip a hot drink. It can ease cold symptoms, including a cough. The liquids are hydrating, and the heat helps to lower congestion. Chamomile and Ginger tea are good choices.

  • Over the Counter (OTC) options. Some natural OTC products that contain very low doses of aspirin also help reduce the symptoms of sore throat and cough.

  • Clear irritants from your home. Some people are sensitive to perfumes and fragrances in laundry detergents and air fresheners.

  • Sleep on an incline. If a cold or an allergy is behind your cough, try raising your head. When you lie flat, the mucus can pool and irritate your throat.

  • Gargle saltwater. Along with soothing a sore throat, gargling can also help loosen thick mucus. It can also help clear away allergens and bacteria.

  • Stamp out cigarettes. Smoking paralyzes the tiny hairs lining your lungs, called the cilia, which clear out mucus and dirt. That’s why some smokers get long-term cough.

  • Air humidifiers. A steamy shower or bath can help loosen the mucus and congestion behind your cough. A humidifier also may help.

  • Rinsing the nose. It flushes out cough-inducing mucus and allergens from your nasal passages and sinuses. Use a saline spray or try nasal irrigation.90

B- Medical treatment for adults and children

Wet cough treatments typically aim to improve cough efficiency, thereby helping people clear the airways.

Other treatments aim to clear phlegm and associated irritation in the back of the throat.

If the cough is due to an underlying medical condition, a doctor will prescribe specific treatments for that condition.

Some of the treatments help improve cough efficiency. Others decrease mucus in the back of the throat, thereby reducing the need to cough.

Airway clearance devices

Airway clearance devices, such as the oscillating positive expiratory pressure (PEP) device, use pressure and vibration to help shift phlegm from the airways during exhalation. This helps improve cough efficiency.

Specific treatments

The treatment options for a wet cough also depend partly on the cause. Some more specific treatments include:


Antibiotics are helpful for a wet cough that occurs due to a bacterial infection.

Medications to treat Congestive heart failure (CHF)

People who experience a wet cough due to CHF may receive drugs called diuretics, which help relieve fluid retention. This, in turn, can reduce the amount of fluid in the lungs, which can help alleviate a wet cough.

People who have CHF may also receive drugs to:

  • reduce the heart rate

  • regulate the heart rhythm

  • control the blood pressure

  • reduce the cholesterol levels91

Which cough medicine is best to loosen mucus

Expectorants and mucolytics

Expectorants and mucolytics are medications that thin the mucus and make it less sticky. This makes it easier for people to cough it up.

These medications such as Mucosolvan Syrup work best for people who have a wet cough and having difficulties getting rid of the phlegm.