Phlegm in Throat: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Everyone experiences the uncomfortable sensation of phlegm in their throat at some point. This often happens when you’re sick, but it can also occur for various other reasons. In this article, family doctor Natalia Hapych walks us through the causes, symptoms, treatments, and home remedies for phlegm in the throat, as well as when you should see a doctor.

What is Phlegm?

Phlegm is a type of mucus that is produced by the respiratory system. Its primary role is to remove dust, allergens, and other particles from your airways. When your health is compromised, the production of phlegm can increase, and it can change in color and consistency, often becoming noticeable and bothersome.

Causes of Phlegm in Throat

Many conditions can cause phlegm build-up in the throat:

  • Common cold and flu: These viral infections are among the most common causes of excessive phlegm.
  • Allergies: Certain allergies can cause your body to produce more phlegm than usual.
  • Sinusitis: In this condition, your sinuses become inflamed, leading to increased mucus and phlegm production.
  • Asthma: Asthma can cause mucus to accumulate in the airways, which can result in phlegm in the throat.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD, which actually includes conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, often leads to increased phlegm production.

Symptoms of Phlegm in the Throat

The symptoms associated with phlegm in the throat can vary based on the underlying cause, but they typically include:

  • A constant need to clear your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A feeling of something being stuck in the throat
  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Changes in voice

Treatments for Phlegm in Throat

Treating phlegm in the throat often involves addressing the underlying cause. For instance, if a bacterial infection is to blame, antibiotics may be necessary. “It’s important to remember that antibiotics can’t treat viral infections, like the common cold or flu,” Dr. Hapych reminds us.

For allergy-related phlegm, antihistamines may be effective. If the cause is a chronic condition like COPD or asthma, you may need long-term treatments, such as inhaled steroids.

Home Remedies for Phlegm in Throat

In addition to medical treatments, several home remedies can help soothe the discomfort caused by phlegm:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can thin the mucus, making it easier to expel.
  • Use a humidifier: Dry air can thicken mucus. A humidifier can help maintain moisture in the air, helping to thin the mucus.
  • Gargle with warm salt water: This can help clear the mucus from your throat.
  • Inhale steam: Inhaling steam, either from a hot shower or a bowl of hot water, can help loosen the phlegm.

Surgery for Phlegm in Throat

Surgery is rarely required for phlegm in the throat, but in extreme cases where chronic sinusitis is causing excessive mucus production, a procedure to widen the sinuses may be considered.

Seeing a Doctor for Phlegm

While occasional phlegm in the throat is normal, especially during a common cold or flu, persistent or excessive phlegm can be a sign of a more serious condition. If you have chronic phlegm, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like fever, weight loss, or breathing difficulties, it’s important to see a doctor.

Phlegm that is yellow, green, brown, or bloody may also indicate an infection or another health issue and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

“In these cases, it’s best to seek medical advice,” says Dr. Hapych. “Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and medical history to provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.”


Phlegm in the throat can be an annoying and uncomfortable symptom, but it’s often easily managed with home remedies and over-the-counter treatments. However, if you have persistent or severe symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to rule out serious conditions and get appropriate treatment.

Further Reading: 10 Ways to Get Rid of Phlegm and Mucus at Home

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