Mucus in Chest – A Guide to How and Why it Happens

Feeling that gross, phlegmy, “mucus in chest” feeling? It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but there’s a reason it happens.

Mucus is a secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes which surround all major organs.  Mucous fluid is normally produced from cells found in mucous glands. Mucous cells secrete products that are rich in glycoproteins and water. The major function of mucus is to protect the body from fungi, bacteria and viruses. The mucus in the lungs and respiratory tracts traps foreign dust particles and bacteria to protect the body from disease.

Why does mucus form in the chest?

We think of mucus as only lining our nose. But in fact, our nose, mouth, trachea, sinuses, lungs and gastrointestinal tracts are all lined with mucus secreting cells. A healthy individual produces 1-1.5 litres of mucus every day.

Excessive mucus is secreted by the mucosal sacs due to a bacterial or a viral infection or an allergy.  Allergies due to triggers like pollen or dust lead to congestion and nasal stuffiness. Due to allergies, mast cells in our body secrete a substance known as histamine which leads triggers sneezing, itching, and nasal stuffiness. This leads to the excessive secretion of mucus, leading to chest congestion. There are various remedies for how to relive chest congestion click here to read more

When we develop a cold, mucus develops in our chest due to our immune system’s reaction. The immune system produces mucus to expel the disease causing pathogen from our body.

Does mucus have a purpose?

Mucus has a very important function in maintaining the health of our body. Mucosal sacs line the inside of our respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. They secrete mucus to keep the epithelium lining them moist and hydrated. Without mucus, they will dry out and crack. The mucus lining in our oesophagus helps with peristalsis. Peristalsis are the wave like contractions along our gut that help food reach the duodenum of the small intestine. Mucus also reduces the friction between the organs in the body by making sure they slide against each other.

Mucus also serves as a barrier against harmful substances in the air that we breathe. Irritant particles, bacteria and virus stick to the sticky surface of the mucus, preventing them from going any further in our body. The mucus is then swept away by the cilia in the aforementioned tracts.

Is mucus harmful?

Excessive mucus is harmful to us. Excessive mucus blocks our bronchial tubes and trachea, making it very difficult to breathe in and out. This difficulty in breathing leads to wheezing, soreness in the chest and a cough. Such symptoms cause the body to tire out. In case of excessive mucus build up, it is very important to take in plenty of fluids as our body can tire out.

The presence of excessive mucus can be dangerous to our health. Abnormal coughing can lead to emphysema. Coughing can cause the alveolar sacs in the pleural cavity to coalesce, reducing the surface area for gaseous exchange to take place. This leads to small amounts of oxygen being taken in by our body. The lack of oxygen inhibits our body’s ability to carry out its normal functions and we tire easily. If your problem persists even after using the best nasal sprays, then consult your doctor immediately.

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