What are the most common causes of white phlegm?

Phlegm is thick mucus that accumulates in the respiratory system. The substance can manifest itself in different colors, and these colors often indicate the type and severity of an associated disease. White phlegm usually indicates a less serious throat or respiratory infection, but it can still ease a number of uncomfortable symptoms.

White phlegm usually manifests during a throat infection. The infection can be viral or bacterial in nature. If left untreated, a throat infection can progress to more severe symptoms and associated phlegm.

Throat infections can have many symptoms, and white phlegm is a leading indicator. The phlegm itself is the result of thick mucous, which is a substance produced by the mucous membranes of the respiratory system. The lack of pus or blood gives the substance its white appearance. Other symptoms that may coincide with phlegm include cough, fever, and irritating sore throat.

Since a throat infection is the most common source of white phlegm, cold and flu viruses are the most frequent culprits in the condition. Various other infections and conditions of the respiratory system can also create an atmosphere for white phlegm, such as lung diseases, sinus infections, and even allergies in some cases.

These ailments arise from inflammation of the bronchial tubes, sinuses, or parts of the immune system. Some cases of flu and influenza can progress to bronchitis or sinus infections. The flu produces mild fever, hoarseness, sore throat, wheezing, and a cough that eases the mucus, while bronchitis is characterized by headaches and congestion. Smokers or people in a highly polluted atmosphere can also develop bronchitis and the associated phlegm problems, and people with allergies are vulnerable to sinus infections and thus phlegm. Allergies are characterized by sneezing and a runny nose.

In addition to breathing problems, a digestive disorder known as gastroesophageal reflux disease can also help create phlegm. This condition occurs when the barrier that separates the esophagus from the trachea and throat malfunctions and allows gastric acid to pass into the throat or trachea. It can cause heartburn, as can white phlegm.

Due to its generally less severe nature, white phlegm can usually be treated at home. Throat lozenges like tea can help slow down the development of phlegm. Gargling with a warm liquid such as salt water can help loosen mucus. If a person wants to cough up phlegm, they should lie on their stomach in a steamy room and cough vigorously. Over-the-counter remedies can also help remove phlegm.

When the phlegm turns brown, red, yellow, or green, it may indicate a more serious infection. A high fever, chills, and coughed up blood also indicate a serious condition. In such cases, an immediate medical visit and prescribed antibiotics may be necessary.

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