Too Much Mucous

Get to the root cause of the excess “stuff” blocking your singing -says Dr. Jahn

Doc,

This is going to sound a bit gross, but I’ve got to deal with it. I have an excess of mucous – so, I’m always clearing my throat. It’s throughout the year so I don’t think it’s from allergies. I also don’t eat much in the way of foods like cheese and milk etc. It’s really bothersome and, as a result, I don’t think I am singing at my best – what can I do? (ps. I don’t like taking strong meds.)

-Gary

Dear Gary,

Did you know that a whole book was once written about mucus?

Titled “De Catarrhis”, it was written by Dr. Schneider in Wittenberg, Germany. The year was 1651; yet, 450 years later, the stuff continues to plague singers.

Mucus is a normal and important lubricant of mucous membranes.

It helps to coat and protect (sounds almost like a motto, doesn’t it?) and also is involved in cleaning the surface of the membranes.

We, all of us, make and swallow between a pint and a quart of mucus every day. This mucus, a thin and slippery layer, passes through our GI tract silently.

Mucus typically becomes a problem when there is too much, or when it is of the wrong consistency (i.e. too viscous).

So, to address your problem: you need to consider how to thin the viscous stuff out, and, if excessive, how to get rid of it.

Thinning out mucus requires that you drink lots of water; I recommend eight 8-oz glasses a day.

Spread it out over the course of the day, and drink even a bit more if exercising or sweating.

Washing it away, in turn, requires irrigating your nose with saline at least twice a day. Showering with plenty of hot steam also helps to loosen the stuff.

You need also consider why you may be forming excessive (or thick) mucus in the first place.
Any sort of inflammation, whether an infection or allergies, can cause excess thick mucus.

Consider also that even normal mucus will adhere to inflamed surfaces, and then become symptomatic.

For this reason, patients with acid reflux irritation of the pharynx and larynx often complain of the need to clear their throat, and we will even see mucus sticking to the vocal folds when excessive singing has traumatized them.

By way of medical treatment, in addition to hydration and saline irrigation, consider treating reflux and allergies, both by reducing your exposure to irritants and spicy foods, and possibly seeing an allergist or gastroenterologist.

If you decide to self-treat, one caution: beware of antihistamines that are drying, and can make your mucus more tenacious.

A dry larynx is not only difficult to sing with, but is more prone to injury and vocal nodules.

Dr. Jahn

Dr. Jahn welcomes your questions. You can send these to editor@voicecouncil.com

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.


  • Anthony

    I had been trying to find a remedy for my producing tenacious mucous day and night for the past 60 months. I took pills and potions and inhalers, had scans to check my swallowing problem and difficulty clearing my throat, and a Specialist look down my throat with his FibreOptic Gizmo up my nose, who charged me $150 to tell me what I already knew about my having Hay Fever. My doctor dithered about being reactive rather than proactive with treatment.
    So there I was…….still with same dilemma.  Then I just happened to stumble across a website where simple treatments for common ailments were readily and freely available.
    Shock and suprise……….it was advocated that inhaling 4 or 5 puffs of a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide Solution mist a couple of times daily would help battling Lung and mucous problems and that daily drinking a cup of diluted Apple Cider Vinegar would be beneficial as an overall sort of tonic.

    “What a crock!” I at first thought………how could what I thought that ladies use to bleach their hair be in any way efficacious or beneficial?

    Well…well……well…..Surpise! Surprise!

    I took up on the advice to try it out and……

    Within a few days and for the very first time in a few years, I felt the mucous becoming less and less in quantity……..I persisted and two weeks later, I no longer have that awful choking mucous I found so hard to expel and cope with and I can sing again!
    My mucous is now almost loveable……. I know my body has to produce it so I get it………but boy can I breathe and sleep better, not choke easily, and am feeling so good that I have re-started the musical career I put on hold for thirty five years.

  • Anthony

    I note with some chagrin that avoiding spicey foods has been recommended.  For some people this may suit their digestion and preference or reactive allergic tendency when consuming such foods.
    However, I always have found that after eating a moderately spicey curry or even stronger, that it has a dramatic effect and improves my ability to EXPECTORATE VISCOUS MUCOUS.

    Viscous mucous?……….You are hearing this from “Mr.Mucous”, I kid you not !

  • Anthony

    There is nothing like learning something really useful from the bona-fide experience of others is there?
    But I don’t expect anyone to just take my word for what I found and beneficially experienced from either, in this wide and sometimes wicked world.

    So for those of you who wish to investigate this further…here is the link. 

    http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/hydrogen_peroxide_inhalation.html

    Never  mind about Happy New Year!
    I wish all of you a long and happy, Viscous-Mucous-Free future !

    Anthony