We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
Regardless of whether you call it phlegm, a fishbone, mucus, or a lump in your throat, the sensation of phlegm stuck in throat for months, weeks or days is something that almost everybody has experienced. This is known as globus, and is one of the most common reasons that people visit their ENT for consultation1. But what exactly causes this? Read on to learn more about the different factors that may lead you to feel a lump in your throat, as well as home remedies you can try to relieve this bothersome symptom.
Mucus is the respiratory system’s lubrication and filtration mechanism2. The lining of the nose all the way to the lungs produces mucus that not only keeps your airways moist but also aids in clearing allergens, bacteria, dust, and viruses.
However, certain conditions can cause mucus to build up and pool behind the nose, at the back of the throat, or in the sinuses leading to the sensation of globus. This is known as catarrh.
Thankfully, catarrh is often transient and often does not cause pain. However it can be extremely irritating and some patients may experience it for several months to years. This is known as chronic catarrh. This can definitely be bothersome and negatively impact day-to-day life. Women of reproductive age and approaching menopause tend to be most affected3.
Catarrh can manifest as the following symptoms4:
The inflammation and mucus production in the nose and throat often result from the body's immune response to infections or irritants. This condition can arise due to:
The exact cause of persistent inflammation or chronic catarrh is not well understood, but it isn't typically linked to allergies or infections. There might be a connection to irregular mucus movement within the nasal passages or heightened sensitivity to mucus in the back of the nasal cavity and throat.
Aside from catarrh, post-nasal drip is another reason why you may feel a lump in your throat5. It's commonly described as a feeling of mucus stuck between nose and throat.
As mentioned before, it is normal for the body to produce mucus to lubricate and protect the airways. It is also normal for you to swallow mucus unconsciously as it mixes with your saliva. However, when there is an overproduction of mucus, it may drip down your throat resulting in a tickling sensation.
The most common culprits that cause an excess of mucus include:
Your lifestyle can also contribute to the occurrence of catarrh and post-nasal drip7. Living in a warm and dry environment, low water consumption, and smoking can cause an increase in mucus production as your body tries to compensate. Consuming coffee, tea, and alcohol also tend to lead to fluid loss, and thus cause an increase in mucus.
Post-nasal drip may also present with the following symptoms:
Because of these factors, your throat can become sore and the surrounding tissues as well as your tonsils may swell, contributing to the feeling of having a lump in your throat. All this can eventually lead to a chronic cough due to the constant irritation of the lining of the nose and airways.
When it feels like mucus stuck in throat and can't breathe, there are several remedies8 you can try at home to relieve the discomfort caused by catarrh and post-nasal drip. Here are some general measures to take9:
While this is by no means an exhaustive list on how to get rid of feeling of mucus stuck in throat, these simple measures can hopefully have a positive impact in decreasing the sensation of a lump in the throat. Taking steps to ensure healthy air will not only positively impact you but also other members of the home and those in the community.
In cases when the sensation persists, it may be time to consult a doctor. While home remedies are helpful, their use may sometimes reach a limit. Here are some symptoms to watch out for that should prompt you to consult your physician right away10:
These symptoms tell us that there may be more than just a build-up of mucus going on in the body. At this point, it would be best to consult your doctor for a thorough evaluation and initiation of timely and appropriate treatment.
The sensation of mucus stuck in the throat is not new to anyone. The overproduction of mucus can cause it to build up in the nose, throat, and sinuses, leading to the sensation of a lump in the throat called globus. Though harmless, it may still be a nuisance in day-to-day life. However, these symptoms can then contribute to chronic cough and compound other conditions. Home remedies include drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding irritants, quitting smoking, and maintaining a moist environment. Symptoms to watch out for include a persistent cough that may be accompanied with fever, chest pain, coughing up blood, or difficulty breathing. When you notice these, it may be time to shelve the home remedies and consult your doctor for prompt management.
Mikaela is a dentistry clinician at the University of the Philippines.