There is always mucous present in the lungs, and it plays an important role in protecting the airways. Normally, mucous lines the airways, preventing bacteria, viruses and allergens from getting in. However, when excessive mucous is produced it can clog the airways and make it difficult to breathe. There are a number of causes for excessive mucous production, such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and sinusitis. There is a variety of treatments for mucous build-up, including home remedies, natural therapies and medication. The simplest treatment is drinking lots of water. Thick and dry mucous sticks to your airways and is hard to bring up. By staying well hydrated, you help to thin the mucous, making it easier to cough up. Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol, as these substances tend to lead to dehydration.
Coughing is another important aspect of airway protection. Many people think of a cough as a negative side effect of an illness, but actually coughing helps you clear out the mucous that is blocking your airways. If you have a respiratory disease that causes frequent mucous build-up, it is important to learn proper coughing techniques that will be effective in keeping your lungs clear. You can learn these techniques with a respiratory therapist or at pulmonary rehabilitation. It is also important to avoid using cough suppressants. Inhaling steam has a similar effect to drinking lots of water, where the moisture helps to loosen and soften mucous that is stuck to your airways. You should have a humidifier or a nebulizer machine at home; or you can simply boil water in the kettle and inhale it, or place a warm, wet cloth over your face. Some people add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the mixture when they inhale. See your doctor about using mucous clearing medications.