Mucus is a natural defensive layer that traps particles and unwanted bacteria, expelling them from the lungs via coughing and swallowing. Mucus contains antibacterial agents. The body responds to an infection or an increase in toxicity by secreting a larger volume of mucus. This is seen in the immune response to common colds and the flu. In most cases, as soon as we recover from an illness, the production of mucus subsides. However, in certain cases, the heavy and prolonged secretion of mucus is a symptom of an underlying cause, such as asthma, bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, allergies and cystic fibrosis. There are ways of managing the production of mucus. Decongestants, nasal sprays, inhalers, humidifiers and prescription medicines can help to relieve symptoms. However, there are also steps you can take at home to help to control mucus.
Remove the mucus by blowing into tissues lightly. This prevents excess mucus from dripping down the throat while also preparing sinuses and airways for the steam inhalation.
Pour freshly boiled water into a bowl. Wait a few moments for the water to cool slightly so that you do not scald yourself. Lean your face over the bowl. Keep your face several inches away from the hot water. Place a towel over your head to trap the steam.
Breathe slowly and deeply to inhale the steam. Keep tissues at hand to blow your nose if necessary. When the water has cooled down to the point where it is no longer producing vapour, remove the towel and discard the water.
This process can be repeated regularly to open passageways in the sinuses and airways and to loosen mucus so that it may be easily removed with tissues. Steam from a shower will also work in the same way.
Combine a half tsp of uniodized salt with warm water in an 236ml. glass. Use uniodized salt as iodised salt may cause irritation when used over a long period of time. Add a pinch of baking soda to the solution.
Fill a sinus rinse bottle with the solution. Lean far over a sink with your head down. Place the bottle or bulb syringe against one nostril and gently squeeze to release the salt water. The water will flow out through the other nostril and out of your mouth. Gently blow your nose and repeat this step with the other nostril. Rinse your mouth with clean water to remove the salty taste. Various sinus rinse kits are available. Discuss the best option for you with a clinician.
Wash your hands before and after preparing the solution. Pour a little salt water onto your palm. Sniff the liquid into one nostril and then repeat with the other. Blow your nose lightly. A nose wash can be performed by hand for those who do not have a bulb syringe or nasal rinse bottle. It is useful in some situations, but it may not be as effective as using a syringe.
Dispose of any remaining salt water when the nasal wash is completed. Wash all equipment thoroughly, and ensure it is completely dry before storing. Each family member should have his own bulb syringe or sinus rinse bottle.
A couple of drops of eucalyptus oil can be added to hot water before a steam inhalation to help open up sinuses and airways., A nasal wash also helps to clear and manage mucus production. This is especially useful for clearing mucus that has built up over night while sleeping. Nasal washes help to remove viruses, bacteria, allergens and irritants from the nose. They reduce swelling, open airways and clean way mucus, allowing for medications to be more effective.
Take care when using boiling water for the steam inhalation. Consult a physician if symptoms persist or worsen. Use eucalyptus oil with caution when treating patients with asthma (Reference 6).