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Avatar universal

Worried about mucus

I was hoping to try and find an answer to this problem I have.

In 2006 my roommate and I both got a cold, she got better, but I got worse after a week. I had a high fever, dry cough, a rattle sound when breathing, cold in my throat, etc. These new symptoms lasted almost two weeks. Being a broke college freshman with no insurance, I just used whatever cough/cold medicines I could get my hands on, and I eventually got better.

Except for this persistent cough that has gotten worse over the years. There is an excess of mucus in my throat (it's not a post nasal drip, I know how those feel and this isn't it). I end up swallowing lumps of it throughout the day. Sometimes it gets so thick that it's hard to breath because there is a film of mucus caught in my throat, I have to drink glasses of water to wash it down. At night it becomes hard in my throat and chest, preventing me from talking or getting enough air, there is also chest pain. No matter how hard I cough, I can't get anything to come up. I have constant nasal congestion, it feels as though the passages are more narrow than they should be. But when I blow my nose, nothing comes up. When my nose is cleared (happens no more than once a month), breathing in hurts, it's like inhaling in fire. It burns and aches so much that I end up trying to cover my face with something so warm the air and restrict the strong air flow.

I was finally able to get to the doctor recently and I told her about some breathing problems I have: shortness of breath, chest tightening and pressure especially when I'm exercising, chest pain. I also told her about the cough and mucus. I have allergies, plus I have other symptoms like sensitivity to cold and strong smells, that led her to believe I have asthma. She gave me albuterol about 2-3 weeks ago. It helps with the random shortness of breath and chest tightness during exercise, but it has done nothing for the cough and mucus.

My mom told me ever since I was a baby I've had constant cold and sinus infections. As I got older I would have chronic respiratory infections that would lead bronchitis, pharyngitis, etc.

I'm only 21, I don't smoke, and I stay active (when I am able to breath). These mucus, cough, and chest symptoms have been going on for almost four years now, and have steadily gotten worse. Sometimes the taste of cold and mucus is so bad I get nauseous and can't eat. I'm hoping someone may have a clue as to what my problem may be. Anything will be helpful.

Thanks
6 Responses
942934 tn?1268108382
Your symptoms could be caused by GERD, especially if the stomach contents are aspirated high enough to reach your vocal chords. Often the only symptom then is a cough, with mucous in the throat.

Have you done a peak flow measurement. You breath into a hand held device that will show how much you can breath out in one second. If your numbers are quite a bit lower then the predicted numbers, then perhaps you have excess inflammation in your airways, that can be treated. But you really should get a pulmonary function test, that  will show how well your lungs are performing.
Avatar universal
No peak flow measurement. The doctor didn't really do any test, just a chest x-ray which they said looked healthy. I've just been using the albuterol around twice a day, two time each instance. It helps a little with the breathing issues, but those symptoms are fairly recent, within the past 4 months or so. That's why I'm not sure if the cough and mucus problems are related to the asthma. I may have to go back to the doctor about it though, the symptoms at night are especially bothersome.
Avatar universal
I don't have health insurance, so I'm basically trying to deal with it myself.

I looked up GERD and there were a couple of symptoms that I didn't have. There's no burning feeling from acid, or heartburn. No sore throat. With me it's like having mucus in your nose, and instead of blowing it out, you inhale and try to cough it up. Only I'm not trying to inhale it, I'm just constantly swallowing this mucus. The taste of the mucus is what makes me nauseous. And at night it's almost like I've suddenly gotten a really bad cold. I can feel it sitting in my chest, lungs, and throat. So I end up coughing to try and break it up.

I spoke to my mom about it and she told me my step dad has almost the same problem. When I spoke to him, he described all of my symptoms. His doctor told him that it's left over fluid, etc from when he had a really bad case of pneumonia some years ago and had to be hospitalized. I don't know if that's possible in my case, or if it's a common occurence.
942934 tn?1268108382
I guess what you really need to do is get a methacholine challenge test. If's a test used to determine if you have asthma. Or rather it's better for ruling out asthma. Then you know if you need to pursue further treatment for your symptoms. Yes I agree a cough that brings up mucous regularly can be residual effects from bad lung infections. I do have the same problem. I also have asthma, so I'm taking a lot of inhalers, because I carry around a lot of bronchitis symptoms on top of the asthma symptoms. I think the airways get remodeled with enough bad infections, and this allows the mucous to accumulate. I find as long as I drink lots of water during the day (stay well hydrated) then my symptoms are tolerable. But  when I don't drink enough, I pay for it the following day with chest congestion/tightness and I cough up a lot more mucous. I've also read up that staying physically active is a good way to help the body clear the extra mucous.

The other point I've noted in your original post is that your mention that you have constant nasal congestion. You could very well have rhinitis or sinusitis, and it probably goes down the back of your nose rather then out of your nose, like a post nasal drip. Not everyone can feel it. But I"m pretty sure this is also contributing to your cause. A good way to help clear out the extra mucous is to do salt water irrigations. I find it useful to do it twice per day, every morning and evening. 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of baking soda in a cup of water. You can use different methods to get it up into your sinuses. You can use syringes (without the needle of course - ask the pharmacy), or the netti pot, or just dunk your nose into the cup and snork it up into your sinuses until it reaches your throat. Gross I know, but it really helps, especially for infections.

I hope this helps.
Avatar universal
While the salt water irrigation idea makes me cringe, I will give it a try. I'll also present the idea of a methacholine test, and residual infection gunk as well to the doctor at my next appointment.Thanks again for the help and advice!
Avatar universal
Have you considered a mucus-LESS diet?  No dairy, no eggs...many, many foods cause mucus build-up in the body.  We are, after all, what we eat.  No amount of drugs are going to cure anyone until ones diet is clean.  There are books avaialble on mucus-less diets.
Good luck!
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