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Ask Dr. D. Love Your Own Question
Dr. D. Love
Dr. D. Love, Doctor
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 18462
Experience:  Family Physician for 10 years; Hospital Medical Director for 10 years.
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I have a bad viral infection which is presenting as a sore

Resolved Question:

I have a bad viral infection which is presenting as a sore throat, blocked nose and a chesty cough. I am one of those people who cannot cough up phlegm and subsequently this bubbling cough is making me choke. What do you suggest ?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Medical
Expert:  Dr. D. Love replied 1 year ago.
Hello from JustAnswer. For someone that has difficulty coughing up phlegm from the chest, there are a couple of options. It may help to use a medicine that thins the mucus, so that it is easier to clear by the normal cleaning mechanisms of the chest or by coughing. The medicine that is most readily available is guaifenesin. Many people find that breathing steam helps to sooth the airways and make it easier to clear phlegm. This can be done in a very hot shower or by holding your head over a bowl of steaming water with a towel draped over the head and bowl. It also may help to perform chest physical therapy and postural drainage. This is a common treatment that we use in people with chronic lung disease that affects the ability to clear phlegm, such as cystic fibrosis, but can be use in other people as well. Although this is easier to learn when someone at the bedside teaches you, there are some resources available over the internet, such as at http://www.phoenixchildrens.org/sites/default/files/health-information/the-emily-center/child-health-topics/handouts/CPT-55b.pdf. For my patients, I usually recommend guaifenesin and steam first, but if the problem is more severe or persistent, then chest physical therapy and postural drainage can be used. If I can provide any further information, please let me know.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your response - I am already using steam. The mucous does seem to be loose and appears to be situated in the trachea rather than the chest. It feels very bubbly which is not something I have had before.
Am I correct in thinking that even if I am unable to cough up the mucous my body will eventually clear it away by itself and if that is the case should I try to limit the coughing instead of vainly trying to get the mucous up?
Expert:  Dr. D. Love replied 1 year ago.
Yes, there is a normal cleaning mechanisms to clear the mucus, involving microscopic projections from the cells lining the airways, called cilia. The cilia naturally sweep the layer of mucus up to the throat to be swallowed into the stomach. However, the cough that most people experience is involuntary. It is true that there is no need to intentionally cough more than you feel the urge to cough, but when you do have an urge to cough, there is no need to try to suppress the cough.
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for that - much appeciated