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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Constant phlegm

03/04/2008

Question:

What is causing too much phlegm and how do I get rid of it? I`ve had it for two years now and I`ve tried over the counter medicines, nothing works.

Answer:

Excessive mucus in the throat generally occurs from two possible sources:

Allergies or certain other conditions can cause an excessive amount of mucus to be produced in the nose.  The nose does produce mucus on a normal basis and this mucus drains posteriorly down into the throat.  It is ordinarily a very slow, continuous process, and not associated with symptoms of post nasal drip.  Allergies or a sensitivity to certain irritants, or chronic underlying sinus problems, can cause an excessive amount of mucus to be produced in the nose, or can interfere with normal drainage patterns, resulting in a build up of mucus.  This will likely accumulate in the back of the nose and throat.

A more likely cause, however, is acid reflux.  Acid that backs up from the stomach into the throat can cause quite a bit of irritation that results in a reactive increase in mucus production.  This may occur even if you do not experience heartburn.  

Your best bet would be to consult an ENT physician so that an appropriate diagnosis can be provided, and appropriate therapy recommended. 

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati