Mucus buildup

Originally Published: February 10, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 14, 2012
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Alice,

I have been having a problem with excessive mucus buildup in my lungs. I have to clear my lungs of phlegm about every 5-10 minutes which can get pretty annoying for other people. I have been having this problem for about 5 years now. Sometimes I even spit out blood because of this. I am a healthy athletic guy and it worries me when something like this stays with me. Please help.

-- Gobs

Dear Gobs,

Feel like you have a mucus factory in your lungs? Sputum, also known as phlegm, is mucous material produced by the cells lining the respiratory tract. Sputum is released from glands in the walls of the bronchi (airways) and from cells lining the nose and sinuses. Sputum production may be increased by infection, by an allergic reaction, or by inhalation of irritants, like tobacco smoke. The presence of sputum in the bronchi triggers a reflex cough or clearing of the throat.

The character of sputum varies. A bacterial infection usually causes yellow or green sputum, an allergic reaction normally produces colorless sputum, and pulmonary fluid retention may result in frothy, pink sputum. Blood in the sputum may be caused by infection or in rare cases, cancer. You may want to see a health care provider who can examine your sputum under a microscope or prepare it for a culture to determine if any bacteria might be present. If there is no bacteria present, you can discuss with your physician the possibilities of allergies or post nasal drip. Columbia students can make an appointment with Medical Services through Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284.

Hope you find a solution to that sputum!

Alice