How to Cough Up Phlegm

People who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis are often plagued by large amounts of phlegm. When phlegm collects in one’s airways, it can be difficult to breathe, or infection may form. When phlegm accumulates in the lungs and airways, you need to cough to expel the phlegm. Occasionally, phlegm becomes thickened, making it more difficult to cough up. Then you may need the home remedies or medications to get rid of phlegm.

How to Cough Up Phlegm

Your airways have a number of cough receptors scattered throughout them. When an excess amount of mucus accumulates, a signal is triggered and sent to the cough center in your brain. This information is then processed in your brain, and it signals certain of your respiratory muscles to quickly contract. This produces a cough. Fast-moving air is forced from your lungs, which in turn causes a vibration in your airways. The cough pushes the phlegm, or mucus, up through your airways and into your mouth, where you can then spit it out. You can cough up phlegm with the two methods.

1. Deep Coughing

Take a deep breath and hold it for two or three seconds. Force the air out by using your stomach muscles. Don’t just clear your throat or hack. The deep cough will prove less tiring, and it is more effective to rid mucus in the lungs.

2. Huff Coughing

When you have trouble clearing out phlegm, huffing is an alternative to try. Inhale a little more deeply than usual, and then make three quick exhalations. They should sound like “hu-hu-hu.” Take a diaphragmatic breath, and then do a deep cough when you feel the phlegm moving.

How to Get Rid of Phlegm with Other Methods

Besides the methods about how to cough up phlegm, you can try the following remedies to get rid of phlegm from your throat and airways.

1. Steam

Inhaling steam is the easiest, least expensive way to free your nasal passages of phlegm. Stand in a hot shower in a closed bathroom for ten minutes or boil a pan of water, turn off the heat, and lean over the pan with a towel draped over your head. Be careful not to burn yourself! Try moist, warm packs on your face to alleviate sinus pressure pain and facilitate the flow of mucus from the sinuses.

2. Salted Water

A salt-water gargle is another effective way to break up mucus. The salt aids in destroying infection-causing bacteria, which reduces phlegm production. Warm water is soothing to the throat. Stir a quarter teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water and gargle. Repeat several times a day.


3. Ginger

This natural decongestant has been known to combat respiratory tract infections, colds and their side effects for generations. With antibacterial, antiviral, and expectorant properties, ginger eases congestion and relieves mucus build-up. In a cup of boiled water, place a tablespoon of freshly sliced ginger, and steep for a few minutes. Add a couple of teaspoons of honey for flavor and healing properties.

4. Chicken Soup

Homemade chicken soup will moisturize your airways, soothe irritation, and reduce phlegm. But canned soup is less desirable because of the preservatives. Eat the soup twice or three times a day to clear mucus from the throat.


5. Honey

Instead of wondering how to cough up phlegm, you can try honey. Honey has antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, so it is a wonderful home remedy for an irritated throat and to help eliminate phlegm. Mix a tablespoon of honey in a glass of warm water and drink several times throughout the day. Raw honey retains the nutrients that processed honey lost.

6. Onions and Garlic

Onions are another food with antibiotic properties, which boosts the immune system and promotes healing. Onions and garlic help to expel mucus. Cut a fresh onion or garlic, hold to your mouth, and take deep breaths. Finely chop a small onion and mix with two tablespoons of sugar. Let the mixture set for a half hour, and then take a tablespoon every 2-3 hours. 

7. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper aids in the release of phlegm buildup in the throat and nasal passages. It will reduce chest pain and soothe throat irritation. Mix a quarter teaspoon each of cayenne and fresh grated ginger with a tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and honey in two tablespoons of water. Drink 2-3 times a day to reduce mucus. You can also directly add cayenne pepper to your diet.

8. Carrots

Carrots are packed with vitamin C that boosts your immune system. Carrots are a powerhouse of vitamins and nutrients that help keep you disease-resistant. Juice four or five carrots, dilute with a little water, and mix in a couple teaspoons of honey. This juice will clear mucus from your throat and reduce coughing.

9. Herbal Tea

Warm tea sweetened with honey will soothe your irritated throat and help to loosen the phlegm in your throat. Lemon, chamomile, and ginger teas are particularly good for treating phlegm. Sip the tea slowly for maximum benefits. 

10. Nasal Rinsing

Saline nasal rinses are available at drugstores. Or you can make your own with sterilized water and salt. Use a baby’s bulb syringe aspirator to squirt the saline solution up into your nose. Stand over the sink, because it will run right out. This will clear your nasal passages and throat of phlegm.

11. OTC Expectorants

Over-the-counter expectorants are still the easiest and quickest remedies when you’re wondering how to cough up phlegm. However, you should never take drugs without a physician’s recommendation and prescription. OTC preparations that say “expectorant” will aid in getting rid of phlegm.


Apart from the remedies to deal with phlegm, here are some tips that you should follow strictly.

  • Avoid eating meat when you have a cold. Meat increases mucus production and exposes your body to a host of other problems.
  • Avoid fried foods, especially those that are deep fried or fried in animal fats. Greasy foods make it hard for phlegm to break up.
  • Avoid tobacco, especially smoking. Anything inhaled affects your respiratory system and the rest of your body. Tobacco or marijuana smoke is especially harmful all the time, but when you have a cold, it is even worse.
  • Avoid irritating fumes. Paint fumes, household cleaning products, and other irritants will aggravate your already irritated respiratory system and increase phlegm. Open your windows to let in fresh air, and avoid going places where you know you will encounter fumes or smoke.
  • Avoid dairy products. Some feel that dairy products increase mucus production. Whether that’s true for you or not, the milk fat does thicken mucus.
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