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Cough with white phlegm: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The body has different mechanisms to keep infectious agents at bay. In the case of the respiratory tract, sneezing and coughing are some of those mechanisms that allow the airways to be cleared. When there is phlegm in the lungs due to an infection or allergic reaction, coughing is how the body reacts to mobilize and expel this phlegm, which otherwise becomes a breeding ground for pathogens to multiply.

Phlegm indicates that the body reacts to some infection, and coughing is how to expel it. If you are interested in the subject, continue reading the following fastlyheal article in which we tell you what cough with white phlegm is: causes and treatment.

You may also be interested in: Cough with green phlegm: causes and treatment.

What is a cough with phlegm?

A cough is how our body responds to an irritation of the respiratory tract or throat. It is the body’s natural reaction to free the respiratory tract of any agent that obstructs them. Phlegm, for its part, is usually produced in a certain amount. When it becomes very abundant and dense, the respiratory system reacts to a virus or bacteria that has managed to penetrate it.

When the expulsion of phlegm or expectoration accompanies the cough, it is said to be productive. If the cough is productive, an infectious process is in full swing. The cough helps to mobilize and expel the phlegm so that it does not become the culture medium for the infectious agent. That is why antitussives that prevent coughing are not recommended at this stage; instead, it is good for the individual to cough to help evacuate that mucus out of the body.

Usually, when the infection starts, the phlegm is white, but as the infection progresses, the phlegm changes color and can turn yellow, green, brown, or contain blood. The color of the phlegm is an indicator of the evolution of the infection. When the mucus is white, it is usually a viral infection in most cases.

At that time, the nose is less resistant to the penetration of bacteria, so it is widespread that after a cold, a bacterial infection occurs in the nose and paranasal sinuses, which becomes evident when the mucus turns from white to yellow or green.

When the cough persists and the phlegm is no longer white, it is best to go to the doctor as soon as possible so that the infection does not develop and does not become a severe condition. In addition to cough and phlegm, other symptoms may appear, such as:

  • Burning, itching, or sore throat.
  • Difficulty and discomfort when swallowing.
  • Pressure or pain in the chest when breathing.
  • Increased body temperature and chills.

Cough with white phlegm: causes

Under normal conditions, the respiratory system produces a certain amount of mucus, whose function is lubrication and protection. When an external agent enters, it is trapped in the mucus and is thus expelled. When the amount of phlegm is more significant, the body is reacting to an infectious agent.

Without a doubt, the most common cause of coughing up white phlegm is a respiratory infection. Among others, the conditions that can produce white phlegm are:

  • Flu and cold.
  • Infection or lung diseases: acute bronchitis, pneumonia, and others.
  • Inflammation of the larynx or pharynx.
  • Infections in the paranasal sinuses.
  • Allergies: seasonal, environmental, or to certain foods.

Cough with white phlegm: treatment

When the cough is accompanied by white phlegm, it can be treated with some home remedies, including plenty of rest. However, when the phlegm is green, brown, or contains traces of blood, it is urgent to go to the doctor, as it can be severe illnesses, including heart problems.

If there is a cough with white phlegm, the first thing to consider is that the cough is a mechanism that allows the phlegm to be mobilized and expectorated, so it is advisable not to stop the cough. Instead, to help make expectoration easier, the phlegm must become more fluid. It is essential to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, whether water directly, juices, infusions, or soups. Other recommendations, such as not smoking and keeping the environment sufficiently humid, should also be considered.

In the case of soups and infusions, it is recommended to include some foods that help eliminate phlegm. Some examples are:

  • Garlic.
  • The onion.
  • The pepper.
  • Ginger.
  • The lemon.
  • Honey.

As for natural juices, it is advisable to consume them from fruits rich in vitamin C, to help the immune system fight against infection. Another strategy that works to help eliminate phlegm is steam inhalations, which can be just water or water with salt, eucalyptus, or menthol.

When the phlegm is no longer white, the doctor should evaluate the patient and prescribe a mucolytic or medication to help expel the phlegm. As the infection progresses, the picture becomes more complicated, and the patient will surely need more medication, including antibiotics.

Home remedies to eliminate cough with white phlegm

Phlegm is a viscous fluid produced in the respiratory tract, usually in small amounts. When an infection occurs, this mucus usually becomes more abundant. In these cases, home remedies can be beneficial to relieve symptoms and help control the infection. The first recommendation is rest and hydration. In addition, there are various home remedies to eliminate white phlegm. These include:


  • Saltwater gargle: two glasses of water are boiled with two tablespoons of salt. Once the water is warm, the first gargles are made. With this solution, the operation is repeated two to three times for several days or until it heals.
  • Myrrh water gargle: Mix half a teaspoon of myrrh with two cups of warm water and gargle three to four times a day. Myrrh is antimicrobial and expectorant at the same time.


  • Pineapple juice with ginger: pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties, and in turn, ginger helps cure throat ailments.
  • Carrot and ginger juice: combined carrot and ginger help fight infection.


  • Garlic cloves: you can chew two cloves of garlic on an empty stomach or with a tablespoon of honey, or it can be made as an infusion. Garlic is a natural antibiotic used to treat infections in general, not just those of the respiratory tract.
  • The onion, lemon, honey, and the ginger infusion is a potent mixture. The onion exerts an antispasmodic sedative, an antibiotic, mucolytic, bronchodilator, and expectorant action from the start. It is recommended not only in infusion but also in the salad, and it is even recommended to chop a piece and put it next to the bed to breathe its vapors.
  • Lemon tea: relieves itchy throat and is easily prepared with boiling water, a little black tea, lemon juice, and honey.
  • Licorice and mint tea: the mixture of licorice and mint helps eliminate phlegm.

steam inhalations

  • Steam inhalations or hot water bath: it is used to open the respiratory tract, and it is straightforward to do. Place a pot with boiling water, put a towel on your head and breathe in the steam. A hot water bath fulfills the same function.
  • Inhalations with thyme or eucalyptus: this is the same procedure explained before, only, in this case, to make it more effective, you can add a few drops of eucalyptus essence or a few sprigs of thyme when boiling the water.

In the same way, the old recipe for a boiling chicken soup will also help cough up phlegm since it fulfills the same function of hydrating the individual, and if you add enough onion, garlic, and some spice, you will have it all in one.

This article is merely informative. At fastlyheal.com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to go to a doctor in the event of presenting any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read similar articles to Cough with white phlegm: causes and treatment, we recommend visiting our Lung and respiratory tract category.

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