How to Dry Up Mucus

Three Methods:Drying up Mucus With Home RemediesDrying up Mucus With Over the Counter MedicinesUnderstanding the Causes of Mucus

Mucus is generally a term that has a negative connotation—it’s often unpleasant to look at, and it’s associated with long winters and miserable allergy seasons, sniffling snuffling and boxes and boxes of tissues. While there are steps you can take to dry up mucus, make sure you don’t do so at the expense of your body’s natural processes or in a way that will exacerbate your symptoms.

Method 1
Drying up Mucus With Home Remedies

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    Rest. If you’re dealing with an infection, getting plenty of rest will help your body recuperate. You will probably still have responsibilities to take care of, but try not to push yourself beyond what absolutely needs to get done.[1]
    • If you have a bacterial sinus infection, you may need and antibiotic as well as mucoactive agents to dry up the mucus.
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    Increase your fluid intake. Drinking an adequate amount of water daily will cause mucus to lose its thickness and help clear the nasal passages.[2]
    • Caffeine-free tea and soup are common cold remedies for this reason.
    • Try sipping on peppermint tea or eating some pineapple. The menthol in peppermint and the bromelain in pineapple might help to reduce the coughing mucus causes.[3][4]
    • Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, by contrast, can increase mucus production and dehydrate the body.
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    Apply a hot compress. Wet a clean washcloth with warm water and squeeze out the excess water. Then, cover the nose and cheeks with the hot washcloth compress. The heat from the washcloth will loosen the mucus and reduce the pain caused by congestion.[5]
    • Heat will help dilute the mucus (which is mostly solid in nature), resulting in easier release when you blow your nose.
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    Take a hot shower. The steam from the shower opens up your nasal passages, which allows mucus to pass through easily. Taking warm showers will also help dry up mucus because the steam is able to open up the nasal passages so that mucus can easily pass through. Remember that during nasal congestion the nasal passages are all blocked up, and steam works with heat to thin the mucus, allowing for easier mechanical release.[6]
    • Steam inhalation also works — boil a pot of water, get a blanket or any cloth that can cover your face and the pot of boiling water, and inhale the steam so that it can loosen the mucus. Be very careful not to burn yourself on the pot or the hot steam; keep your face at least 12 inches above the water. Try adding a few drops of essential oils such as tea tree oil, peppermint oil, or eucalyptus oil to help open up your sinuses.
    • You may also find that using a humidifier helps ease your symptoms.

Method 2
Drying up Mucus With Over the Counter Medicines

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    Proceed with caution. Over-the-counter medicines like oral decongestants and nasal sprays can be very effective if you have excess mucus but still need to function at work or school. However, you should not take them for longer than about three days.[7]
    • Taking these products for longer than three days can lead to a boomerang effect in which your mucus builds up even more than it did before.
    • Many of these products also have side effects, including increased blood pressure and heart rate.
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    Take oral decongestants to alleviate congestion. Decongestants give relief to nasal congestion by reducing the swelling of the nasal tissues in the nasal passages. The mucus is dried up in the lungs, allowing the airway passages to open. The mucus is able to easily pass through, preventing an increase in mucus production.[8]
    • Over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants come in 12 hour or 24 hour treatments. Try Tylenol Cold and Flu or Advil Cold and Sinus.
    • Decongestants are prepared in different forms such as pills, liquids, and nasal sprays.
    • Before taking decongestants, take the time to read the label and ingredients of the medications.
    • If you have hypertension, seek medical counsel before taking any decongestants that contain the active ingredients phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine, because these can elevate blood pressure.
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    Try cough suppressants and expectorants. A cough suppressant, such as dextromethorphan, inhibits the cough reflex and reduces the adhesiveness and surface tension of mucus. This allows mucus to exit the body more easily, helps relieve chest pain caused by excessive coughing, and removes secretions from the upper and lower airways.[9]
    • Side effects that you need to watch out for include nausea and vomiting, headache, and dizziness.
    • Guaifenesin is a cough expectorant that thins the mucus for faster and easier release from the respiratory passage.
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    Use nasal corticosteroid sprays. Nasal spray is medication that is sprayed directly into the nasal cavity. Nasal spray can narrow the blood vessels that line the nose, shrinking the nasal tissue and reducing the swelling inside the nose and sinuses. This helps stop the production of extra mucus and eases the clearing of the nasal pathways, making breathing easier and drying up mucus faster.[10]
    • You will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for nasal steroids, such as Flonase.
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    Take oral antihistamines. Antihistamine cold medications block histamines, substances that can trigger allergic reactions and cause the tissue in your nose to swell and release mucus.[11]Common over-the-counter antihistamines that dry up mucus include Benadryl and Loratidine.
    • Antihistamines should be taken once at bedtime.
    • Note that drowsiness is one side effect of antihistamines, so never take the medication if you are going for a long drive or operating other heavy machinery.
    • Also be wary of other side effects such as headache, dizziness, and dry mouth.
    • Antihistamines should not be taken with expectorants.
    • If your allergies are persistent and severe, talk to your doctor about allergy shots.[12]
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    Irrigate your nasal passages. Also called nasal lavage, nasal irrigation is the process of draining the nasal passages manually, using water. The principle behind nasal irrigation is that you shoot a solution of salty water (saline) up one nostril in order to loosen the mucus build up and then drain it out on the other nostril. This can remove build up and hasten drying.[13]
    • You can either use a neti pot or a bulb syringe.
    • Make sure that the solution you are using (salt water) comes from sterile, distilled, or boiled water to prevent the introduction of bacteria.
    • Remember to properly rinse the irrigation device after every use and air dry it afterwards.
    • Limit the use of nasal irrigation, because frequent irrigation can wash out some of the natural protective substances that help fight off infections.
    • Gargling with salt water can have a similar effect.[14]

Method 3
Understanding the Causes of Mucus

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    Thank mucus for keeping your lungs clear. Although you might not be aware of it, your body is making mucus all the time, sometimes as much as a quart per day.[15] Even when you are feeling perfectly fine, cells in your nose and mouth called “goblet cells” are combining water, proteins, and polysaccharides into mucus, forming its characteristic sticky texture.[16]
    • There is a very important reason for this: because mucus is sticky, it is able to trap irritating or dangerous particles before they reach your lungs.[17]
    • Without mucus, the particles of dust and dirt that you may see when you blow your nose would end up inside your body.[18]
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    Notice your body’s response. When you are sick, your body produces more mucus to ward off the invader, be it a virus or bacteria.[19]
    • This is why you often only notice mucus when you are sick. Under normal circumstances, you are able to swallow mucus at the same pace that your body produces it, but under adverse circumstances, mucus is being produced faster and in greater quantities, leading the excess to clog your nose.
    • When mucus mixes with saliva and white blood cells, it becomes phlegm.
    • Mucus production can also be stimulated by food, environmental factors, allergens, cigarette smoke, chemicals, and perfumes.
    • When this increased production happens, your sinuses can get blocked, leading to the buildup of bacteria and possibly a sinus infection.
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    Don’t put too much faith in color. Many people believe that the color of your mucus reveals the kind of affliction you are dealing with. While there is some usefulness in these guides, doctors do not really use them to make diagnoses or prescribe treatments.[20]
    • Generally, healthy mucus should be clear.
    • If your mucus is cloudy or white, you may have a cold.
    • Yellow or green mucus may signal a bacterial infection.
    • If you’re trying to figure out whether you have a cold or a sinus infection, a better gauge is how long your symptoms last. With a cold, you will usually have a runny nose followed by a stuffy nose, each lasting for two or three days. Sinus infections can linger for a week or more.[21]


  • Think twice before asking your doctor for antibiotics. Your symptoms are much more likely to come from a viral infection than a bacterial one, and antibiotics are useless against these. Moreover, the overprescription of antibiotics has made them less effective over time. Of course, if your symptoms persist or grow worse, you should by all means see your doctor. Bacterial sinus infections come with their own complications if left untreated.[22]

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Categories: Infectious Diseases