Is It Okay to Cough up Small Balls of Mucus? Things You Need to Know About It!

Coughing is an innate reflex that clears our air passages from irritants and staves off various infections. There are two types of cough; wet cough and dry cough.

A dry cough may be considered unproductive since it doesn’t produce any mucus or phlegm, whereas a wet cough is one where we cough up small balls of mucus. That’s why it is also claimed to be a productive cough.

Mucus (also known as sputum or phlegm) is a tenacious, gelatinous, and adherent (sticky) substance that acts as a defensive coating for different tissues in our body. In addition to its primary component as water, it also consists of lipids, proteins, glycoproteins, and proteoglycans.  

When we breathe, the airways of our nasal passages, throat, and lungs produce mucus to protect the respiratory tract from germs and bacteria. Besides, our body produces more mucus when suffering from any respiratory infection.

Your mucus changes color because your defensive immunity-boosted enzymes get mixed with it.

Why Am I Coughing Up Small Balls of Mucus?

Coughing up small round mucus balls may signify that you are suffering from any infection in your respiratory tract.

cough-up-small-balls-of-mucus

Coughing up phlegm and having mucus running down your nose is never fun, but it’s even more concerning when you notice a drastic color change. Surprisingly, mucus can be of different colors, denoting various infections and concerns.

  • Solid white mucus
  • Clear mucus
  • Yellow mucus
  • Green mucus

Let’s dive into the debate of coughing up small balls of mucus with its relevant information.

Coughing Up Solid White Mucus

You must be wondering what does it mean when you cough up mucus balls? The answer is simple: coughing and expectorating mucus mark that you have an upper respiratory tract infection.

When you have a stuffy nose and sore throat, you cough up small mucus balls much thicker than usual. It may be because an infection has developed in the swollen area of the vocal cords or the sinuses. It comes out as a solid white mucus with a feeling of congestion that requires prescription antibiotics from your consultant.

Coughing up white mucus indicates that the mucus contains enough WBCs, and foreign bodies have started to invade the respiratory tract. It is an indication that an infection has been created.

White mucus can also appear foamy with bubbles, so-called frothy sputum.

Coughing Up Foamy White Mucus

A foamy white mucus with bubbles is referred to as frothy sputum. It appears a bit thicker than the normal mucus; that’s why also called phlegm.

Coughing phlegm is an expected symptom of minor illnesses such as cold or influenza.

Coughing up white phlegm with bubbles might indicate severe chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pneumonia, or pulmonary edema due to heart failure.

Coughing Up Yellow Mucus

Yellow mucus signifies that your body is fighting off an infection. It also reveals that a bacterial infection has set in and that you have a mild chest infection. Your mucus changes color because your defensive immunity-boosted enzymes get mixed with it.

yellow-mucus

Therefore, coughing up small balls of yellow mucus is an excellent prognosis, as your body is heading towards curing a mild infection.  

Coughing Up Green Mucus

When your body experiences chronic chest congestion, your body produces green mucus. Coughing up small balls of green mucus is good as it manifests the treatment of severe chest infections that have been there for a long time.  

Coughing Up Clear Mucus

Sometimes you might produce clear mucus. Coughing up small balls of clear mucus is normal and healthy, as it means your body is trying to eliminate any irritants. It also assures that any of the allergens are not attacking you.

However, you might experience that you are still coughing clear phlegm after various respiratory infections like Covid. Coughing up clear mucus Covid is normal and completely fine as your body tries to flush out the remaining pollutants from its airways.

green-mucus

Anyhow, different colors of mucus indicate different backgrounds. Nevertheless, coughing small balls of mucus is a body’s immune response against respiratory infections.

Why Am I Coughing Up White Phlegm in The Morning?

Many people ask questions like, is coughing up white phlegm with bubbles in the morning normal? Or why do I cough up little balls of phlegm? Does it have any serious concerns?

Coughing up white phlegm with bubbles after sleep and in the morning results from a postnasal drip phenomenon during a severe sinus problem. Since the body produces excess mucus during respiratory infections, which drains down into the throat while sleeping, it leads to morning cough.

However, coughing up phlegm for weeks may be a symptom of underlying conditions such as stomach acid reflux, chronic bronchitis, heart disease-related edema, and other lung infections.

Coughing Up Phlegm for Months but Not Sick

Occasionally, you might be coughing up small balls of phlegm without any cold symptoms due to other afflictions like postnasal drip allergies, heartburn or flatulence, sinus infections, asthma, pneumonia, smoking, etc.

Consult your doctor in this regard before the conditions worsen.

Why Do I Cough Up Jelly Like Mucus?

You may sometimes suffer from thick mucus with a query in mind; what does it mean when you cough up jelly-like mucus?

You must be aware that hydration is the key to healthy sinuses. If you aren’t hydrated enough, your sinuses won’t be able to create lubrication for the mucus, and it won’t continue its thinner consistency. Therefore, it will become jelly-like viscous.

Note that coughing up jelly-like mucus should be cured as soon as possible as it could lead to conditions like sinusitis.

phlegm

Is it Normal to Cough Up Chunks of Mucus?

Coughing up chunks of mucus means your sinuses aren’t hydrated enough to lubricate the mucus and maintain its consistency. Unfortunately, it isn’t normal and healthy either and should be looked after immediately, as it could lead to unfortunate and adverse outcomes.

How to Get Rid of Mucus?

There are plenty of ways to get rid of it and clear your mucus.

  • Keep yourself hydrated as dehydration can worsen your cough.
  • Use over-the-counter medicines such as dextromethorphan (antitussive), guaifenesin (expectorant), oxymetazoline nasal spray (decongestant), etc.
  • Gargle with salt water as it can relieve your symptoms.
  • Avoid irritants like perfumes or pollens.
  • Use a humidifier as it helps to clear the nasal passages.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Acquire oxygen therapy if your lungs can’t function properly.

If the conditions get worse, consult your doctor and follow his prescription.

When to See a Doctor?

Coughing up mucus is all ok if you suffer from a respiratory infection. You may cough up small balls of mucus at times when putting up with any respiratory disorder.

If your mucus is clear, yellow, or green, it may be wise to wait a few days before visiting the doctor. You should seek medical attention immediately if you have other severe symptoms, such as a high fever or shortness of breath accompanying any of such mucus.

However, black mucus and phlegm can signify something is wrong. If you notice your usual grey or white color has changed, it’s essential to see a doctor as soon as possible so they can diagnose what’s happening with the body!

FAQs

Question: What might cause coughing up chunks of mucus?

Coughing up mucus is an indication of having either a viral or bacterial infection in your upper respiratory tract.

Coughing up chunks of mucus means it is viscous with a comparatively thicker consistency than the normal mucus. The probable cause of this thicker mucus is dehydration, as the sinuses don’t find any lubrication.

Question: What does it mean if you’re coughing up thick and chunky mucus?

Thicker chunky mucus represents a bacterial infection in your airways. Furthermore, your body has started its immune reactions against the invading agents. It’s an early signal that foreign bodies have encountered your respiratory tract.

Questions: Why am I coughing up chunky phlegm?

Phlegm is made up of germs, immune cells, and debris when your body gets exposed to the infection. Chunky phlegm indicates a respiratory infection. It also reveals the early onset of the disease and signifies that some respiratory illness is confronting you.

Crux of the Matter

The respiratory system relies on mucus to protect it from various irritants and infections. It’s produced by the mucus membrane that lines airways passages. It is a filler for allergens such as pollens, dust, smoke, and other irritants.

However, you may cough up small balls of mucus during conditions like the cold. This mucus could be of various colors and states depending upon the onset and severity of the pathogenic invasion.

Therefore, you must be aware of each color change so that you may cure yourself in the future according to the respective colors.

Minahil Laraib Asif

Minahil Laraib Asif

Hi, This is Minahil Laraib Asif, an MBBS student from Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC) in Pakistan. Studying medicine is my passion, and the desire to live my life in service to humanity has led me to pursue my career in medicine. As a medical student, it's essential to know how to balance projects and work while maintaining a healthy social life. Investigating and exploring newer disclosures has always been a source of gratification for me. For this reason, I have developed my career in writing articles as well, since it brings me great delight while researching various projects, and presenting such information to people, that they may otherwise never come across.

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