How to do I clear up a post-cold congestion/phlegm?
March 5, 2012 11:03 PM   Subscribe

I've actually had this problem for awhile. I usually wake up in the mornings with congestion mostly a lot of phlegm. I have to clear my throat numerous times, blow my nose, etc. The phlegm is clear, no discoloration. Clogs most in my throat so I almost have to make a hacking sound to bring up the phlegm.

I recently recovered from a head cold and this lingering of congestion has reminded me that I usually have this problem every morning. Even some of my roommates back in college used to make light fun at it. It's kinda just downright gross, unpleasant, and embarrassing.

What can I do to dry this up? Some things I've done before to try to cure this is using a neti pot each night, sudafed during the day-- hasn't seemed to rid me of the problem.
posted by melizabeth to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered that it may be an allergy to something? You could try taking an antihistamine before bed and see if that has any measurable effect.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:20 PM on March 5, 2012

It could be allergies or a slight sinus infection.
posted by spunweb at 12:01 AM on March 6, 2012

(I am not a doctor or anything close)

You could try different OTC allergy pills. I think the neti pot is ineffective in preventing the problem.

Sudafed is pseudoephedrene and doesn't work well for you.

Clartin is "Loratadine 10mg". (Be sure it is that original type)

Benedryl Ultratab is "Diphenhydramine HCl 25mg". (Be sure it is that original type)

Although these all claim to reduce congestion, different ingredients work differently for different people. The Benedryl Ultratab type works best by far for me of the three types. It's worth a try to try both of the other types to find out if one works better for you, or at all.

Also, at night before bed, regular chicken noodle soup can help, or just using a chicken bullion cube as a lozenge if you can stand it - really.

(Beyond this, see a professional)
posted by caclwmr4 at 12:03 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is your bedroom dusty? Is your mattress old? How about your pillow? Have you washed your blankets recently? It really sounds like an allergic reaction to something in your bedroom. Dust, feathers, wool, any one of these could be the culprit.
posted by mareli at 12:16 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

i find that this is a side effect of being dehydrated and allergies.
posted by nadawi at 12:48 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like allergies to me. Specifically, post-nasal drip with fluid dripping down into your lungs. I only say this because I have the same exact problem, brought on by a N-A-S-T-Y cold (read: lung infection) that lingered and left me sick for months. Eventually affected my breathing and left me with mild asthma. Mild, yes, but annoying and enough to leave a terrible hack in the morning especially.

Do you have breathing problems? I have had a similar problem for quite some time - and it took some time to figure out the asthma part, and even longer to figure out which antihistamine worked. For me, a combo of asthma meds year-round and, seasonally, Claritin-D do the trick. Good luck! Do see a doctor, though - you may need an additional diagnosis and Rx(s). Of course, IANAD, blah-blah-blah ; )
posted by luciddream928 at 1:23 AM on March 6, 2012

I have allergies. These kind of symptoms get worse for me after a cold, even when the cold is gone. I generally wash all my bedding on hot water (ALL of it -- even mattress pads and comforters -- unless it's something like wool or down or a fragile quilt that would be destroyed by hot water, in which case it would have to be cleaned in accordance with the care instructions -- although if you're not sure what you're reacting to, temporarily removing anything with feathers/down might also be a good idea). Has to be hot water, because cold or warm won't kill dust mites. The mattress surface and pillows get vacuumed. I find about half of the time this is enough to clear up the worst of the congestion. (The other half of the time, it's a sinus infection.)

And like nadawi, I also find the congestion is more painful if I'm dehydrated, so drink lots of water.
posted by pie ninja at 4:02 AM on March 6, 2012

Mucinex will thin the phlegm and make it easier for you to get it out.

A vaporizer at night will hydrate the room; dry air could be spurring your sinuses to produce the phlegm in the first place. The steam will also help thin the phlegm as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:21 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

My son used to have this problem when he was a little younger, and still sometimes in the Spring and Fall. It was so bad that he would actually vomit the phlegm in the morning. Not fun for anyone. It was always clear, but could be quite thick. I think the reason he would throw up was that the thick gunk would trigger his gag reflex when he tried to clear his throat.

We solved the problem by giving him a dose of Benadryl before bed every night.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:01 AM on March 6, 2012

Do you have a down duvet? Are you allergic to feathers? I didn't know I was but when I switched to a synthetic duvet a lot of my disgusting morning post-nasal gunk went away. I can bring it back by drinking a lot of milk if I miss it, though.
posted by looli at 7:29 AM on March 6, 2012

Hi. Assuming you do not have allergies: you don't want to dry it up. You want to thin the secretions so they're less viscous and less tenacious. (If copious, you also want to reduce mucus production.)
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily;
  • consider reduclng dairy products in your diet; &
  • practise deep breathing (and coughing) exercises 3 or so times a day.
Expect immediate improvement. If not, speak with a doctor before throwing every OTC mucolytic known to mankind at your problem.
posted by de at 7:35 AM on March 6, 2012

I agree that a neti pot helps, but for me it doesn't solve the problem, it just makes it easier to deal with. Also the every day allergy meds (xyrtec) and flonase. All help, but not completely.
posted by ldthomps at 7:37 AM on March 6, 2012

Nthing that this sounds like allergies. You've gotten various suggestions to try using over the counter allergy meds. etc..

I am not trying to discourage you, but note that in consultation with an allergist I tried various meds. for a number of years for my allergies. Despite our best efforts, ultimately my allergies got worse and the only thing that really helped me was getting allergy shots.
posted by gudrun at 7:48 AM on March 6, 2012

I get this problem when I've eaten too much cheese, and when it's cedar season.
posted by cmoj at 8:58 AM on March 6, 2012

it would be a good idea to get an appointment with an allergist and get tested.

This could be, for example, a dust mite allergy, in which case you can get relief through drugs, mattress and pillow encasements, and by washing your bedding regularly in hot water.

Of course, if it's not dust mites, the remedies are different, which is why you need the allergy test.

It's really worth it to get this properly taken care of. I used to have these colds every winter that turned into sinus infections that totally drained the life out of me. Getting my allergies under control has significantly improved my quality of life.
posted by BrashTech at 9:32 AM on March 6, 2012

I've had this problem for years and switching from sudafed to mucinex pretty much fixed it.
posted by disaster77 at 9:32 AM on March 6, 2012

Quitting smoking makes this go away for some people.
posted by kettleoffish at 2:56 PM on March 6, 2012

I have lots of allergies and they are a lot better now that I have an air filter running in my room all the time. Another helpful thing is to take a nice hot steamy shower right when you get up and after breathing in all the warm wet air it will be a lot easier for you to clear your throat and blow your nose.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:57 PM on March 6, 2012

Seconding the idea of a HEPA air filter. It's made my morning congestion a lot easier to clean up and most importantly, it's gotten rid of the terrible, fever-like headache that I used to wake up with every morning.
posted by houndsoflove at 3:36 AM on March 7, 2012

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