As Cough phlegm - also Expectoration, sputum, Expectoration or Mucus expectoration - the coughed up secretion of the airway mucous membrane and mixed cells is called.
When diagnosed, these cells can be further differentiated into white blood cells, and in bronchial carcinoma also as malignant cells. In addition, the cough phlegm can also contain saliva, food residues, dust, smoke particles, pathogens, pus and, in the case of a blood cough, also blood.
The sputum can be used to investigate diseases such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis or to diagnose tuberculosis and tumor formations of the lower respiratory tract.
What is sputum or sputum?
Cough phlegm is a side effect of cough. During a viral infection, for example, the bronchial mucous membrane increasingly produces a secretion that settles in the throat and often forces the person affected to cough.
At the Cough phlegm it is a side effect of the cough. During a viral infection, for example, the bronchial mucous membrane increasingly produces a secretion that settles in the throat and often forces the person affected to cough.
The mucus is usually yellowish-green in color, but it can also have traces of blood. In the latter case, greater caution is required. However, this can only be noticed when the cough phlegm gets out:
The body wants to get rid of the excessively formed cough phlegm - if this succeeds, doctors speak of sputum or sputum. Then one can also speak of a productive cough. This occurs not only during illness, but also, for example, in smokers.
Cough phlegm which occurs as part of a cough with a cold is normal. The purpose of the cough mucus is that the bronchi are cleaned. If an unnatural amount of cough mucus or sputum is formed and its colors are unusual, this can also be a sign of a respiratory disease. The most common causes are acute bronchitis, bronchial asthma, chronic lung disease, allergies, tuberculosis and lung cancer (bronchial carcinoma).
From the color of the sputum, conclusions can be drawn about possible causes:
- Yellow-green: it is a purulent, acute bacterial infection, e.g. Bronchial asthma, inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia) and cystic fibrosis
- White-glassy: the infection is more viral, e.g. in chronic bronchitis, coughing up in the morning
- White-frothy: Indication of pulmonary congestion up to edema
- Greyish: bacterial infection healing, often with pneumonia
- Brownish black: most likely old blood. Can be harmless, but does not have to be, clarification required, mostly in the case of heavy smokers
- Crumbly: lung diseases such as actinomycosis and tuberculosis
- Bloody: Coughing up blood (haemoptysis), may be a sign of a serious infection (such as pneumonia) or a malignant tumor (such as lung cancer)
If the cough is severe, the bronchial mucous membrane is damaged, and it is normal that a few small threads of blood are mixed in with the sputum.
Diseases with this symptom
- whooping cough
- bronchial asthma
- Lung cancer
- Cystic fibrosis
- lung infection
Diagnosis & course
Cough phlegm or its sputum can be diagnosed by the person concerned - what is behind this, however, must be clarified by a doctor.
This is done with a combination of questions about the patient's history as well as other complaints and intensive examinations of the mouth and throat. Optionally, the heart and lungs can be monitored with the help of a stethoscope. Blood tests can be added if a certain disease is suspected.
The appearance of cough phlegm can be associated with a cough. It forms very often during a cold. Since the throat tries to separate from it, expectoration also occurs very often. If it is bloody, further examinations (for example for lung cancer) should take place.
Cough phlegm has been linked to respiratory diseases. In addition to a normal cold, bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis or lung cancer can also be the cause of coughing phlegm. The most diverse complications are corresponding. A cold usually heals without further complications in the immune system.
However, some serious consequences can occur. If, for example, the person concerned does sport despite the illness, in the most severe case this can lead to heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis). This can lead to heart failure (heart failure), which can quickly lead to death. Other consequences can include the cold spreading into the lungs, which then leads to pneumonia.
The infection can also spread to the middle ear, which can also affect the meninges and inner ear from there. The complications of acute bronchitis are similar. In asthma, the most feared complication is the status asthmaticus, a prolonged asthma attack that is a medical emergency.
The affected person has to be ventilated. In rare cases, the asthma can cause emphysema, which ultimately puts stress on the right heart, which can lead to insufficiency. In addition to severe breathing disorders, complications of tuberculosis include spitting out large amounts of blood. The destruction of the lung tissue and the increase in the risk of developing lung cancer are also increased.
When should you go to the doctor?
Cough mucus can form even with non-flu colds. If it is obvious that the secretion of mucus when coughing is based on a less dramatic form of the cold, which also responds well to home remedies, a visit to the doctor can be avoided if the recovery process begins soon. Otherwise, however, the family doctor should be consulted if coughing phlegm occurs. If necessary, this will initiate the referral to a pulmonologist, pulmonologist or oncologist.
Cough mucus, also known as sputum and sputum, consists of secretions from the mucous membranes of the airways and various body cells such as the white blood cells that are active in defense against infection. A medical examination of the components of the cough mucus can reveal further informative results. For example, among the cells in the mucus there may be so-called malignancy cells, which are typical for lung cancer.
Components such as infectious agents, blood, pus, dust, smoke particles or food residues also give the attending physician important information. The cough mucus can be used to diagnose other diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis or tumors. Allergies and asthma also often trigger the formation of cough mucus.
What even medical laypeople notice - the wide range of possible colors of the cough slime from white to yellow, green, brown to black and the consistency between viscous and crumbly - provides the examining doctor with valuable diagnostic criteria.
Doctors & therapists in your area
Treatment & Therapy
Cough phlegm occurs as a harmless symptom in the context of an allergy or a cold. The expectoration is accompanied by a strong or weak cough. If the cough and its cough phlegm persist or if it is completely or partially permeated with blood, the cause should be investigated by a doctor. Nevertheless, lung cancer should not be considered straight away.
In order to identify the cause, the doctor asks questions about the symptoms or the sputum itself. Furthermore, he asks important accompanying symptoms such as runny nose, headache, hoarseness, etc. Allergies, intolerance and previous illnesses are also important to mention. Even medication can have an impact on cough phlegm. Finally, it should be determined whether the person concerned is a heavy smoker or lives or works in polluted environments.
This is followed by a holistic examination of the throat, neck and chest. The lungs and heart are listened to with a stethoscope and blood is taken to further investigate potential inflammation values and pathogens. The cough phlegm is also examined in the laboratory to identify germs and pathogens (e.g. tuberculosis). The cells contained in the sputum are also examined.
If the cause of the cough is still unclear or if the doctor wants to examine the results more closely, further examinations are useful.
Possible further measures could be: tissue examination (biopsy), reflection of the larynx, reflection of the bronchi, irrigation of the bronchi, computed tomography, etc.
The therapy itself is primarily directed against the person who caused the cough. Mostly these are colds, bronchial asthma or lung cancer. These diseases should therefore be treated. Antibiotics may have to be used for bacterial infections.
Furthermore, smoking should be stopped if possible. Dusty and dry air should also be avoided. Natural alternatives are sufficient drinks in the form of water and teas (chamomile tea, fennel tea, anise tea and sage tea).
Depending on the ultimate cause, the phlegm or the disease that leads to the sputum is treated. For the harmless cough phlegm of a cold, the well-known cough tablets (lozenges) or the cough syrup are the classics. These drugs are available over-the-counter in the pharmacy as well as prescription drugs. The cough suppressants are divided into cough removers and cough suppressants.
Outlook & forecast
In many cases, the phlegm appears with the flu or with a cold and is a harmless symptom. This disappears again when the underlying disease has been overcome. However, coughing mucus can also occur with bronchitis or pneumonia. In this case, the underlying disease must be fought specifically so that it does not lead to a life-threatening condition.
The affected person should definitely avoid sport or physical activity, as this can lead to inflammation of the heart muscle. Heart failure, on the other hand, can lead to death. Even with pneumonia, bed rest is necessary to successfully combat the disease.
The patient has a relatively large number of means to help himself with cough phlegm. However, in the event of a long-term illness, a doctor should be consulted in order to avoid consequential damage and inflammation. Likewise, the person affected can more easily develop breathing difficulties. Treatment is usually done with the help of medication.
You can find your medication here➔ Medicines against coughs and colds
Cough phlegmthat are not caused by illness can be prevented by a healthy life with lots of exercise, fresh air, a healthy diet and not smoking. Furthermore, if possible, you should not work and live in air-polluted rooms or areas. A mouthguard can have a short-term preventive effect.
Home remedies & herbs against cough phlegm & sputum
- Anise helps against flatulence, cough phlegm, asthma and white flow and ensures a good night's sleep.
- Cough tea is prepared as follows: 5 grams each of ribwort, lungwort, coltsfoot, woolly flower, aniseed grains, liquorice, hibiscus roots and 10 grams of Icelandic moss.
- Another cough tea is made from half a tablespoon of licorice, half a tablespoon of violet roots, one tablespoon of marshmallow roots, half a tablespoon of coltsfoot leaves, half a tablespoon of woolly flowers and the same amount of anise seeds. From this mixture you then make a cup of tea from a teaspoon. Preferably sweeten with honey.
- Nettle tea has a blood-purifying and expectorant effect.
- Used as a bath additive, eucalyptus oil loosens the phlegm, opens the respiratory organs and takes away the urge to cough. That is why this bath is particularly appropriate for people with colds.
- Spruce needle honey is a good expectorant cough suppressant. The blossoms of the spruce are mixed with sugar.
- Coltsfoot has an appetizing effect and helps with coughs, mucus and hoarseness.
You can do that yourself
If the patient smokes, it must be given up in any case in order to loosen the cough phlegm. In general, a healthy diet and lifestyle also have a positive effect on the symptom and can also prevent it. The patient should not be in rooms where the air is polluted. A breathing mask is suitable when traveling to countries with heavily polluted air.
Anise helps against the phlegm. This can be taken in the form of tablets to suck or as tea. In general, various teas help here that warm the throat and thus loosen the mucus. Nettle tea also has a positive effect on the throat and throat and can thus loosen the cough mucus.
The symptom should generally be treated with warmth. This includes going to the sauna, whereby those affected have to assess for themselves whether a visit to the sauna would further strain the possibly weakened circulation. If this is the case, saunas should be avoided. Inhalations with hot water and salt also help with cough phlegm and protect the circulation. Bathing with bath additives and essential oils is also advisable to keep the airways moist. Before going to bed, ointments can be applied to the chest to warm it. Honey also has a positive effect on the cough phlegm and can dissolve it.