How can I get rid of the excess mucous keeping me up all night

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I was diagnosed back in Oct with emphysema and mild asthma overlap. After going through months of anxiety and panic and depression I now have started antidepressants, have stopped smoking for 4 months now, go to the gym daily and eat a lot of vegt that I had previously deemed only good for rabbits and the like. Air in Beijng has been amazing which has helped my mood tremendously since I am unable to get out at all on high pollution days which can be more often than not.

However, given all this I am still experiencing a large amount of mucus in the back of my throat that I can not get up. I coughed way more when I was smoking and it seems that my lungs just can not get rid of the mucus and it feels like Im choking on it and start becoming anxious which just makes it all worse.  I drink tons of water a day, drink tea with lemon and fresh ginger. I have a humidifier to help put moisture in the air and take decongestant meds and a saline solution for my sinuses. My Pulmonologist seems to find my excess mucus unusual but doesnt seem to have any solutions. Any suggestions?  Another night of being up since 4 am choking on my own flem and its really unpleasant.

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  • Posted

    Hello, have you tried 'Carbocistene' which thins the catarrh and makes it easier to spit out.  Also I find lemon very good for 'cutting' catarrh.  Cut half a lemon into rings and put in a mug, pour over boiling water and prod with a spoon for a while, then add honey to taste and sip.  It will ease the catarrh at the back of the throat almost immediately and it lasts for a while.  You could add ginger to it and it would be better still.

    Hope it works for you.

    Robert ~

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    • Posted

      Thank you Robert. I am not familiar with Carbocistene but have tried lemon slices with honey, or tea or fresh ginger or all at once when terribly desperate. It does help but I got sick with a common cold a couple of weeks ago and my ears nose throat etc are all blocked up even though everything looks free of infection (clear catarrh).. YEA! Being sick in Beijing with  mild COPD and mild Asthma is normal. Whats not normal is the amount of catarrh (much nicer word that flem or mucous). Maybe smoking previously and drinking much less water and way more coffee kept it at bay even if it was to my detriment.  The GP says that its all the years of smoking coming up which would be a plus I suppose. Thanks for your help. I will ask the Dr about Carbocistene.
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  • Posted

    Hello to you

    You must be exhausted. And wanting a decent nights sleep.

    Congrats on stopping the smoking!  I have done so also and it is the best thing to have goes a very long way to improving things for you on many levels.

    You will still have your lungs trying to rid itself of mucous as you have some from smoking. And beyond that COPD produces mucous.

    Have you anyone who might get to a pharmacy and speak with the pharmacist about an expectorant..something that will thin and loosen the mucous so that you might get it up easier and be able to cough it out? It is always beneficial if you are producing phlegm to be able to cough it out, moreso during the day , but you would like to try to settle down at night so you can sleep.

    Also, you have mentioned increased humidity with trying to help. Sometimes this can make the air too heavy and cause more difficulty in breathing...perhaps try without and see if this helps.

    It is good you are taking more fluids as this will also thin secretions.

    The other consideration is your sinuses. Is it possible that you have post nasal drip, that the sinuses are draining into the back of your throat when you lie down?

    Have you tried to raise your head a little higher for sleeping?

    How long have you been taking a decongestant? Sometimes they begin to act in the reverse if you have been on them for a long time and it could be you may require a "holiday' from taking them.

    I know severa people with sinus problems who have used Netti pots to clear the sinuses and use them regularly, for example prior to bed and again in the morning. Besides ridding the passages of mucous, it also helps in hydrating the mucous membranes in the nasal passages....I have used it also, with a bit of practise and it might be  something for you to consider.  There are little packets of powder that can be mixed with water that you use with the Netti pot.

    Has the doctor started you on any medication for your COPD?


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    • Posted

      Yes I am a tad bit exhausted but Ive havent been a great sleeper for several years so waking up at night has become normal. However, I am doing it a bit more now. I have my head elevated slightly with a pillow at night which helps a little. Im clearing my throat constantly during the day as well. Moreso now that I have just gotten over a cold but consistantly since August and my ears are also blocked. Not sure this is anything to do with the COPD/Asthma diagnosis.  Will google netti pots.. being in Beijing China makes a trip to the pharmacy a little interesting. They are either very local or just limited on western meds.  

      I have been on the saline decongestant for over a month twice a day which tends to help for a short time. Other decongestants I have taken for a week but I am trying to avoid them. I have Tachycardia and the decongestants along with the steroids can raise my heart rate.  Currently I am on Spiriva, Fluticasone, Singular, Flixotide and Physiomer.  I go back the end of the month for another Spirimetry test. 


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  • Posted

    Hi Michelle

    I can't imagine how hard it must be to deal with foreign pharmacies especially in a country with a completely different medical system. Speaking of which have you tried acupuncture for this or even just for the mucus? Where err I get treatments they would mention possible dietary connections with excess phlegm If interested you can Google that topic.

    Tea made from the flowers of what we call elderberry shrubs/trees can be very helpful for the mucus. I also use over the counter meds with guafenisin. Slippery elm lozenges help some people though probably only for a few hours.

    Regarding pillows, what perhaps someone else was suggesting is that you might try having some pillows under your upper torso with head raised a little higher than chest. Very easy if one has a hospital style bed but pillows work also.

    Congratulations big time on quitting cigs. We are all here to cheer you on on that one.

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    • Posted

      Hi Aitarg,

      We have lived here for 7 yrs so some of the initial struggles are a lot less but yes... finding normal things can be a huge challange though there are some high dollar hospitals for westerners with chemists/pharmacies though are limited on what they can access but are getting much much better. Cant access Guafensin but accupuncture is readily available for sure. I also know a friend that swears by her Acupuncturist so could be an option. Thank you so much for your help. 

      I have found stopping smoking pretty easy really. I was so angry that I smoked and did this to myself. I have small children and big children and grandchildren and my own selfishness really made me angry both at myself and at cigarettes. I still get the odd craving but more times than not I dont think about it. I only focus on being as fit as I can be for my family. Now I just have to loose the 6 kilos I gained from quittingredface. However, I understand having a couple extra kilos may be a bonus since weight gain in later stages seems to be difficult.  Thank you and to everyone here. I have to depend alot on internet for PR information and you guys for information regarding the basic experience of living with COPD and the daily challanges. Thanks

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    • Posted

      Sounds like you're in a good space emotionally. Every once in a while at grocery store I notice cigarettes and have to stop and figure out what those things are. When I do, I say a prayer of thanksgiving that I don't buy & use those things any more.

      Keep that strong attitude.

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    • Posted

      Thanks aitarg35939. Given my husband lost his job a week ago and I was diagnosed 4 mos ago, quit smoking and now are living in Beijing till June till the girls finish School with no job and no insurance starting the end of Feb.. I think we are holding together kinda ok.. we have moments of insanity though ;-P. Course the good news is we will leave the pollution mid June...God works in very mysterious ways
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  • Posted

    To help keep the mucus thin enough to cough up drink plenty of water, also your doctor should be able to prescribe mucodyne, it is carbocysteine.   

    You seem to be doing a lot to try and help the problem, but if you did get mucudyne prescribed you probably would need to stop the decongestant meds

    Do hope if you get the mucodyne on prescription it works well for you.

    Best wishes V

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    • Posted

      Thank you Vee2. I will ask about Mucodyne the next time I go to the Dr. I drink tons of water. I notice that it seems coffee is causing more of the problem than I realised.  Ive changed so much in the last 4 mos already. Im not ready to give up coffee at this stage sad Anyone else notice more congestion when drinking coffee?? 
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    • Posted

      Hi BeijingMom

      I don't think you need give up coffee, perhaps research the foods and drinks that can cause or alleviate this. There could be other foods you can avoid, replace or cut down on.

      Coffee can work in positive ways also for the lungs and health.

      But if you know already your mucus production worsens when you have coffee perhaps just cut down and subsitute with fruit tea or mint tea as an example.  I think the recommended intake for tea or coffee is no more than 4 cups a day, but I personally drink more cups of tea than 4 cups.  Of course the other thing to take into account other than the caffein is the quantity of the cups if you have milk, milky or cream, that for sure will not help.

      I am fortunate in that I don't get mucus production, unless I have a lung infection.  But I am aware that those with chronic bronchitis in addition to emphysema tend to experience more mucus.


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