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Catarrh and its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Catarrh is Sticky mucus that builds up in the nose or throat.

Causes of Catarrh

Mucus is a natural product of the body and protects against infection by trapping germs. In the nose, throat and airways of the lungs there is an elegant system which produces a thin layer of mucus on those linings. The mucus is cleared from the lungs and sinuses by specialised cells with minute hairs which beat it away. When infection occurs, the lining responds by increasing its production of mucus; in addition, it sends in large numbers of white cells to attack invading germs. This turns the normally clear mucus into mucus that is stained yellow or green by the debris of invaders and defenders and this is the discoloured mucus that people call catarrh when they cough it up, blow it out or feel it dripping down the back of their throat.

Some people complain that the flow of mucus is constant or is excessive, although what one person finds excessive is normal to another.
Catarrh is more common in smokers and those working in dusty atmospheres. Excessive alcohol and constant emotional stress also contribute to chronic catarrh by affecting the lining that secretes the mucus, causing overproduction. However, this leaves many people in whom no obvious cause can be found. Steroid nasal sprays can help by reducing swelling of the lining of the nose, as do antihistamines as given for hay fever. As a last resort an ent (car, nose and throat) specialist might cut out the mucus-secreting lining of the nose.


Catarrh usually begins after a cold or cough. Those affected have to keep clearing their throat or blowing their nose and ate aware of thick secretions at the back of lire throat. They may lose their sense of smell and have bad breath and a nasal twang to their voice. There is often a dull ache in the front of the face over the sinuses. People with chronic catarrh lead their lives within reach of handkerchiefs and boxes of tissues.


Mucus is a natural defence mechanism of the body and it is by no means necessary to have treatment for temporary increases in the flow of mucus where the body is simply doing its job. If the mucus is very heavy, persistent and yellow or green it is reasonable to have an antibiotic. The exact choice of antibiotic depends on where the catarrh is coming from. Decongestant sweets clear sinuses through their aromatic oils. Most cases of catarrh will settle naturally over a few weeks. For chronic cases, the path is less straightforward. Doctors will search for chronic infection in the sinuses or lungs by taking X-rays and culturing the mucus to see if a specific antibiotic is required. A child with persistent mucus from one nostril may have pushed a toy up his nose: this can be found by inspection and is a satisfying diagnosis.

Complementary Treatment

In auricular therapy mucus is held to be a byproduct of a weak digestion, so the treatment aims to strengthen the function of both the digestive system and the lungs. In aromatherapy the following arc excellent as inhalations (two to four drops in a bowl of hot water or on a handkerchief): cajeput. eucalyptus or ravensara. Nutritional therapy – recommends avoiding dairy produce for a week. Ayurveda offers nasal inhalations, alongside dietary advice.

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