Black Mucus

The lining of the respiratory system is lined with protective mucus and is found from the nose all the way down to the small air sacks in the lungs. Mucus helps trap and protect the respiratory system for dirt, debris and infection. Normal mucus is usually clear, but dark brown of black mucus can result from trapped debris or can be a sign of a serious health problem. Fortunately, there are a number of remedies to relieve black mucus and prevent it from happening.

Causes of Black Mucus

1. Dirt/Dust

The mucus has a primary job of trapping dirt and dust and then eliminating it. This is the most common reason for dark or black appearing mucus. Dust is everywhere and activities such as cleaning or working in the garden generate even more. These tiny particles are inhaled and become trapped in the mucus producing the discoloration.

2. Smoking

Smoking often produces brown, but also occasionally black mucus. The chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the lining of the lungs and impair normal mucus production and function. Persistent black sputum or bloody sputum is very serious and deserves medical attention.

3. Environmental pollutants

Urban environments are ripe with airborne pollutants that become trapped in our respiratory passages. After coughing or sneezing, dark and black colored mucus can result. Certain occupations such as coal mining are notorious for causing lung disease and discolored mucus. A protective mask is the best prevention strategy.

4. Foreign bodies

Children love to put objects in places where they don't belong. These trapped objects block mucus flow and generate inflammation and infection. The mucus becomes foul and discolored and often creates a terrible odor about the child. Seek medical attention whenever a foreign body is suspected.

5. Fungal infections

This can be a serious problem and signify a significant infection. Aspergillosis, blastomycosis and mucormycosis are types of fungal infections that can cause sinus or lung infections. Mucormycosis is more common in diabetics and can result in an aggressive destruction of soft tissues due to the infection. Both the phlegm and mucus can appear very dark and black in color. Any diabetic who notices black mucus must see a doctor promptly. Other lung problems such as emphysema and cancer also cause mucus and phlegm to appear black.

Remedies for Black Mucus

1. Expel black mucus

Dehydration results in thick and sticky mucus that is difficult to expel. Drink plenty of water on a daily basis. Breathe deeply and cough periodically to clear mucus from the respiratory passages. Avoid foods that produce excess mucus and can clog your respiratory system. Extra moisture in the form of inhaling steam or drinking hot herbal tea will loosen thick or trapped mucus.

2. Quit smoking/ Detoxify your lungs

After a person stops smoking, the mucus production will actually increase. The respiratory system is lined with tiny hairs called cilia. Their function is to propel mucus and debris toward the throat so you can expel it in phlegm, sputum or sneezing. As the lungs begin to detoxify and recover, the body's mucus production returns to normal and the cilia regain normal function. The end result is an increase in brown and black mucus production. Rest assured that this is a sign that your body is recovering. The bad news is that stopping smoking will not repair the permanent damage already done to your lungs. Medical assistance may be needed for thorough recovery.

3. Wear a mouth mask

A properly fitting mask will filter out dirt, dust and other harmful environmental particles. Make sure the fit is proper and covers both the nose and mouth. Many masks have a malleable nosepiece and be sure to pinch it tightly to block even more particles from being inhaled. Commercial grade and medical grade masks are more expensive but filer out much smaller particles including the bacteria causing tuberculosis. Discard masks that are visibly soiled or fit poorly. Do not share your mask with another person to prevent the spread of infection.

4. Prevent fungal infection

Fungus is ubiquitous in the environment and impossible to avoid completely. Immune suppressed persons are at risk for more serious infections and need to take special precautions. Aspergillus is a common fungus and can result in lung infections in both health and immune compromised individuals. Follow these steps to minimize your risk.

  • Wash hands when injured or contaminated with soil.
  • Wear a high-grade mask (N95) when around construction sites or other areas likely to stir up dust and dirt such as working in your yard.
  • Visit your doctor often who may prescribe prophylactic medications for those at highest risk.
  • Use a HEPA filter in your home and office.

5. Look around your home

Certain areas of your home are prone to fungal growth. Check dark and damp areas like your basement frequently for any sign of fungus. If you live in an area of high humidity you are at risk of exposure to a variety of fungus and molds. When in doubt, hire a professional inspector to assess your environment.

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