What Causes Thick Sticky Saliva in Throat and How to Manage It?
It is not normal to get a thick saliva. This suggests some inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, sinuses or the oral cavity.
A careful examination is required to investigate the cause.
Saliva is an essential secretion produced by the salivary glands inside our oral cavity. We produce around 1-2 liters of this mucoid secretion every day. It has many uses. It acts as a lubricating fluid while we eat and talk. It is antibacterial and destroys many bacteria entering our mouth.
Apart from this, it has few enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.
Normally, it has a thin, non-disturbing consistency. It is absolutely non-irritating and alkaline in nature. Any variation from this normal form indicates an illness.
Common Causes of Getting a Thick or Stringy Saliva
This is, by far, the commonest cause of getting thick mucous in throat. Chronic sinus problems are usually due to allergic reasons. It may be related to dust mites, pollens, vegetation etc. However, some persistent infective agents may also cause it.
Patients suffering with such problems often complain of thick phlegm and bad breath. This happens because, the sinuses keep producing mucus in response to the irritant causing it. This mucous continuously fills up the sinuses and then spills into the nose, or backwards, into the throat. This is called post nasal drip.
The dripping mucous sticks to the inner lining of the throat. It keeps collecting layer by layer and thickens in the process.
Patients have a tendency to pull the sticky phlegm from their throat into the mouth and spit it out. The condition may also be accompanied by other symptoms like low grade fever or headache.
If you have any sinus problems, then you need to go to an ENT specialist and get treatment.
Water is a major component of saliva. If you are drinking less water than required, it is possible that you may get relatively thick salivary secretions.
You may notice that you urine is also concentrated and darker in color.
So if you have no other complaint besides having a thick sputum that tends to stick in the throat, you may just need to take more water.
Smoking irritates the internal lining of the upper respiratory tract. This leads to increased mucus production in the upper airways. Smokers often feel that something is sticking in their throat. They may continuously try to swallow it down.
They may also experience some cough with mucoid secretions.
Another reason can be candidiasis in the oral cavity. Check for any white patch inside your mouth. If yes, you may be infested with a fungus called Candida.
Candidiasis requires treatment with antifungal medicines. All sugars and carbohydrate diets need to be limited. Also, good oral hygiene is required during treatment.
Cold and Cough
Do you have any cough or cold-like symptoms? When a person has flu or any other respiratory infection in which mucoid secretions are produced, the thick mucus may mix with salivary secretions to make them viscous and sticky.
In such situations, the respiratory disease needs to be treated.
A rare cause could be some autoimmune disorder like Sjogren’s syndrome. You may get a blood test done to exclude this cause.
If you are getting a thick stringy phlegm only during some particular months of the year, it may be a seasonal allergic reaction. During months when seasons change, like April or September, a number of pollens are seen in the air.
Many people are allergic to them. Some get rashes on their skin, some sneeze and others may just note a thickening of their phlegm.
You just need to take an over-the-counter anti-allergic medication for a week.
There are certain medicines that tend to dehydrate the oral cavity. This leads to thickening of the sputum. They include certain antidepressants, antihistamines and decongestants.
Diabetes and Other States of Elevated Blood Sugar
Uncontrolled sugar levels in the blood is associated with dry mouth and a feel of thick sputum.
This happens in untreated diabetes, pregnancy and other hyperglycemic states.
People with no other upper ENT problem need to watch their tummy. Do you have any gastric problem such as acidity or frequent bloating?
Any form of gastroenteritis may affect the consistency of sputum.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition, where acid produced in the stomach gets back into the mouth. Mouth needs to produce extra salivary secretions to counteract the acidic contents of the stomach.
This happens when the sphincter or the muscular gate between the esophagus and the stomach becomes loose or inefficient.
Obese people or post-surgery cases are prone to such conditions.
It would be necessary to diagnose the underlying cause. Is it some infection, sinusitis, or some other condition? The underlying disease needs to be treated. The saliva will normalize gradually as you get the right treatment.
Some Helpful Self Care Tips
- Drink lot of water. This will help in thinning of the saliva. The sticky feeling in your throat will also reduce thereby. If possible, let it be a lukewarm water.
- Avoid smoking. It leads to a production of thick mucus that mixes with saliva to make it viscid.
- Maintain a good oral hygiene. Thick saliva is usually acidic and may damage your teeth. So you need to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth with plain water more often.
- Gargle regularly with warm water and a pinch of salt mixed in it. This will dislodge any thick mucus sticking in the throat.
- Include yogurt in your diet. It will help in normalizing the flora in your mouth.
- Avoid taking too much of dairy products like milk, cheese or fat. Such foodstuffs aid in mucus production.
- Consume plenty of whole grains, fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. They lessen mucus production in the body.
- You may take vitamin C and E supplements for some time. Along with water, they are good for clearing up the throat mucus.
- Drink hot beverages like vegetable soups and herbal teas, which moisten your airways. Avoid too much of coffee and tea, which are dehydrating in nature.
- Inhale steam from a tub of boiling water to moisten your airways. You may pour a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the tub. This would also soothe the inflamed lining of the throat mucosa.
- Use a humidifier or a mystifier in your bedroom at bedtime.
- Avoid exposure to dust, road pollution or cleansing chemicals.