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Why am I unable to cough up phlegm while taking mucinex for cough and congestion?

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ENT Specialist
Practicing since : 2003
Answered : 709 Questions
I have tried to ask this question a couple of times and never really got a specific response, it felt like there was a little bit of turning the response into some general answer. I don't feel it is that difficult question to ask. I'm trying again. I have been taking large doses of Mucinex for congestion. I have the urge to cough and I feel something coming out of my lungs, I just can't get it up to my throat to be able to spit it out, rather it comes up and the only thing I can do is swallow again. Is the mucus going right back into my lungs or is it going to my stomach and will be filtered out. I have tried everything to have a "productive cough" but I can't get it to happen. Now I am in sick for over 2 weeks, On a 2nd course of antibiotics given to me for other problems that showed up when I followed up with my Urologist and my spine surgeon, Not sure if they are helping with this issue. Also have taken 12 hour Mucinex for Cough, then changed to Mucinex 12 hour for congestion, finally and now 12 hour nasal spray which helped at first but the last couple days it hasn't helped. This morning I wake up with my chest so tight, I am coughing and feel mucus coming up but same thing can't get the mucus out and I swallow. I just want to be sure that these productive cough are going to get better and I am afraid I have pneumonia or bronchitis. Meanwhile I have a CT Contrast set for this Friday to deal with the kidney issue found in x-rays last week, and my back pain (had fusion surgery Oct 2012) will have a S1 Nerve block for this Monday 1-20. I had an EMG last week, so I just want to be sure what is going on about this congestion is okay. Sorry so long.
Posted Fri, 31 Jan 2014 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Rajkishori Godhi 1 hour later
Brief Answer: Not to worry, see below Detailed Answer: Hello madam, When the phlegm comes up in your throat and you swallow it , it goes into your stomach and not back into your lungs. So do not worry, the stomach acid will kill any organisms that are present. Not everybody can bring out sputum, many people are unable to cough it out and end up swallowing it. It does not matter, it is still productive cough. The word productive in this context means excess mucus production. I do not know which antibiotics you are taking so cannot tell you whether they are helping you with your cough. There is a chance that you have acute bronchitis or a lung infection since you are having mucus for 2 weeks. You have to meet a physician for the same. You may need a chest X Ray to confirm the diagnosis. I really hope i have answered your query, All the best. Dr Rajkishori.
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