Congestion, the build-up of fluid or "swollen tissue" in the body—particularly the lungs and/or nasal cavities—poses great risk for ALS patients. The decreased ability of the diaphragm makes it difficult to sneeze out the excess mucus or cough up phlegm. Mucus and phlegm both contain bacteria and attract more bacteria. If left unaddressed, they can lodge in the lower lobes of the lungs and ultimately cause pneumonia, one of the three leading causes of death among those with ALS.
When discolored mucus or phlegm occurs, the first course of action should be to consult your physician who can prescribe antibiotics to treat any underlying infection. Other treatments may also be prescribed, including Mucinex or Robitussin expectorant cough medicines. Cough suppressants should be avoided because it’s important to expel the accumulated phlegm. Decongestants or nasal sprays can be helpful, although when used repeatedly, these can cause "rebound inflammation." Other remedies include increased hydration and inhalers such as Mucomyst or Albuterol. For some, the cough assist vests or nebulizers that use distilled water, saline solution or other medication can be helpful.
Phlegm and Mucus Reduction
PharmaNAC, available through the company BioAdvantex, are effervescent, wild berry flavored tablets that help thin and reduce phlegm. They support a healthy immune system and helps to maintain good respiratory function. Additional home remedies for phlegm and mucus reduction include:
- Drink plenty of water with or without thickener as needed
- Hot saltwater gargle helps dissolve phlegm.
- Avoid dairy as it produces phlegm
- Avoid foods high in fat
- Garlic and radishes can reduce phlegm
- High-fiber fruit, specifically apples and pears, reduce phlegm
For those who experience difficulty controlling saliva, 2 glasses of tomato juice daily can be beneficial. If this is too harsh on the stomach, add 1 tablespoon of sugar to each glass to cut the acid. Tomatoes are the highest source of lycopene, which naturally reduces salivary output. Sea salt packed on the tongue, as well as olives and lemon, can also help reduce saliva. If more aggressive treatments are needed, ask your physician to consider providing prescriptions for medications like amitriptyline, Nortriptyline, Atropine Sulfate (formerly known as Sal-tropine), and Scopalamine all can help control excess saliva.
To treat a runny nose, keep the air moist through the use of an electrical humidifier or vaporizer. Saline nasal sprays can also be of aid by shrinking the swollen tissues that produce mucus. Simply Saline is one option. Try a natural herbal tea of 1 cup of water boiled together for five minutes with 1 tsp. each of elderberry, fresh mint, yarrow root and cayenne pepper. Strain herbs, allow tea to cool, then drink. Keep your handkerchief handy, because this tea will make your nose run even more at first, but your symptoms will soon dry up. Andrographis is a natural homeopathic treatment that is often called “Indian Echinacea,” as it shares many of the same curative properties. Readily available in natural food stores, a dosage of 400 mg three times a day before meals can help dry a runny nose. Chewing raw ginger and swallowing the juice warms the body, increases circulation and helps drain the nose.
If you or your physician have any questions or would like to discuss our viewpoints regarding these suggestions, please email us at [email protected]