Catarrh : Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

What is Catarrh?

Catarrh symptoms, causes and treatments

Doctors usually define catarrh as an excess of thick phlegm or mucus in one of the airways or cavities of the body, that usually affects the back of the nose, the throat or the sinuses (air-filled cavities in the bones of the face).

Although catarrh is not a condition in itself, it’s often a symptom of other conditions such as a cold, allergy-triggered problems, or nasal polyps (fleshy swellings inside the nose). It’s often temporary, but some people experience it for months or years. This is known as chronic catarrh.

A simpler definition of Catarrh is sticky mucus that builds up in the nose or throat

Symptoms of Catarrh

Most times, catarrh begins after a cold or cough.

For most people the symptoms of catarrh include the following:

  • A blocked or ‘stuffy’ nose
  • A runny nose
  • Feeling of Mucus running down theback of your throat
  • An irritating and persistent cough
  • Headache
  • Loss or reduced sense of smell or taste
  • Pain in the face
  • Temporary hearing loss or a crackling sensation in the middle ear
  • Constant need to clear your throat
  • Feeling that your throat is blocked
  • Sometimes catarrh may affect your sleep, making you feel tired.

People with catarrh might always have to move with handkerchiefs and boxes of tissues.

What causes Catarrh?

Catarrh is usually caused by the immune system reacting to an infection or irritation. When this occurs, it sends white blood cells to the source of infection or irritation, and the white blood cells release molecules called inflammatory mediators which later causes the lining of your nose and throat to become swollen and produce mucus. The swelling also narrows the cavity, resulting in further congestion.

Catarrh is usually common among people working in dusty atmospheres.

Catarrh can also be triggered by:

  • a cold or other infections
  • hay fever or other types of allergic rhinitis
  • non-allergic rhinitis
  • nasal polyps
Catarrh patient
A catarrh patient

Treatment of Catarrh

There are things you can try at home to relieve your catarrh symptoms, such as:

  • Avoiding smoky and dusty places
  • Taking sips of water when you feel the need to clear your throat
  • Staying well hydrated
  • Using a saline nasal rinse several times a day
  • Avoiding warm, dry atmospheres, such as places with air conditioning and car heating systems

Most catarrh cases are usually temporary and require no specific treatment. But if you try the above measures and it does not clear up on its own, the treatment to be administered depends on the underlying cause. Try the following:

  • Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation treatment involves inhaling steam from a bowl of hot (but not boiling) water and that can help to soften and loosen any mucus in the nasal cavities.

Steam inhalation method works better when you use a thick clothing material to cover your head while putting your head deep into the bowl of hot water (but do not let your face touch the water). It helps to ensure less heat loss from the bowl and ensure maximum inhalation of the steam.

Some people reported that adding menthol crystals to the water is also very helpful. Steam inhalation is not recommended as a suitable treatment for children due to the risk of scalding.

  • Decongestant Medicines

Decongestant medicines can help to relieve a blocked nose by reducing swelling of the blood vessels in your nose. These medicines are available from pharmacies without a prescription but should not be used for more than a few days before seeking advice from your doctor as they can occasionally make the congestion worse if used for too long.

If the mucus is very heavy, persistent and yellow or green, it is reasonable to take an antibiotic. The exact choice of antibiotic depends on where the catarrh is coming from, so you should see your doctor so as to get a perfect prescription for your catarrh.

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