A runny nose or a blocked nose are some typical signs of a cold, with snot making a remark. Mucus, as snot or phlegm as known in medical terms is the main reason for these symptoms. Have you ever wondered, why is mucus produced when you have a cold? Get the answers in the following article.
When you catch a cold, what is it that makes it worse and disgusting? It is the ever flowing or choked nose filled with a slightly runny, sticky and gooey substance, to which we casually refer to as snot or phlegm. And we all would agree, even the thought or description of it is enough to create disgust. But this is the normal reaction of the body when dealing with cold and infections or diseases. Seldom do we think as to why does the body react in this way.
To begin with, this snot, sometimes green or yellow in color, is termed as mucus, (sounds much cleaner and better than snot eh!). So let us call this mucus only, to save a little disgust. Why is mucus formed when you have a cold and how is it formed? While we may think of mucus as a disgusting substance, you will be surprised to know that this mucus is produced in your body regularly. Well, this may make you wriggle your nose, but it’s true. We will learn more on this and the reason mucus is produced in the following.
What is Mucus and How is it Produced?
Mucus can be classified into two types. Nasal mucus is the mucus that is produced in the nose. Phlegm is the name for mucus that is produced in the respiratory system, that is production of mucus in the lungs. That which comes up as cough when one is struck with cough and cold like infections. Mucus is the sticky, slimy substance, which is produced by the mucous membrane. The mucous membrane is present in the inner lining of many parts and organs of the body.
The goblet cells in the mucous membrane produces mucus, other surrounding cells are also capable of producing it. Contrasting to the way it looks, mucus actually has a healthy functioning in the body, it absorbs moisture and helps keep the lungs and tissues moist, restricts foreign bodies, germs and bacteria from entering the lungs, and other organs of the body. It also helps fight pathogens, with their enzymes and antibodies.
Mucus is visibly thin in a healthy and normal state, the cells contain a protein called mucins. These can absorb a lot of water and a good example of this is: when you cry, the tears travel down to the nose and here they are absorbed by mucus. Hence you tend to have a runny nose while crying too. An interesting fact is, the human body secretes about over a liter of mucus everyday (yucks!).
Why is Mucus Produced During a Cold?
While our body has a good amount of mucus production on a daily basis, it may increase in the days when one falls sick with cold or hay fever. Let us understand why this happens.
- When the body is attacked with virus and infections, the immune system is alerted. A process called chemotaxis is activated to tackle the virus or infection. In case of cold, the white blood cells, neutrophils in particular, take charge of combating the virus.
- The airways in the respiratory system get inflamed and the production of mucus is increased. Mucus helps in absorbing the virus and pathogens that have invaded the body. This increase in production of is actually an immunity response of the body.
Another interesting fact is, when the neutrophils and antibodies are fighting the virus, they release enzymes and co-enzymes, which then mix with the mucus in large quantities. This is what gives the greenish color. So the fact is that the sticky fluid that runs when you have a cold is not the virus itself, but your immune system fighting the virus and pathogens. Sure it does give you some really annoying symptoms, like a stuffy nose, sore throat and runny nose. With time and treatment, these slowly vanish.
With all this information my view about mucus and stuffy nose has changed. We generally hate the mucus and curse it for the disgusting feeling it gives. But from now for most of us, there will be little or no reason to complain about snot!