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Catarrh – symptoms, causes and other associated risk factors

Doctors are usually defining the catarrh as an excess of mucus or thick phlegm in one of the airways or cavities of the body. Catarrh is a build – up of mucus in your airways or the cavity of your body. This condition usually is affecting the back of your nose, the throat of your sinuses (the air – filled cavities in the bones of your face). In many cases this is a temporary condition but also there are some people who are experiencing this condition for months or years. This condition is known as chronic catarrh. This condition can be a nuisance and it can be difficult to get rid of it but catarrh is not harmful condition and there are available treatments for it. Catarrh has been considered as an incurable disease but there are many scientists who have published natural cures and medications about this condition so much more studies need to be done in the future to approve or disapprove this statement. Catarrh is a symptom which is associated with the chesty coughs, pharyngitis and common cold but also it can be found in patients who suffer from tonsillitis, sinusitis, otitis media and adenoiditis. Our ear has function to regulate the pressure within the head region and the catarrh blockage may cause discomfort during changes in atmospheric pressure. [1]

Symptoms associated with catarrh

This condition can lead to [1]:

  • Crackling sensation in your ear and some temporary hearing loss
  • Reduces sense of smell and taste
  • Headache or facial pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Feeling of mucus running down the back of your throat
  • Runny nose
  • Blocked or stuffy nose that you cannot clear
  • Feeling that your throat is blocked
  • Constant need to clear your throat

These are very frustrating problems which you should live with and they can affect your sleep which is making you to feel tired. For most people the symptoms of catarrh are the previous mentioned. In the most cases catarrh does not need medical help because they usually clear up within a few days once your body fights off the underlying infection. If you have noticed that your catarrh is lasting over a number of weeks, then you need to visit your doctor as soon as possible because he or she will tell you if it was caused by an allergy or they can rule other conditions such as nasal polyps. In the most cases catarrh does not need specific treatment. But if your catarrh does not clear up on its own, then your doctor will make tests to discover the underlying cause for it and the treatment will depend on the underlying cause.


Causes for catarrh

This condition is usually caused by the immune system reacting to an irritation or infection which causes the lining of your nose and throat to become swollen and to produce mucus. This can be triggered by:

  • Nasal polyps [2]
  • Non – allergic rhinitis [3]
  • Also the hay fever or other types of allergic rhinitis
  • A cold or other infections [4]

The cause for chronic catarrh is not known but it is not thought to be the result of an infection or allergy. Also it can be related to abnormality in the way mucus travels within your nose or an increased sensitivity in the back of your nose and throat. Immune system is the natural defense of our bodies [5]. This happens when the immune system is reacting to an infection or irritation. When this happens, then it sends the white blood cells to the source of the irritation or infection, which then releases molecules that cause the mucous membranes to swell and to produce mucus. This swelling also narrows the cavity which is resulting in further congestion and this catarrh can be runny and clear or colored and thick. There are some people who have abnormally sensitive blood vessels that reach to the environmental triggers such as pollution and cigarette smoke and these reasons are unknown [6]. This is causing the blood vessels to swell in a similar way to an allergic reaction or infection and if this swelling lead to catarrh and congestion, then it is known as non – allergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis. Pollution and cigarette smoke are most common triggers for catarrh, with other in which are included stress, changes in the weather, spicy food, alcohol and perfume. [7]


[1] NHS. Catarrh. Retrieved from

[2] Hall R, Trennery C, Chan R, et al. Understanding the patient experience of severe, recurrent, bilateral nasal polyps: A qualitative interview study in the United States and Germany. Value in Health. 2020;23(5):632-41.

[3] Nozad CH, Michael M, Lew B, Michael CF. Non-allergic rhinitis: a case report and review. Clinical and Molecular Allergy. 2010;8.

[4] Choopani R, Sadr S, Kaveh S, et al. Pharmacological treatment of catarrh in Iranian traditional medicine. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2015;5(2):71-4.

[5] Macedo AC, de Faria AOV, Ghezzi P. Boosting the immune system, from science to myth: Analysis the infosphere with google. Frontiers in Medicine. 2019;6:165.

[6] University of Louisville. Air pollution linked to blood vessel damage in healthy young adults. Science Daily. 2016. Retrieved from

[7] American Thoracic Society. Cigarette smoking increases production of mucus in patients with bronchitis. Science Daily. 2011. Retrieved from

Dr. Emil Sarsath (aka) Vijila, a licensed naturopathic doctor (BSMS) who always ensures his patients receive compassionate, and individualized care. He has extensive experience in primary care, digestive health, mental health, nervous system disorder and more.Area of Expertise – Naturopathic Medicine, Whole Foods-based Nutrition, Siddha, Panchakarma.She is always available through [email protected]


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