What is COPD?

8) Normal lung defences/spit clearance

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‘Cilia’ line your airways. These are tiny hairs forming brush-like structures. There are mucous producing cells in the larger airways known as goblet cells. This mucous may also be referred to as spit, phlegm or sputum. This mucous forms a moist layer on top of the cilia which helps to trap germs and small particles which are present in the air that you may have breathed in. The sweeping action of the brush-like cilia then carries this mucous, containing any germs and small particles to your mouth where it is either swallowed away into your stomach, or coughed up and spat out. This is the normal process for everyone.

Some people with COPD may find it difficult to clear their airways, specialist physiotherapy techniques may help with this.

Q. Is it harmful to swallow my spit?

A. No. When you swallow your spit it goes into your stomach and not into your lungs. Your stomach acid will destroy any germs in your spit. However, should you be producing a lot of spit, swallowing it can make you feel a bit sick. It is also useful to see your spit to check if it is changing colour or showing any signs of infection. Take care to spit into a seal-able container or use disposable tissues to prevent spread of infection. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly or try using antiseptic hand gel.