Mucus Decoded: The Color Meaning of Phlegm

The Color Meaning of Phlegm
Now that we are in the heart of winter, the flu can run rampant. ‘Tis the season for disease, and for many, the winter season can seem never ending. Who likes to be sick with the flu, or have a bad cold? If feeling sick wasn’t bad enough, the extra mucus production alone is enough to make anyone feel ill. While phlegm is something that most people don’t want to think about or look at, believe it or not, the color of your mucus can tell you a lot about your body and what’s going on in your nose.

If you’ve ever wondered why your doctor asks you extensive questions about the color and texture of your mucus, it’s because it’s an indicator of what’s going on in your nasal passages. So the next time you are feeling down, stop and look at the contents of your tissue. Learn more about the color meaning of phlegm and learn what it means for your health.

Clear Mucus

Having clear mucus is normal. Clear mucus is naturally produced by your body, and it acts as a defensive mechanism against bacteria, viruses, dirt, and dust. Your body produces about 1 to 1.5 liters of mucus daily, so clear mucus is no cause for concern. However, excess clear mucus can be an indicator of allergies or the start of the flu or cold.

White Mucus

White mucus can be an indicator of a variety of things. All in all, it often means that your nasal passages are swollen and irritated. When this happens, mucus flow can become restricted, and this causes your nasal passages to dry out. Mucus loses moisture in restricted nasal passageways, which makes the mucus thicker and cloudy. Alcohol, dairy products, allergies, acid reflux, colds, and nasal infections could all be the culprit.

Yellow Mucus

Yellow mucus can be an indicator that your body is fighting off something, such as a cold or an infection. When there is an infection present, your white blood cells fight it off, and once they are exhausted, they are carried out of your body and can change to a yellowish color. At this point, there is no significant cause for concern. Just take extra care of yourself and wait it out to see if things improve after 10 to 14 days.

Green Mucus

When there is a significant buildup of dead white blood cells, your mucus can turn green. However, green mucus can also be a result of the concentration of mucus due to restricted nasal passages, not just a fungal or bacterial infection. But of course, this can be an indicator of a sinus infection. At this stage, it is essential that you see your doctor if your green mucus lasts more than a week or it is accompanied by a fever.

Pink or Red Mucus

Blood in your mucus isn’t always a cause for concern. Sometimes your nasal tissue can break open, often due to irritation, dryness or physical trauma. However, if you have an excess amount of blood or the blood lasts for several days, seek medical attention immediately.

Brown Mucus

Brown mucus is not necessarily a cause for concern. Dried blood from your nasal linings can mix with mucus and turn it brown. You could have eaten or inhaled something. Dust, dirt, or even cigarette smoke can make your mucus look brown. However, if your consistently coughing up brown mucus, see a doctor because this could be a sign of bronchitis.

Black Mucus

If you are a smoker, or if there is smoke, ash, dust, or dirt in the air you could have dark-colored mucus. The job of mucus is to trap dirt and other potentially harmful particles from getting further into the body, so if you’ve inhaled any dirty air, it’s not uncommon for your mucus to look black. However, if you are not a smoker and haven’t inhaled dirt or dust, see your doctor. Black mucus can be an indicator of a fungal infection.

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