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What Does the Color of Your Mucus Mean?

Mucus. Snot. Phlegm. Whatever you call the thick, gooey substance that pours out of your nose or you cough up when you’re not feeling well, can be a major indicator of what’s happening with your health.

Mucus is a natural function of your immune system as your body fights off respiratory infections, allergies, and more. Mucus has several names, including snot (nasal mucus) and phlegm (mucus in your chest and lungs). However, they all have the same function – to flush out germs, irritants, and other invaders that threaten your health.

Mucus may be gross, but it’s also powerful, and understanding what the color of your mucus means can give important clues about what’s going on inside your body. Read on to learn what various colors of mucus mean and when you should seek medical care!

What does clear mucus mean?

Clear mucus is what normal, healthy mucus looks like – but you’re not necessarily in the clear here (pun intended!). If you have excess amounts of clear mucus, your body might be trying to tell you something.

For instance, a runny nose with clear snot could indicate the beginnings of a cold. You may also have extra amounts of clear snot after exposure to pollen or other seasonal allergy triggers. Hay fever (or seasonal allergies) is a common cause of increased mucus production and is a sign that your body is trying to fight off allergens or other troublesome particles.

What does white mucus mean?

If you’re feeling stuffy or congested, you may notice that your snot has turned white. Congestion can cause nasal mucus to lose water content, making it thick and/or cloudy. Both are signs that you might have a cold, sinus infection, or other respiratory infection brewing.

However, white phlegm from your lungs is cause for concern, especially if it’s frothy or foamy. You could have a bacterial infection or medical condition that requires treatment, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or even congestive heart failure.

What does yellow mucus mean?

Yellow snot or phlegm usually indicates that your body is fighting off some type of infection. Your body could also be struggling to get rid of allergens, especially if you don’t have a fever or any other cold symptoms.

The yellow color occurs when your infection-fighting cells (such as white blood cells) rush to kill the offending germs. After their job is complete, the cells are discarded in your mucus – giving it a dark, yellowish tinge.

Be sure to seek medical treatment if you have yellow snot or phlegm for 10 days or more.

What does green mucus mean?

Green is another common mucus color if you have an active infection or are trying to recover from one. Your mucus color will likely thicken and change from yellow to green, especially if you’re also dehydrated.

If you have thick, green snot for several days, you may have a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment (such as a sinus infection). Coughing up green phlegm could be a sign of pneumonia and other life-threatening lung conditions.

Visit a healthcare provider if your snot or phlegm is green for 10 days or more, especially if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or other concerning symptoms.

What does pink/red mucus mean?

Your snot may turn pink or light red, especially if you are blowing your nose often or have swollen nasal passages. Bloody snot is not usually cause for concern, although a saline nasal spray or humidifier may help.

Coughing up bloody phlegm is another story. The appearance of bloody phlegm could indicate a more serious infection or lung disease.

What does black mucus mean?

People who smoke or live with smokers, use illegal drugs, or are exposed to fire or heavy air pollution may have grayish-black snot or phlegm. Usually, these changes are temporary.

Black nasal mucus that doesn’t go away could be a sign of a fungal infection, including allergic fungal sinusitis. Persistent black phlegm could be a sign of lung cancer, pneumonia, or other bacterial infections.

When should I go to urgent care?

Any change in the color or amount of your mucus tells you that your body is gearing up for battle. Sometimes, you can give your immune system a chance to do its job before seeking treatment. However, we recommend visiting your nearest vybe urgent care if:

• Your mucus or symptoms don’t improve after 10 days
• You cough up large amounts of mucus (even if it’s clear or white)
• You cough up yellow or green mucus and have difficulty breathing, chest pain, or other concerning symptoms
• You cough up black phlegm or have black snot coming from your nose
• You cough up bloody phlegm

When respiratory illnesses and allergies are left untreated, they can quickly worsen. For instance, seasonal allergies can become sinus infections – and bronchitis can develop into pneumonia, which is life-threatening for many.

So, trust the message your mucus is giving you. It’s worth a trip to urgent care to help prevent these complications from happening.

vybe is here to treat and diagnose your respiratory concerns

All vybe urgent care centers have licensed medical professionals with a wide range of healthcare knowledge. vybe can diagnose and treat respiratory illnesses like colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, COVID-19, and more. Our team can also help relieve allergy symptoms.

Walk in or schedule an appointment today at your local vybe urgent care for congestion, respiratory illnesses, or allergy treatment – and make your mucus issues a thing of the past.