Mucus Facts, Mucus Types

Mucus Colors – What Do They Mean?

January 22, 2015

When most of us hear the word ‘mucus’, we sort of wince and think of gross and disgusting images associated with it. But did you know that your mucus and its color can tell you about what may be going on inside your body?

It’s like most things that happen to us as we live our daily lives completely unaware of all of the amazing processes happening inside our bodies that keep us healthy and alive. We don’t pay attention to our bodies until something goes wrong, in which case we have no choice but to take notice.

Our bodies produce mucus every day in fact; we produce almost a quart of the stuff daily! If you’re like me, you’ve just finished blowing your nose, and before you have a chance to throw your tissue away; you already have managed to manufacture more mucus. Why do we need our sinuses’ to constantly produce mucus? Mucus can serve as a protector against viruses and bacteria, pollutants in the air, and foreign particles from entering our bodies. Even if some of these enter into our bodies, the mucus can also wash them away before they have a chance to do us any harm.

Our bodies contain mucus in the linings of our lungs, throat, nose, mouth, and our gastrointestinal tract. It is  designed to protect us, keep our breathing mechanics working smoothly and keep us healthy overall. The antibodies present in our mucus can help the body identify trespassers in our bodies.

When most of us blow our noses, we really don’t open the tissue to look at what color our mucus is. However, knowing what the different colors of mucus mean can help diagnose and treat certain conditions. Did you know that there are different colors of mucus? These include:

  • Yellow to Dark Yellow Mucus: yellow mucus could simply be a sign that the air you’re breathing in is dry, or it could indicate a possible upper respiratory viral cold, which the body is fighting against. If the yellow is darker in color, you may be suffering from an infection in your sinus cavity or a lower respiratory tract infection. It could suggest a chest infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
  • Green: green mucus is often an indication that you have a bacterial infection rather than a viral infection. Often, green mucus is common in people suffering from allergies. The green color is the result of an enzyme containing a green pigment found in your white blood cells that are sent to fight off the infection.
  • Brown Mucus: brown mucus is usually associated with your body trying to rid itself of foreign substances including smoke, tar, dust or smog. Chances are if you smoke or chew tobacco, you will have brown mucus. To help your body in ridding itself of these substances, you should drink lots of fluids. You may also have an irritated throat, probably from coughing if you are a smoker.
  • Red Mucus: red mucus may indicate that you are bleeding somewhere within your body. It could be a minor irritation in your nose or a small cut in your mouth. You should call your doctor immediately if you are unable to find the source of the blood, or if you are coughing up large quantities or coughing up red mucus frequently. It may be an injury or possibly a tuberculosis infection.
  • Clear, White or Gray Mucus: mucus that is clear, white or gray is considered normal. It can be a sign of good health; however an unusually large production of mucus may indicate a health problem. White mucus can simply be the result of drinking milk or other dairy products or a congested sinus.

As you can see, mucus is extremely important for our bodies. Although we cringe and complain about it, especially if we are producing enough of it that it makes us gag or wipe our nose every 5 seconds; we need it!

Mucus can be affected by a variety of things including our environment if it contains such things as dry air, smog, dust, or smoke. It can also be affected by some of the foods we eat such as milk, red wine or chocolate. The color of mucus can indicate whether we are fighting a viral infection or a bacterial infection, and the color red can indicate a minor irritation or a serious health condition.

While it is important to identify the color of mucus, it is also important to remember that mucus color in itself is not sufficient to make an accurate diagnosis. It is usually the first visible sign, but we should also be aware of our other symptoms or signs that our body is producing. If you are unsure of your symptoms, it is always best to see your doctor.

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