Mucus is a very important part of your body’s internal workings (despite how gross it might be) and can tell you many things about what is or isn’t going on inside you.
When you’re healthy, your body produces mucus which acts as a lining and protectant for the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Your body’s always producing mucus and most of the time you don’t even notice it because it silently disposes of itself as needed (usually it just drips down your throat without you even realizing it).
When you’re sick, your body is still producing mucus but it’s also producing a large number of white blood cells called neutrophils which have a greenish tint to them. When you blow your nose when you’re sick, you often see this greenish hue because of the mass amount of neutrophils present. Most people think that the greener the mucus, the sicker you are but that is in fact not true as you can also have a ear infection or sinus infection and your mucus could be clear. That being said, color can be a trigger to let you know your body is trying to fight something off. Consistency can also be an alarm as thicker, gooeier mucus is related to sickness and is greener than regular.
If mucus is red or brown tinted that usually means that there’s blood somewhere it shouldn’t be. A small amount is OK, especially if you’ve recently had a bloody nose or have been blowing a lot, but definitely get in touch with your doctor if it doesn’t go away or there’s more than just a tint.
When you have a cold the mucus tends to turn from clear (the normal color) to cloudy or white. If mucus turns yellow or green it may mean you have a bacterial infection. The mucus turns this color as a result of a green enzyme contained in white blood cells that your body has sent to the site to fight pathogens. The change in color though is normal and not usually an indicator of severity. It can mean anything from your immune system is almost done clearing out the infection to “you have bronchitis.” Mucus may occasionally be a bit brown because of blood or pollutants that have entered it or pneumonia. In the case of someone with a pre-existing lung condition, darkening mucus can be a sign of infection.
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