When to see your Doctor....
* Your phlegm is yellow, green, brown or rust-colored for more than a week.
* You also have a fever, chills, shortness of breath or pain when you inhale deeply.
What Your Symptom Is Telling You
Coughing up a lot of gunk?
No exact color key exists to match mucus to malady, but if your sputum is anything other than clear or white, it means you have a viral or bacterial infection somewhere in your respiratory tract or an inflammation in your lungs.
The infection could be as mundane as a cold or as serious as bronchitis or pneumonia.
While yellowish, puslike phlegm usually means some sort of mild to moderate infection, any severe irritant, such as smoking or an allergen, can also be responsible.
Some infections also can color sputum green. A brown or rusty hue to your mucus may mean an infection, or it could be old, dried blood that lingered down in your lungs for some reason.
If your phlegm is an abnormal color, chances are you've noticed other symptoms that are a bit more bothersome—a nasty cough, difficulty in breathing, chest congestion, a fever or an overall lousy feeling. Depending on the severity of your sickness, you'll either tough it out or you'll go to the doctor, who probably will give you a prescription for some antibiotics.
A simple respiratory infection in an elderly person or someone with a chronic lung disease is more serious. As for that spectrum of sputum, there are a couple of points to keep in mind.
Make it a double. Double the amount of liquid you normally drink....."In addition to the discoloration, your mucus may be thicker, and liquids will thin it out and loosen it."
Cough it up. Don't take cough suppressants.
. Your cough has a purpose: to get rid of mucus, whatever its color.
And so we tend to assume if we’re producing clear phlegm, or clear snot, there is no infection or illness present. The truth is that clear phlegm can be a symptom or side effect of certain infections and illnesses. These infections are usually viral in nature, which means antibiotics are not necessary.
Some of the most common viral infections that produce clear phlegm include sinus infections, the common cold, and influenza. Usually, your body will fight these infections on its own.
You can experience clear phlegm during either a viral or a bacterial infection, but clear mucus is more common during viral infections.
For example, you might produce clear mucus if you have a sinus infection that is not bacterial in nature. If this is the case, the mucus might also be sticky or glue-like and you might have swollen and tender sinuses and nasal passages.
If the bacteria become trapped in the nasal passages, the sinus infection might become a bacterial infection. When this happens, your mucus can become yellow or green and it might become thick or clumpy.
Other kinds of infections that produce clear phlegm include the common cold and influenza. Both of these infections are viral infections, and both can cause you to produce an excess of clear mucus that is present in your nose and the back of your throat during the beginning and ending stages of the illnesses.
During the first few days of contracting a cold or flu, your phlegm will probably be thin and clear and you might have a runny nose. Once your body starts responding to these infections, though, your phlegm might become yellow or green and even change consistency. Later, once your immune system is closer to eliminating the infection, the mucus will become clear again.
Since clear phlegm is more commonly present with viral infections, usually you do not need antibiotics to treat them.
If the symptoms are particularly severe, your doctor might prescribe medication to treat the sinus infection or manage the cold or flu symptoms. Otherwise, over-the-counter medications are usually effective in managing the symptoms until your body’s immune system fights the infection.