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What mucus colors mean?

The Many Colors of Mucus, and What they Mean | Blog | Ashford ENT Clinic


Mucus is something that everyone has, but you might sometimes wonder why it changes color. Or even why it has any color at all! Let’s go over the common colors of mucus, and what they might actually mean for your health.


Clear mucus is the result of normal biological processes, and is a sign that everything is working as it should! Excess mucus usually drains from your nasal cavities down the back of your throat, although some does escape through your nose.

If you happen to be noticing a lot of it, then it’s likely due to extra particles in the air. These can be anything including dust, pollen, city pollution, or household irritants. Excess clear mucus paired with sneezing and itchy eyes can mean that you’re having an allergic reaction of some sort.

If you do notice a runny nose that lasts several days or more, it could indicate an upper respiratory infection. In other words, a mild cold.


What causes white mucus? Inflammation and congestion is the primary cause, but the color comes from the slowing of the flow of the mucus. Basically, it’s a sign of irritation and that you’re not drinking enough water.

If increasing your water intake doesn’t clear this up, you might want to see your doctor in case you are also suffering from an infection or chronic allergies.

Yellow or green

The color itself is due to concentrated enzymes created by white blood cells to fight infections. In order to find out exactly what your body is fighting, you’ll need to see your doctor though. If it lasts for at least ten days, then you should seek medical treatment to avoid long-term illness.

Orange or Brown

In the case of orange or brown mucus, the color usually comes from dried blood. While this might seem alarming at first, it could simply mean that your nasal passages were dry and irritated, or you had a minor nosebleed recently.

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If you do notice pink or red mucus, that is a sign of fresh bleeding and could be cause for concern if it’s ongoing.


This is fairly rare, and when it is seen it’s usually because of smoking or drug use. In very rare circumstances it’s caused by fungal infections.

It’s best to contact your doctor immediately if you notice a sudden onset of pitch-black mucus.

Things that you can do at home

Hot showers can help thin mucus, and it’s always good to make sure that you’re well hydrated. Soft facial tissues are good to keep on hand, and sterile saline rinses can help with congestion that doesn’t seem to want to clear itself.

If you’re still seeking relief or concerned that the cause is something serious, give us a call. We’re happy to schedule an appointment to get to the source of your excess mucus and help you feel normal again.

What Does Your Sinus Infection Mucus Color Mean?

What Does Your Sinus Infection Mucus Color Mean?

Just when you thought you were getting better, you’ve blown your nose to discover that your sinus infection mucus color is everything but clear. When this happens, you might ask yourself “what color is nasal discharge with a sinus infection?” or “when should I see an ENT?”

When you have a sinus infection, your snot typically becomes a thick, green color. This is because mucus acts as a trap for allergens, bacteria, and viruses that carries these foreign invaders outside of your body. These waste products, along with dead white blood cells, account for the greenish color of your snot.

Green snot is a sign that your immune system is doing its job! In this article, the sinus experts at Kaplan Sinus Relief will walk you through what each of the different mucus colors mean and advise on when it’s time to see your doctor.

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You can tell a lot about what’s happening inside your body by the color of your snot. Knowing what each sinus infection mucus color indicates can help you determine if the problem can go away on its own, or if you need to seek medical attention. Here’s what each nasal mucus color means:

What does clear snot mean?

Clear snot is the color of “normal” or healthy snot and it is made up mostly of water, salt, and protein. Most of your nasal mucus will drip down the back of your throat and into your stomach without you noticing. Mucus is something your body consistently makes to help line and protect your ear, nose, throat, and sinuses.

If you’re experiencing an abnormal amount of clear mucus coupled with a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, and/or post nasal drip, you may have allergic rhinitis. Despite having cold-like symptoms, the lack of color in your nasal mucus is indicative that your body’s response is due to irritants and not a viral or bacterial infection.

Why is my snot white?

White snot can be a sign that you are at the start of a cold or an infection. It typically comes with feelings of congestion, stuffiness, or inflammation. You get the white or cloudy sinus infection mucus color when the swollen tissues in your nose slow the flow of your snot. This pulls the water content out of your mucus and causes your snot to become more concentrated.

What does bright yellow nasal discharge mean?

Thick, yellow snot is a sign that your infection is progressing and may have developed into acute sinusitis. There’s no need to panic though. The yellow color is a good indication that your body is fighting off the infection!

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What does green snot indicate?

Green snot means that the bacterial or viral sinus infection has progressed and your immune system is really fighting back. The green color is a result of dead white blood cells and other waste.

If you still have green snot after 12 days or have had constant green snot for months, it may be time to call your doctor.

What happens if you have pink snot?

Pink snot is more often than not a sign that you’ve suffered some sort of nasal trauma. The pinkish hue comes from blood released from broken nasal tissue. This could be caused by an injury, blowing your nose too hard, or even dry sinus cavities.

Keep an eye on your pink mucus. If it is a result of an injury, seek medical attention. But if it’s caused by blowing your nose or a dry sinus cavity, it should clear up quickly. If it doesn’t, schedule an appointment to see your ENT.

Why is my snot red?

Higher concentrations of blood in the nose will turn your mucus red. As with pink snot, this is usually caused by a hit to the nose, blowing too hard, or breathing in dry air. It could also be a nosebleed.

To prevent dry nasal or sinus cavities try:

  • Applying Aquaphor or Vaseline to the inside of your nose
  • Using a Neti pot with sterilized saltwater
  • Blowing your nose gently
  • Using a humidifier

Call your doctor immediately if you’ve been in an accident, are having frequent bloody noses, are losing a lot of blood, or if the child affected is under two years old.

What does brown nose mucus mean?

Brown snot is generally a sign that old blood is leaving your nasal cavity. You may have also inhaled dirt or other substances that are working their way out of your nose.

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Is black snot bad?

Unless you’re a smoker or use certain types of illegal drugs, black snot may be a symptom of a severe fungal infection. There are four common types of fungal infections including:

  1. Mycetoma fungal sinusitis
  2. Allergic fungal sinusitis
  3. Chronic indolent sinusitis
  4. Fulminant sinusitis

Even if you are a smoker or use illicit drugs, if you are experiencing black mucus, you should call your doctor to rule out any serious diagnosis.

Other symptoms of a sinus infection

Now that you know the answer to the question “what color is nasal discharge with a sinus infection?” Here are several other key sinus infection symptoms you should look for:

  • Nasal inflammation
  • Excessive mucus
  • Congestion
  • Sinus headache
  • Sore throat and cough
  • Fever
  • Dental pain
  • Ear infections

Get the sinus infection treatment you need at Kaplan Sinus Relief

If you are suffering from a chronic sinus infection cough, constant green sinus infection mucus color, or frequent sinusitis, you might be a good candidate for balloon sinuplasty in Houston.

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive and effective way to treat your underlying sinus issues and can deliver lasting relief in less than 20 minutes. Dr. Kaplan can help treat your chronic sinusitis and infections and get you feeling better again in no time.

Request an appointment to see if balloon sinuplasty is the right treatment option for you.

More Helpful Articles by Kaplan Sinus Relief:

  • How to Relieve Sinus Pain at Home vs. When to See an ENT
  • How to Fix a Collapsed Nostril with LATERA Implants
  • How Long Does ClariFix Last?
  • Finding a Deviated Septum Doctor in Houston: Who, When, and Where
  • Rhinitis vs. Sinusitis: How are They Different?

Mayo Clinic Q and A: Nasal mucus color — what does it mean?

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a medical illustration of the sinuses and nasal mucus

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My grandson frequently has a runny nose, and the color of the nasal mucus is sometimes green to yellowish. I’ve heard that this is a sign of a bacterial infection and perhaps the need for antibiotics. Can you confirm?

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ANSWER: Greenish-gray or yellowish nasal mucus — your health care provider might call it purulent nasal discharge — isn’t a sure sign of a bacterial infection, although that is a common myth — even in the medical world. Both viral and bacterial upper respiratory infections can cause similar changes to the type and coloration of nasal mucus.

During a common cold, nasal mucus may start out watery and clear, then become progressively thicker and more opaque, taking on a yellow or green tinge. This coloration is likely due to an increase in the number of certain immune system cells, or an increase in the enzymes these cells produce. Over the next few days, the discharge tends to clear up or dry up.

Viruses cause the vast majority of colds in both children and adults. Antibiotics do nothing against viruses — regardless of whether green mucus is produced. However, the timing of symptoms may offer a clue as to the type of germs present. Thick, colored nasal mucus more often occurs at the beginning of a bacterial illness, rather than several days into it, as occurs with a viral infection. In addition, symptoms due to a bacterial infection often last more than 10 days without improvement.

In a few cases, a bacterial infection may develop on top of a viral cold, in which case symptoms may get better and then worse again. Under these circumstances, an antibiotic may lessen the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.

In the meantime, measures that might help include taking in plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, gently suctioning out the discharge, using saline nasal drops to rinse out or irrigate the nasal cavities, and perhaps using a cool-mist humidifier to moisten the air. (adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Letter) — Dr. James Steckelberg, Infectious Diseases, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

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