health

Sneezing Green? Here’s What The Different Colors In Your Mucus Mean

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

If you’re feeling sick or stuffy, you’ve probably noticed that mucus tends to come with the territory, often in a dizzying range of colors.

Here’s how to know what your mucus color means for your health.

Essentially, it’s a matter of identifying what’s causing the mucus, and whether or not you need to worry about it.

Your body needs a certain amount of mucus, so you’re never going to eliminate it completely. (Nor should you.)

However, your mucus color sometimes means that something is seriously wrong with your health.

Everything that comes out of your body is significant to your health. We’ve seen how important poop is for predicting when something is going wrong.

Mucus is equally crucial. By monitoring your snot, you can pick up on a lot of key red flags that might warn you early that you’re sick, or about to be.

Different mucus colors mean different things, and each should be closely monitored: for example, a sinus infection produces mucus colors that are different from a bad bout of allergies.

Knowing the distinctions can be vital to your health!

What Is Mucus?

What Is Mucus?
Janine Ngai for LittleThings

Mucus is a totally normal substance that your body makes to help keep you healthy.

It’s a slippery, sticky, gel-like substance that coats the nose, throat, and lungs, among other areas of the body.

It lubricates a lot of the inner workings of the body and is tremendously important for keeping your body going.

Having mucus isn’t a problem, though weird changes and colors in your mucus are always important to pay attention to.

Learn what different mucus colors mean below.

Snot Color #1: Clear, Runny Mucus

Snot Color #1: Clear, Runny Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Clear mucus is nothing to worry about. This is the run-of-the-mill mucus your body always needs you to produce, so don’t be concerned if you notice a bit of this clear goo on your tissue.

At times, your body might suddenly start producing lot of clear mucus, and that can be an important sign.

For example, people with respiratory allergies like hay fever may discover that their noses suddenly start running like a tap, producing huge quantities of clear, liquid snot.

That’s a good indicator that you are too close to an allergen and are about to start suffering more extensive symptoms.

It may also indicate other early respiratory issues, like the start of an ordinary cold.

Snot Color #2: Thick, White Mucus

Snot Color #2: Thick, White Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

If your snot is coming out white and sticky, that means that there’s less water in the mucus than there normally should be.

Having white, thick mucus can often indicate that you’re dehydrated and that you need to get more water into your system.

If you’re getting plenty of water, it could signal that something else in your body is causing dehydration, like a low-grade fever that makes you sweat.

White mucus can also mean that a cold or sinus infection is starting to develop. When white blood cells start to build up in mucus to fight an infection, they can turn the sputum milky white.

Snot Color #3: Yellow Mucus

Snot Color #3: Yellow Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Got yellowish or creamy colored mucus? That’s a sure sign that something is brewing in your upper respiratory system.

If you have an infection, a cold, or even a really bad allergy, your body will respond by producing lots of white cells to fight off the attacker.

White blood cells have a greenish tint, and in a low concentration, they can give clear or white mucus a yellowish hue.

Snot Color #4: Green Mucus

Snot Color #4: Green Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Green mucus is a great indicator that you have a bug that is settling in for the long haul.

If you start blowing out green mucus, this could signal that an intense sinus infection might be getting its hooks into you.

Finding green mucus in your tissue is a sign that you should visit the doctor.

You should also be especially careful to watch out for green mucus that comes up from the throat and lungs.

Coughing up wads of green goo can mean that you have something like bronchitis and pneumonia brewing. Both conditions are serious and require a visit to the doctor.

Snot Color #5: Red Or Pink Mucus

Snot Color #5: Red Or Pink Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Red or pink mucus almost always means that you have blood in your respiratory system — but don’t panic!

It’s really easy to end up with pinkish mucus or bright-red blood in your tissue, especially if you’ve been blowing your nose a lot or have been trying to clear it of goop. The membranes get irritated and dry, and small blood vessels can break and cause the alarming color.

However, be very carefully if you experience excessive bleeding.

Contact your doctor right away should you start coughing or sneezing out large amounts of blood. If the bleeding will not stop, go to the emergency room immediately.

Snot Color #6: Brown Mucus

Snot Color #6: Brown Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Though mucus is not a pleasant sight, it’s generally nothing to worry about.

Usually, if you find that your mucus has a brownish color, it’s because there is old, dried blood somewhere in your nose or your sinuses.

If you previously experienced a nose bleed or a similar nasal injury, it’s not uncommon to have old brownish blood surface after the fact.

Mucus that has been backed up for a long time, as in a sinus infection, can also appear brownish.

One other possible culprit? Tobacco. If you chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes (especially hand-rolled), you may notice the tobacco staining your mucus a yellowish brown. Same goes for just about any other restricted substance that you can chew or smoke.

Snot Color #7: Gray Or Black Mucus

Snot Color #7: Gray Or Black Mucus
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Nobody wants to find black mucus on their hankie. Still, it’s usually not a big deal.

Black mucus is often the result of inhaling a foreign substance, like smoke, soot, or ash. This may happen if you’ve been smoking or have been around smokers (or if you’ve been in any other environment where you may have inhaled fine, dark particles).

Finding ashy snot just once or twice is nothing to worry about, but you should try to cut back on situations where you might inhale these particles. You could even consider wearing a breathing mask. Habitually inhaling foreign substances is not good for your body.

In some rare cases, black or gray mucus may also signal that there’s a fungus causing your sinus issues. Go see a doctor, just to be safe.

How Do You Get Rid Of Mucus?

How Do You Get Rid Of Mucus?
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Like we noted at the beginning, you don’t really want to get rid of mucus: your body needs it to keep things moving!

However, if you’re experiencing excessive or unusual mucus, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

A professional can recommend over-the-counter and prescription treatment. They can also confirm what’s actually causing the color of your mucus.

If you’re glad to know about the red flags behind your mucus color, be sure to SHARE with all your friends as allergy season approaches!