Guide to Phlegm Color Meaning

Everyone produces mucous on a daily basis. It lines the nose, mouth, sinus cavities, throat, lungs and gastrointestinal tract.

The purpose of mucous is to keep this tract lubricated so it doesn’t crack and dry out. However, it also serves to catch allergens, bacteria and other unwanted substances from entering your body.

This guide to phlegm color meaning can help you find out what’s happening inside your body so you can protect yourself and stay healthy.

What Yellow Phlegm Means

If you find that your phlegm color is yellow, it could just be from breathing in dry air. However, it could also mean that you have a viral cold in your upper respiratory tract.

Since antibiotics don’t help viral infections, your best course of action is to just wait it out. Usually these types of colds will run their course within a few days. In the meantime, drink plenty of fluids and use a humidifier if your nose feels dry.

What Dark Yellow Phlegm Means

A darker color yellow usually means that you have an infection in either your sinus cavity or your lower respiratory tract.

If the infection hasn’t run its course within a few days and you have accompanying symptoms such as coughing and chest congestion then it is likely you have a bacterial infection such as sinusitis, bronchitis, or bacterial pneumonia.

At this point you should visit your doctor and see if you need an antibiotic for treatment.

What Green Phlegm Means

Green phlegm is actually green because of white blood cells, and not the bacteria itself.

As a reaction to an infection, your body sends white blood cells to the area to fight off infection. An enzyme found in white blood cells, called MPO, has a green pigment which tints the phlegm color green.

Since bacteria attract more white blood cells than a virus does, green phlegm is often indicative of a bacterial infection. Because it is likely bacterial and not viral, if green phlegm still persists after a few days and you have other symptoms such as coughing, fever or sinus pressure, talk to your doctor to see if you need an antibiotic. Otherwise, the infection can continue to get worse.

What Brown or Gray Phlegm Means

If you are producing phlegm colours brown or gray, it is probably your body’s way of trying to expel foreign substances: tar, resins, smog or dust.

If you smoke cigars or cigarettes, or chew tobacco, then this is likely the cause of your brown phlegm.

How do you solve it? Stop putting foreign substances into your body.

You could also have brown or gray phlegm if you were inhaling heavy smoke, smog or dust. If this is the case, try staying in an area with fresh, clean air and drink plenty of fluids until these substances are fully expelled from your body.

What Red Phlegm Means

If you see a red tint to your phlegm it means that you are bleeding somewhere.

This could be something minor such as irritation in your nose or a cut in your mouth. Check these options first. However, if you don’t see the source of the bleeding it could be an injury lower in your tract or even a tuberculosis infection. If this is the case, you should call your doctor immediately.