What the Color of Your Mucus Is Telling You

May 7th 2016


Clear mucus is indicative of a healthy immune system. Clear mucus indicates that the body is reacting normally, as the straight mucus lines the body with substance that consists of antibodies, proteins, dissolved salts and water. A healthy body works to coat nasal tissue with clear mucus at all times.


White mucus is also an indicator that the body is producing normally most of the time, but it can be an indication that an infection is on the horizon if coupled with other symptoms. For example, nasal tissue may be swollen or inflamed when white mucus is present, which means the substance is losing moisture. Patients should watch for potential signs of a cold or nasal infection.


Patients should be on guard when yellow mucus is present. Yellow mucus indicates that infection-fighting white blood cells are working to fight a microbial infection. A cold or nasal infection is a likely cause of yellow mucus.


A consultation with a physician is recommended when mucus turns green. Green mucus indicates that the immune system is fighting a bacterial infection or sinusitis. The mucus changes colors because it is thick with dead white cells.

Pink or Red

Nasal tissues in the nose that have become broken and are saturated with blood produce pink or red mucus. The surface of the nose may also be dry or irritated. People who have suffered from a nose bleed or injury often see leftover blood residue in the mucus, which changes the color to pink or red.


Individuals who have brown mucus likely have old blood inside the nasal passages that continues to discharge. Brown mucus discharge commonly occurs after pink or red mucus is present and may remain from an impact or injury. Individuals with brown mucus may also have inhaled foreign substances such as dirt or cooking spices, causing mucus to appear brown.


People who smoke or use illicit drugs may notice black residue in mucus. However, black mucus could also indicate a serious fungal infection. People who have compromised immune systems and notice black mucus should consult with a physician immediately.


Mucus production is an important function of the body, as it lines the throat, lungs, sinuses, nose and mouth to protect the surfaces from drying out. Mucus also works to keep bacteria and dust trapped before it can infect the body. However, excessive or abnormal mucus can also indicate an infection, and the status of the immune system is indicated by a change in its color. A clear or white substance is common, but when mucus changes to yellow, green, red or black, it may be time to consult a medical professional.

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