Coughing is bad enough, but when green mucus comes up in the process, it can be alarming. If
you cough up mucus occasionally without any other red flags, it’s probably not serious. If your
symptoms are severe, linger on and on, or if they are accompanied by other symptoms, you may need medical treatment.
If the mucus you cough up isn’t just green but also thick and foul-smelling, call your doctorstraight away. This could indicate an infection that needs treatment. In a study published in theEuropean Respiratory Journal, researchers found that green or yellow mucus in chronicbronchitis patients was significantly more likely to be caused by bacteria compared to clearmucus. If you have such an infection, you may need antibiotics. Sinus infections can also causethick, unpleasant-smelling mucus and coughing and may also require prescription medication
Green mucus may be the most surprising or unusual symptom you’re experiencing, but accompanying symptoms can be worrisome as well. If you're also coughing up blood, have a fever, difficulty breathing, swelling around your midsection or have unintentionally lost weight, contact your doctor. These symptoms could indicate a severe infection. The same goes for sinus problems paired with a severe headache, high fever, vision changes or difficulty thinking straight. Make sure you describe to your physician all of your symptoms, versus just describing the cough and mucus alone. This will help ensure proper treatment and the likelihood that your doctor will see you swiftly, if needed.
Sometimes green mucus and coughing clear up on their own. If you’re still experiencing symptoms after 12 days or so, it may be time for a checkup. Lasting coughing and mucus could stem from an infection such as sinusitis. Ongoing symptoms may also derive from bacterial bronchitis, which can also bring a high fever and discolored mucus gathering in your lungs. As a result, you may feel a deeper cough than you would if the mucus formed in your throat. Because these infections are caused by bacteria, you may need antibiotics to heal.
In addition to getting any needed medical treatment, home care can go a long way toward helping you feel better when you’re fighting a cough.
- Stay well-hydrated. Drinking plenty of water or other fluids such as broth, can help thin down mucus.
- Avoid smoke. If you smoke, consider stopping. Regardless, avoid smokey areas. The fumes can exacerbate your symptoms.
- Consider taking an OTC medication. Over-the-counter medications can help minimize your symptoms, making it easier to rest and recover. Mucinex® Maximum Strength relieves chest congestion and loosens and thins mucus for up to 12 hours.
- Soak up steam. To keep your throat moist and break down mucus with steam, take a hot bath or shower. Linger in the room afterward to get maximum benefits.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cough
- European Respiratory Journal; Sputum Colour and Bacteria in Chronic Bronchitis Exacerbations: a Pooled Analysis
- Mayo Clinic: Chronic Sinusitis
- Cleveland Clinic: What the Color of Your Snot Really Means
- University of Michigan Health Center: Difference Between Viral and Bacterial Forms of Acute Bronchitis
- Mucinex: Maximum Strength Mucinex