Coughing Up Mucus? How to Decode Your Symptoms

14 Aug 2018

Coughing Up Mucus? Decode Your Symptoms

You don’t need an MD to tell you that coughing up mucus is no fun, but did you know that the color of your mucus may provide some insight into your health? While it’s not exactly a sure thing — you shouldn’t use mucus color alone as a diagnostic tool — the color of your mucus can hint at what’s going on in your airways, so you can determine the best treatment. Excess mucus in itself typically signals that you have some sort of infection or irritation in your respiratory tract. Mucus normally provides a protective layer to keep nasty germs — along with environmental irritants, like smoke particles — out of the delicate tissues lining your airways. As a result, infections and irritation may trigger more mucus production as a defensive strategy against the foreign particles.

Coughing up clear or light-colored mucus may signal that you're dealing with allergies. You might also have a minor respiratory tract infection, like a mild cold. Try Maximum Strength Mucinex® D for relief. It contains pseudoephedrine HCl and guaifenesin, which may help you clear excess mucus and nasal congestion (as well as the resulting post-nasal drip).

Coughing up colored mucus — which can range from dark yellow to a sickly green — might signal that you’re grappling with a respiratory infection. The color comes from defensive enzymes released by your immune system. These enzymes contain iron, which gives a greenish tint. And while sickly green mucus may look scary, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a serious bacterial infection. According to a study in the European Respiratory Journal, over 40 percent of green mucus samples, and about 55 percent of yellow, contained no harmful bacteria.

Taking Mucinex® DM thins and loosens mucus and may help clear out yellow or green mucus. If you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as fevers and body aches, try Maximum Strength* Mucinex® Fast-Max® Day Time Severe Cold & Night Time Cold & Flu for relief. If your symptoms lasts more than seven days or worsen, please consult a physician, you may have a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics.

If you’re coughing up thick, solid white mucus that looks like pus, make an appointment with your doctor. According to Harvard Medical School, this type of mucus may signal that you have a bacterial infection in your airways that could require antibiotics.

Mucinex® products can help you clear pesky mucus and (finally) get some rest, but these tips may help too:

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Dehydration can thicken your mucus, which may make coughing worse. Stay hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Get some rest: Taking it easy conserves our energy, so you can fight off the infection that may be triggering your mucus.
  • See a doctor: If your symptoms worsen or you’re still experiencing symptoms after 10 days, see a doctor.
  1. Harvard Medical School: Don't Judge Your Mucus By Its Color
  2. West Virginia University: Get The Scoop On Mucus: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
  3. University of Maryland Medical Center: Cough

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