Coughing Up? What Color Is It?

Coughing Up? What Color Is It?

Coughing is common and most of the time you do not worry too much about it. But, if what you cough up is green, brown or red, something more serious is going on and you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

 What is mucus?

Mucus is a viscous material produced by the mucous layer of your windpipe. Its job is to lubricate your nose and throat. But, infection or some other kind of disorder causes mucus to thicken up and start accumulating in your throat. You start coughing because it irritates your windpipe and you need to get rid of it.

Mild ailments or irritations such as dust or smoke cause our windpipe to produce clear mucus. That means that there is no infection and no pus, therefore no worry.

When mucus turns colorful

Unless you are a smoker, mucus of any color, such as yellow, brown or green is the sign of a more serious health issues which has to be diagnosed and treated.

Yellow mucus can be caused by a range of health problems, from common cold to pneumonia, cystic fibrosis and bronchitis. The mucus turns yellow because of the accumulation of leukocytes, caused by the inflammation. Most doctors will prescribe antibiotics if you tell them that your mucus is yellow. Unfortunately, antibiotics will do nothing for your common cold, which is a viral infection, or cystic fibrosis, which is genetic disorder. Much more precise diagnosis is required and if your cough lasts long time, with yellow mucus as a result, make sure that your doctor treats it seriously.

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Brown mucus is very familiar to smokers, since they see it every morning when they wake up. Mucus can also turn brown because of heavy air pollution. A bacterial infection causes mucus to become greenish-brown. But, more seriously, if your mucus is brown, it might be because it contains blood particles, what means a serious lung infection.

Don”t ignore your cough if lasts longer than a few days. See a doctor and describe the symptoms and the color or your mucus. Doctor will conduct more precise tests to find the underlying cause and give you the proper medication. Don”t self-medicate, you can do more damage than good. Your coughing can be caused by some allergy, and you might need antihistamines. Untreated allergies can cause anaphylactic shock and death.

If you hate the thought of going to the doctor, you should consider using our Healthy Home telemedicine program.  You don’t have to leave your home to get a consultation from a U.S. licensed physician.  You talk to the doctor on the phone (or skype if you want), and if appropriate the doctor will send a medication order to your pharmacy of choice.  You can find out more on our Healthy Home page.


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