Nasal mucus, also known as mucus. we all have it, and we all have a lot. experts have found that you produce and swallow about 500 to 600 cc of nasal mucus every day.
Nasal mucus serves as a powerful barrier around areas of your body that are ripe for infection. “The inside of the nose, as well as the upper airway digestive tract in the head and neck area, are very humid environments,” says ear, nose, and throat specialist Raj Sindwani, MD. “The mucus plays an important role in trying to protect the lining and keep it moist.”
Especially in your nose, mucus is your first line of defense in terms of preventing infection and defending against unwanted things that might want to enter your body. “it traps particles and organisms, so the bacteria or debris we breathe in doesn’t go directly into our lungs,” says dr. Sindwani says. however, the color of this mucus can tell you a lot about what’s going on inside your nasal passages, and while doctors rarely use nasal mucus as a primary diagnosis of disease, it can shed light on other conditions. dr sindwani shares what the various shades of boogers could mean for your health.
what does the color of your snot say about your health?
The color of your snot can tell you a lot, including if you have allergies, a nose bleed, a cold, or sinusitis. however, changing the color of your snot is almost a bigger indicator that something is wrong with your health.
“If your mucus is changing color, you need to see what else is going on,” says dr. Sindwani says. “It’s the idea that you were fine, nothing bothered you and then something changed. you’ll want to take a more comprehensive look at what else might have changed. you feel bad? did you get a new pet or other significant change in your environment?”
however, dr. Sindwani points out that mucus color, or changes in mucus color, is just one sign of a potential health problem. the consistency of your mucus could also be a warning sign. “If it’s thicker, that could represent your hydration status, like being behind on your fluid intake or having too much coffee or dehydrating soda,” she says.
The amount of mucus you’re producing can also be revealing. “if it’s more abundant, meaning more, that might be something that’s also important to consider,” says dr. Sindwani says. “That can reflect hydration and, for some people, it can reflect exposure to something irritating, like perfume or cigarette smoke. or it could even represent allergies or an allergic exposure.”
This is the meaning of each color of mucus:
Usually, you’re in the normal range, though allergies can show up like this, too. pure mucus is mostly water, with proteins, antibodies, and dissolved salts. your nasal tissues produce it 24/7. most of it flows down the back of the throat to dissolve in the stomach.
This may mean you are congested. Your nose has swollen and inflamed tissues that slow the flow of mucus, causing it to lose moisture and become thick and cloudy. this may be a sign of a nasal infection or a cold.
This could mean a cold or an infection that is progressing. the yellowish tint comes from white blood cells that rush to the site of infection and are then swept away after working to fight it off.
“Yellow or green mucus can sometimes mean you have an infection,” says Dr. Sindwani says. “But remember there are other things that go along with that color, of course, including how you feel in general or if you have a fever.” colds inevitably last 7 to 10 days. drop and wait with supportive care tactics as needed.
Your immune system is really fighting back and your mucus is full of dead white blood cells. if you are still sick after about 10 to 12 days, you may want to see a doctor. it could be sinusitis, a bacterial infection that is treated with a round of antibiotics. if you have a fever or are very ill, see a doctor soon.
“You can also get something called chronic sinusitis, which is a long-term inflammatory disease, where you’ll have some symptoms of a sinus infection for months,” says dr. Sindwani says. “This is not just discolored mucus. it could be postnasal drip. it could be facial pain, pressure, congestion or shortness of breath, or a change in your sense of smell and feeling unwell.” “It’s more how long you’ve been feeling sick and what your symptoms are,” says dr. Sindwani says. “Usually after about seven days, if you have yellow or green mucus and you don’t feel well, that’s when we might consider giving you a course of antibiotics.”
pink or red mucus
Your nasal tissue in your nose has broken in some way, perhaps because it’s dry, irritated, or has suffered some kind of impact. “full red could be a nosebleed likely related to trauma or possibly an infection,” says dr. sindwanian
however, he adds that this color is not always a cause for concern. “A few spots of blood or pink mucus may not be a big deal. that could just be lining damage or irritation. For example, when we’re sick and we blow our noses a lot or rub our noses a lot, that can cause a couple of blood vessels to burst, which could lead to some bleeding.”
This shade could be old blood, but it’s likely something inhaled, like dirt, snuff, or paprika.
“if you see black mucus, you may be breathing in something that looks like workplace debris and it could collect in the mucus in your nose,” says dr. Sindwani says.
Also, if you don’t smoke or use illegal drugs, black mucus can mean a serious fungal infection. “I don’t want to be too alarmist, but there are some fungal infections that can show black mucus that can be very, very serious,” says dr. Sindwani says. “but luckily they are extremely rare.”
In fact, these infections usually occur in people with compromised immune systems. if you’re one of them, you’re probably already seeing a doctor. if not, make an appointment.
doesn’t green mucus always mean you have an infection?
not always, says dr. sindwani snot can change color (or you could have more) if you have a lot of bacteria growing in your nose. “Mucus can be affected by bacteria,” he says. “and that bacteria may be hanging in your nose. it’s not until the bacteria gets into the lining or tissues of the nose that we call it an infection.”
Determining if you have an infection comes down to how you feel and how long you feel that way. “if you feel perfectly fine, generally speaking, it’s not a significant infection in most cases,” says dr. sindwani “and we may choose not to treat it with any antibiotics, although that could continue for some time.”
what mucus does for you
mucus is not stationary. in fact, mucus is always moving around your body, in a predetermined pattern. it starts in the sinuses and then travels to the nose, down the back of the nose and throat, and then ends in the stomach.
dr. Sindwani says that if the mucus were to stay in one place, the bacteria it contains could cause infections.
“The mucus traps the bacteria,” he notes, “but then it’s pushed back into the stomach. the bacteria can be taken care of there, so it doesn’t infect or harm you in any way. if the mucus were to stagnate and stagnant, the bacteria it contains would continue to proliferate, because the mucus is a kind of food for them. this overgrowth of bacteria could enter the nasal and sinus tissues and cause an infection.”
In addition to keeping possible infections at bay, mucus helps the nose to function properly. For example, mucus traps chemicals called odorants, which represent different smells, and directs them to the smell receptors at the top of the nose. It keeps your sense of smell in tip-top shape.
The nose also moistens and warms the air we breathe with the help of mucus. “mucus primarily adds water or humidification to the air we breathe, so it doesn’t dry out our passageways and lungs,” says dr. sindwanian