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    If you’ve ever had a runny nose or sneezed without a tissue, you’ve probably become close and personal with your snot. You may have noticed that it changes color or texture from time to time. Nasal discharge can be clear, green, black, and many other colors in between.

    Your mucus is there to protect your nose and sinuses from things like dust, bacteria, and other environmental dangers.

    Why might mucus change color? It usually has something to do with what’s going on inside or outside your body. You may be healthy or have a cold, allergies, or another underlying condition.

    Here’s your guide to the different conditions that can affect the color of your snot, tips to find relief, and when to see your doctor.

    Clear snot is considered “normal” or healthy. Your body produces around 1.5 liters of this discharge each day, though you likely swallow most of it.

    This type of mucus is made up of water with proteins, antibodies, and salts. Once it reaches the stomach, it dissolves. Your body continues making it around the clock to help line and protect your nose and sinuses.

    Allergic rhinitis or “hay fever” may also cause clear, runny nasal discharge. Although you may feel quite ill, allergies aren’t caused by a virus. The symptoms are your body’s response to irritants like pollen, cat or dog fur, and dust mites.

    Other symptoms may include:

    • postnasal drip
    • itchy, watery eyes
    • sneezing
    • coughing
    • itchy nose, throat, or roof of mouth
    • discolored skin under the eyes
    • fatigue

    Some people develop a runny nose during pregnancy called nonallergic rhinitis. Researchers explain that this condition is caused by hormonal changes and can develop at any point during gestation. It’s more common between weeks 13 and 21 . This condition usually resolves within a couple of weeks after delivery.

    If you’re feeling congested or stuffy, you may notice your snot is white. You may also experience swelling or inflammation in your nose and a slow flow of nasal mucus.

    Being stuffy makes your snot lose its water content. It becomes thick and even cloudy — both signs that you may have a cold or infection brewing.

    The common cold can make you feel generally unwell. Your symptoms will usually develop between one and three days after being exposed to the virus. Children are particularly prone to colds. Adults, on the other hand, may experience between two and three colds each year.

    Other symptoms include:

    • sore throat
    • congestion
    • cough
    • sneezing
    • low-grade fever, or a fever above 98.6°F (37°C) but lower than 100.4°F (38°C)
    • mild body aches
    • mild headache

    Yellow mucus is a sign that whatever virus or infection you have is taking hold. The good news? Your body is fighting back. The yellow color comes from the cells — white blood cells, for example — rushing to kill the offending germs. Once the cells have done their work, they’re discarded in your snot and give it a dark yellowish tinge.

    Your illness may last anywhere from 10 to 14 days, but keep an eye on your nasal discharge.

    If your immune system kicks into high gear to fight infection, your snot may turn green and become especially thick. The color comes from dead white blood cells and other waste products.

    But green snot isn’t always a reason to run to your doctor. In fact, some sinus infections may be viral, not bacterial.

    Still, if you’ve had your cold or infection for 12 days or more, it may be a good time to make an appointment. You may have a bacterial sinus infection or another bacterial infection that requires medication. Look for other signs you’re not getting better, like fever, headache, or nausea.

    Blood in your snot will tinge it pink or red. Blood may flow a bit if you’ve blown your nose a lot or if you’ve had some kind of hit to the nose.

    To prevent nosebleeds, consider:

    • applying Vaseline or another ointment to the nasal passages three times a day
    • using saline nose spray to add moisture to your nasal tissues
    • trimming fingernails to deter nose-picking
    • adding moisture to the air with a humidifier
    • blowing your nose more gently

    People who are pregnant may also experience bloody snot. This may be due to blood volume increases, hormones, or swollen nasal passages.

    If your child is experiencing bleeding, call their pediatrician. This is especially important if your tot is under age 2.

    If your blood is the result of an acute injury like a car accident, seek medical attention to rule out more serious issues.

    You should also see your doctor if you:

    • have difficulty breathing
    • bleed for more than 30 minutes
    • produce more than about 1 tablespoon of blood

    Brown snot may be the result of old blood exiting the body. Or you may have inhaled something red or brown that has discolored your mucus. Possibilities include dirt, snuff, or paprika.

    Most commonly, people who smoke or are in households with smokers can have gray-black snot. Being subject to heavy air pollution may cause your snot to come out black. People who use drugs may also have black snot.

    Black nasal mucus may also be a sign of a serious fungal infection. While not common, people with compromised immune systems may be susceptible to this type of illness.

    There are four types of fungal infections of the sinuses:

    • Mycetoma fungal sinusitis. This type results from clumps of spores invading the sinus cavities. Treatment involves scraping the infected sinuses.
    • Allergic fungal sinusitis. This type is more common in people with a history of allergic rhinitis. The infection must be surgically removed.
    • Chronic indolent sinusitis. This type is mostly found outside the United States in areas like Sudan and India. Other symptoms include headache, facial swelling, and visual disturbances .
    • Fulminant sinusitis. This type may cause damage to the sinuses and the bony area that contains the eyeballs and brain.

    Whatever the potential cause, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor for a more formal diagnosis.

    The actual texture of your snot has a lot to do with its moisture content. Nasal mucus that flows freely has more water content than snot that’s hard. In some cases, drinking more water may help thin your mucus. Changes in texture can happen throughout the duration of an illness.

    Watery discharge from the nose may be a warning sign of a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. A leak happens when there’s a tear in the membranes surrounding your brain, likely from injury or certain medical conditions, like hydrocephalus .

    Other symptoms of a CSF leak include:

    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • neck stiffness
    • sensitivity to light or sound
    • positional headaches; for example, you may feel more pain while sitting up versus lying down

    If you suspect you may have a CSF leak, seek medical attention.

    It may be difficult to tell the difference between a cold or other viral infection, and a bacterial infection. Color isn’t always the best indicator of whether you should see your doctor. Instead, pay attention to the duration of your illness and the worsening of your other symptoms.

    Most colds last between 5 to 10 days . They usually peak in severity between days three and five . A bacterial infection may worsen as it progresses and continue beyond this time period.

    Other signs you should make an appointment:

    • yellow snot accompanied by a fever that lasts three or four days in a row
    • headache that may be focused around or behind the eyes and is worse when bending over
    • swelling around your eyes or dark circles

    In rare cases , the infection may spread to the eye or brain. Seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

    • all-day swelling or redness around the eyes
    • severe headache
    • sensitivity to light
    • pain in the back of your neck
    • increasing irritability
    • persistent vomiting

    Think your snot may be the result of allergies? There are several things you can do to clear your congestion:

    • Try avoiding irritants like ragweed, grasses, and trees on high-pollen days. If you can’t completely avoid the outdoors, avoid being outside between 5 and 10 a.m.
    • Keep your windows closed and use air-conditioning and/or an air purifier.
    • Don’t hang your laundry outside to dry. Mold and pollen can cling to your clothing, towels, and sheets.
    • Take precautions while doing yard work. A dust mask can protect you from irritants while you’re mowing, raking, or gardening. Get one here.
    • Speak with your doctor about allergy medicines . You may take either prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines or decongestants.

    For congestion from colds and other conditions:

    • Gently blow your nose as often as needed. Sniffing and swallowing the nasal mucus is another option in the short term.
    • Drink lots of water — at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day — to help thin your mucus for easier blowing.
    • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air you breathe. Shop for humidifiers now.
    • Spray a saline solution in your nasal passages. This is a saltwater solution that doesn’t contain medication, so you can use it as many times as you feel the need to.
    • If your congestion is severe, consider using a decongestant or an over-the-counter nasal steroid like Flonase for up to three days.
    • Use a bulb-syringe to remove excess snot in babies and small children. Buy one here.

    Alternatively, you may try using a neti pot to rinse debris or mucus from your nose. Be sure if you do, to use the neti pot prior to applying any nasal spray, such as Flonase. You can find neti pots online here.

    To use a neti pot:

    1. Mix together a saltwater solution using distilled or sterilized water.
    2. Tilt your head to one side over a sink. Place the spout in your upper nostril.
    3. Breathe in through your mouth and pour the solution into the upper nostril. It will drain through your lower nostril.
    4. Blow out any remaining mucus.
    5. Repeat this process on the other side.
    6. After use, rinse your pot with distilled or sterilized water and let air dry.

    Snot is produced by your sinuses as protection against the outside world and its many viruses and other dangers. Most causes of congestion are due to viruses and allergies, not bacterial or fungal infections.

    Unless you have an underlying medical condition, you may try at-home comfort measures to clear your congestion. If you notice warning signs of bacterial infection or have other concerns about your health, see your doctor.

    Read this article in Spanish .

    Does green snot mean I'm getting better?
    One of the first signs of a cold is green or yellow mucus. It's no reason for concern, and in fact, it means your body is working extra hard to fight off infection. more
    How long does green snot last?
    While nasal discharge that is yellow, green or brown can be a sign of an infection of the upper respiratory tract, in the vast majority of instances the infection is caused by a common cold virus and will get better on its own within seven to ten days. more
    Is green snot viral or bacterial?
    Green snot is most often caused by a viral common cold, which antibiotics cannot treat. Healthy snot (mucus) is made from water, proteins called mucins and salt. It becomes green after gathering dead viruses or bacteria and white blood cells, which oxide and change colour with time. more
    Does green snot mean you are getting better?
    One of the first signs of a cold is green or yellow mucus. It's no reason for concern, and in fact, it means your body is working extra hard to fight off infection. more
    Does green snot mean you're contagious?
    It is normal for the mucus to get thick and change color as the common viral cold progresses. Is green mucus more of a concern than clear mucus? Children with clear mucous at the beginning of a cold are most contagious. Green nasal mucus (usually found toward the end of the cold) is less contagious than clear mucus. more
    How long should green snot last?
    While nasal discharge that is yellow, green or brown can be a sign of an infection of the upper respiratory tract, in the vast majority of instances the infection is caused by a common cold virus and will get better on its own within seven to ten days. more
    Does green snot need antibiotics?
    "Green nasal discharge is most commonly due to a viral infection of the nasal mucosa — basically, the common cold." Antibiotics will not help treat a viral illness. So if your snot turns green as the result of a common cold (which is caused by a virus) there's no point taking them, Dr Tam said. more
    Is green snot a symptom of Covid?
    Many people think yellow or green mucus is a guaranteed way to spot a sinus infection, but Dr. Pedro Checo, internist and Teladoc doctor, says this just isn't true. more
    Does green snot mean end of cold?
    When you have a cold or other respiratory illness, you might see a range of different colours of mucus or snot when you blow your nose. We're often told – even by doctors – that green or yellow secretions indicate you're infectious. But this isn't true. more
    Does green snot mean infection?
    One of the first signs of a cold is green or yellow mucus. It's no reason for concern, and in fact, it means your body is working extra hard to fight off infection. White blood cells rush to battle infection, and when they've done their job, they get flushed out of the body along with the virus. more
    Does green snot mean contagious?
    It is normal for the mucus to get thick and change color as the common viral cold progresses. Is green mucus more of a concern than clear mucus? Children with clear mucous at the beginning of a cold are most contagious. Green nasal mucus (usually found toward the end of the cold) is less contagious than clear mucus. more

    Source: www.healthline.com

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