We know you’ve been there before, you blow your nose, take a look and think “Yikes! That doesn’t look good!”. However, do you actually know what the colour of your mucus is telling you about your body and your health?
It’s that time of year where the sniffles seem to come and go more than ever and we are much more aware of how we are feeling and as gross as it sounds, the colour of our mucus! So, let’s take a look and figure out what our bodies are telling us.
Why does our snot change colour?
At least once in your life you have had a cold or an allergy attack and you can’t find a kleenex fast enough. You have probably noticed, especially when you are sick, your mucus changes colours. Nasal discharge can be clear, green, black, and many other colors in between and it can change for a variety of reasons.
What does clear snot mean?
Clear snot means you are healthy! Your body naturally produces up to 1.5 quarts of discharge (or mucus) every single day! This type of mucus is made up of water with proteins, antibodies, and salts. Your body will continue to make it around the clock to help line and protect your nose and sinuses and prevent dryness!
What does white/cloudy snot mean?
If you are feeling a little more congested than usual, or you are noticing the beginnings of a cold coming on, you may also notice some white or slightly cloudy mucus. The mucus has lost moisture and thickened because the tissue in your nose is inflamed. If your mucus is white or cloudy,, you likely have the beginning of a cold or allergy attack.
What does yellow snot mean?
Yellow mucus is an indication that whatever cold or infection your body is trying to fight off is getting stronger and taking hold within your body. Your body is fighting hard trying to get rid of the sickness, and producing more white blood cells to aid in the battle. The increase of white blood cells will cause your mucus to have a more yellow appearance.
What does green snot mean?
Yikes! You are SICK! You likely are feeling pretty crummy if your mucus is green. You could be fighting a cold or sinus infection and your body has kicked into overdrive trying to fight off the infection. This colour comes from dead white blood cells and other waste.
What does pink/red snot mean?
Blood! Blood will give your mucus a pink or red tint. This usually happens when you have been blowing your nose too often, too hard or have been picking or scratching. To help dryness you can use a humidifier to try and add moisture back, or use something like vaseline on the nasal passageway. You can also try using a saline nasal spray to hydrate your nose, and blow your nose a bit less, and more gently.
What does brown snot mean?
Brown mucus usually means dried or old blood, or that you have recently inhaled some dirt.
When should you go see a doctor?
Now that we have a clear understanding of what our body is doing at each stage we can better decide when we should see a doctor for our stuffy nose. The colour of your snot is not always the best indicator of when you should go see a doctor. However, pay close attention to the colour of your mucus and the severity and duration of your other symptoms.
Signs to make an appointment:
- Yellow snot as well as a fever lasting 3-4 consecutive days
- Headaches that are around the eyes
- Swelling around the eyes or darker circles.
How can I reduce nasal congestion?
No one wants to feel the burning pain of a dry nose in the midst of fighting a cold! If you are sick or feel like you suffer from dryness it’s a great idea to use a humidifier beside your bed. This is great for the winter months in general when the air tends to be a bit more dry, but also great for when you are sick and need the extra moisture. Certain oils like eucalyptus oil can also help you breath a bit easier when added to your humidifier or essential oil diffuser!
Another great trick is using a saline nasal spray or a Neti Pot. This is great for adding moisture right back into your nasal passages, and the Neti Pot will help remove some of the excess mucus in a very gentle way as opposed to harshly blowing your nose!
It’s also important to stay hydrated especially when fighting a cold. Mucus takes a lot of moisture from your body so be sure to drink plenty of water. The regular recommendation for your daily intake of water is eight 8oz glasses of water per day, or half your body weight in oz of water per day. When you are sick, drinking extra water can help thin out the mucus in your nose, making it easier to get rid of.
What this all means
We hope that you now have a better understanding of what your body is doing when you have a cold and how to differentiate between what could be an infection, or just a stuffy nose.
The mucus in our nose is produced to protect us from pathogens in the outside world. So, unless you have a prolonged fever and headache accompanied by a stuffy nose for at least 3 consecutive days, you are likely going to be able to treat your stuffy nose or cold with home remedies.