Yellow, Brown, or Green Phlegm What It Means

Yellow, Brown, or Green Phlegm: What It Means

Yellow, Brown, or Green Phlegm: What It Means

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Why phlegm changes color

Phlegm is a specific kind of mucus that is produced in the chest. Phlegm production that is obvious to others is often only seen in people who are sick with a cold or who have some other underlying medical condition. Sputum is the term used to describe the mucus that comes up when you cough. You may notice that your sputum is a variety of hues and wonder what each colour indicates.

The following is a guide to the various medical disorders that might cause phlegm to be produced, as well as an explanation of why it may be different colours and when you should consult a doctor.

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What do different phlegm colors mean?

green or yellow brown white black clear red or pink
allergic rhinitis
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
congestive heart failure
cystic fibrosis
fungal infection
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
lung abscess
lung cancer
pulmonary embolism

What does green or yellow phlegm mean?

Phlegm that is green or yellow in colour is typically an indication that your body is attempting to fight off an illness. The white blood cells are the source of the colour. Phlegm may appear yellow at first, and then it may change to green colour as the infection worsens. The shift takes place depending on how severe the prospective illness is and how long it lasts.

Phlegm that is green or yellow in colour is typically produced by the following:

Bronchitis. A dry cough is typically the first symptom, followed by the production of phlegm that is either clear or white. You can start coughing up yellow and green phlegm after some time has passed. This is a red flag that the patient may have developed a secondary bacterial infection as the sickness has advanced. The coughing fit can linger for up to three months.

Pneumonia. In most cases, this is a complication that arises from another respiratory condition. Phlegm that is yellow, green, or even crimson can sometimes be coughed up by a person who has pneumonia. The specific form of pneumonia that you have will determine the symptoms that you experience. All forms of pneumonia share a number of common symptoms, including a hacking cough, fever, chills, and shortness of breath.

Sinusitis. An infection of the sinuses is another name for this condition. This disease could be brought on by anything from a virus to allergies to even bacteria. When bacteria are the source, symptoms such as nasal congestion, postnasal drip, and pressure in the sinus cavities may be present. Phlegm may also be yellow or green in colour.

disease known as cystic fibrosis. This is a persistent lung illness in which there is an accumulation of mucus in the lungs. It is common for children and young people to suffer from this disease. It is possible for the phlegm to be a range of colours, ranging from yellow to green to brown.

What does it imply when phlegm is brown?

It’s possible that you may describe the appearance of this colour as “rusty.” The colour brown is commonly associated with ancient blood. After your phlegm has appeared pink or crimson, you might notice that this hue appears.

The following are some common causes of brown phlegm:

Bacterial pneumonia. Phlegm that is produced by this type of pneumonia might be a green-brown or rust-colored tint.

Bronchitis caused by bacteria As the illness worsens, the sputum that is produced may have a rusty brown color. There is also the risk of having chronic bronchitis. If you smoke or are frequently exposed to fumes and other irritants, you may have a greater chance of developing chronic bronchitis than someone who does not.

disease is known as cystic fibrosis. Sputum that is a rusty colour is a possible symptom of this chronic lung illness.

Pneumoconiosis. This chronic lung condition can be caused by inhaling a variety of dust, including coal dust, asbestos dust, and silicosis dust. It is possible for the sputum to be brown.

Lung abscess. This is a cavity that is full of pus that is located inside of your lungs. It is typically surrounded by tissue that is diseased and inflammatory. You may also experience night sweats, loss of appetite, and a cough that sends out brown or blood-streaked sputum in addition to the other symptoms listed above. This mucus has a putrid odour to it as well.

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What exactly is meant by the term “white phlegm”?

White phlegm is a symptom that can accompany a number of different health issues.

The following are some common causes of white phlegm:

Bronchitis is caused by a virus Phlegm that is white in colour may be seen at the beginning of this disease. This is an indication of a viral infection. However, this can result in a secondary bacterial infection, which will cause the patient to cough up phlegm that is either green or yellow in colour.

GERD. Your digestive system is impacted by this persistent ailment. It is possible that you will cough up mucus that is thick and white in colour.

COPD. Because of this illness, your airways get constricted, and your lungs generate an excessive amount of mucus. Because of the combination, it will be difficult for your body to obtain oxygen. It is possible that you will cough up white mucus if you have this illness.

Heart failure congestive in nature. This condition arises when your heart is unable to pump blood to the rest of your body in an efficient manner. Edema is the result of fluid accumulation in various places of the body. Fluid builds up in the lungs, which can cause an increase in the production of white sputum. You might also find that your breathing becomes more laboured.

If you are having trouble breathing, you should get medical attention as soon as possible.

What exactly is meant by the term “black phlegm”?

Melanoptysis is another name for coughing up blood-tinged mucus. The presence of black phlegm could indicate that you have inhaled a significant quantity of something dark, such as coal dust. It’s also possible that this indicates you have a fungal infection, in which case you should seek medical assistance.

The following are some common causes of black phlegm:

Smoking. Using substances such as crack cocaine and cigarettes, as well as other drugs It is possible that will result in black sputum.

Pneumoconiosis. Black sputum may be a symptom of one particular form of the sickness known as black lung disease. Coal miners and others who are regularly exposed to coal dust are the most likely to be affected by this condition. It is possible to experience shortness of breath in conjunction with coughing up black phlegm.

Infection caused by fungi This infection is brought on by a dark-coloured yeast known as Exophiala dermatitidis. Phlegm that is black in colour may be the result of an unusual ailment. Those who suffer from cystic fibrosis are more likely to be affected by it.

What exactly does it mean to have clear phlegm?

On a daily basis, your body will create mucus and phlegm that is transparent. Phlegm is mostly composed of water, protein, antibodies, and dissolved salts, all of which work together to lubricate and moisturise the respiratory system.

If you notice that you have more clear phlegm than usual, it could be a sign that your body is attempting to rid itself of an irritant, such as pollen, or a virus.

The following are some common causes of clear phlegm:

Rhinitis caused by allergies. This condition is sometimes referred to as hay fever or an allergy to the nose. Being exposed to allergens such as pollen, grasses, and weeds, causes your body to generate more mucus in the nasal passages. This mucus causes postnasal drip and may cause clear phlegm to come up when you cough.

Bronchitis caused by a virus There is inflammation in the bronchial tubes of your lungs as a result of this condition. It typically starts with coughing and phlegm that is clear or white in colour. If you have a secondary bacterial infection, you may notice that the colour of your phlegm changes from clear to yellow or green. This can be a sign that the illness is getting worse.

Viral pneumonia. An infection in the lungs is the root cause of this particular form of pneumonia. Early signs include a high temperature, a dry cough, muscle soreness, and other symptoms similar to those of the flu. It’s also possible that you’ll cough up more clear phlegm.

What does it signify if your phlegm is pink or red?

There is a good chance that blood is the cause of any shade of red phlegm. Because pink is regarded to be another hue of red, it may also be an indication that there is blood present in your phlegm, albeit in a lower concentration.

Phlegm that is pink or red in colour is frequently brought on by:

Pneumonia. As it gets worse, this lung infection may create phlegm that is crimson in colour. Chills, a fever, a cough, and soreness in the chest may also be caused by it.

Tuberculosis. This bacterial infection is contagious and can be passed from one person to another when there is close physical contact between them. Coughing that lasts longer than three weeks, coughing up blood and red phlegm, fever, and night sweats are the primary signs of this condition.

Heart failure is congestive in nature (CHF). When your heart is unable to pump blood to the rest of your body adequately, this condition will develop. You might also find that you have trouble breathing in addition to coughing up mucus that is pink or crimson in colour.

Embolism of the pulmonary artery This occurs when there is a blockage in the pulmonary artery, which is located in the lungs. It is common for this obstruction to be caused by a blood clot that has travelled from another part of the body, such as your leg. It frequently results in sputum that is bloody or spotted with blood. This illness is potentially fatal and may also cause the patient to have chest pain and shortness of breath.

Cancer of the lung This illness results in a multitude of respiratory symptoms, one of which is coughing up phlegm with a reddish tint or even blood.

If you are coughing up more mucus than usual, experiencing violent coughing fits, or seeing other symptoms like weight loss or exhaustion, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician.

What happens if the consistency of the phlegm changes?

There are a variety of factors that can affect the consistency of your phlegm. On this scale, mucoid (frothy) and mucopurulent conditions are followed by purulent conditions (thick and sticky). As the infection gets worse, your phlegm may become more viscous and deeper in colour. It’s possible that it will be thicker in the morning, or if you’re not drinking enough water.

Phlegm that is clear and linked with allergies is not typically as thick or sticky as the sputum that is green and associated with bacterial bronchitis or the phlegm that is black and associated with a fungus infection.

What exactly is meant by the term “frothy phlegm”?

Going beyond colours for the moment: Is there a lot of foam in your phlegm? The term “mucoid” can also be used to describe this consistency. Phlegm that is cloudy and foamy in appearance may also be an indication of COPD. There is also the possibility of a subsequent bacterial infection, which could result in the phlegm turning yellow or green.

Is it rosy in colour and foamy in texture? If you also have high blood pressure, it’s possible that you’re in the late stages of congestive heart failure. In the event that you are experiencing this condition in addition to acute chest discomfort, perspiration, and shortness of breath, you should contact your local emergency services as soon as possible.

When to make an appointment with your physician

Even while phlegm is a natural byproduct of the respiratory system, it is not typical for it to interfere with your day-to-day activities. If you start coughing it up or notice it in your airways or throat, it is probably time to make an appointment with your primary care physician.

If the colour of your sputum is clear, yellow, or green, it is possible that you can postpone booking an appointment for a few days or even a few weeks. Continue to monitor all of your other symptoms to determine how far along your disease has progressed.

In the event that you have frothy sputum or see phlegm that is any shade of red, brown, or black, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. It’s possible that this is a symptom of something more serious going on underneath the surface.

It’s not always easy to figure out what kind of lung problem you’re having just by looking at yourself in the mirror. In order to discover the root of the problem, a medical professional may employ a number of diagnostic tools, such as X-rays and sputum examinations.

Consult your physician if you are unsure what is causing the change in hue or if you are experiencing any symptoms that are out of the ordinary.

Yellow, Brown, or Green Phlegm What It Means

How to remove sputum from the body

Phlegm might sometimes be an indication that you need to see your physician right soon. Antibiotics, other drugs, and breathing treatments are often the most effective means of treating the illnesses that cause phlegm. Surgical intervention might be required in some circumstances.

There are viral causes for a few of the disorders on this list. This indicates that antibiotics will not be effective against them. Instead, all you need to do to heal is get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water, and eat healthily.

You could also try taking actions such as:

Introducing a humidifier into your living environment. Maintaining a humid environment might facilitate the loosening of phlegm, making it easier for a person to cough it out.

gargling with a solution containing salt. Gargle with a solution consisting of one cup of warm water and one-half to three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt to break up any mucus in your throat that may be caused by allergies or a sinus infection.

utilising the use of eucalyptus oil. This essential oil, which may be found in products such as Vicks VapoRub, serves to relieve chest congestion by breaking up mucus in the respiratory tract.

Using an expectorant that can be purchased over the counter. Mucus can be more easily coughed up with the help of medications like guaifenesin (Mucinex), which thins your mucus and allows it to flow more freely. This treatment is available in versions that are appropriate for both adults and children.


Phlegm is a protective mucus that is produced by your respiratory system to keep your lungs healthy. It’s possible that you don’t even notice your sputum unless you have an underlying medical condition. You will only be able to cough it up if you are unwell or if you have a lung illness that is chronic.

If you do end up coughing it up, pay close attention to how it looks. If you observe a shift in colour, consistency, or volume, you should get in touch with your primary care physician to schedule an appointment.

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