Question of the Week Podcast

Question of the Week episode

Mon, 10th Feb 2014

Is green snot better than yellow?

Nose Picking (c)

Does the colour of your snot signify the severity or stage of your cold?

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  • Is green mucus a sign of a bacterial infection?

    Is it true that if you have a chest or head cold, and the mucus turns yellow or green, this is a sign of a bacterial infection and requires antibiotics? Is this a way to tell viral from bacterial infection? Surely in this age of resistant bugs, it is better to let mild in...



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Green and yellow mucus color suggests you might need antibiotic treatment.  The green color is generally caused by an enzyme (myeloperoxidase), released by white blood cells (neutrophils) dying as your body attempts to fight a bacterial infection.    Colorful mucus does not always mean you have a harmful bacterial infection,  but a recent study found green sputum had harmful bacteria in it 59 out of every 100 times. 

In the same study, yellow sputum had harmful bacteria in it 46 out of every 100 times.

The results of this study showed that green mucus coughed up from patient's lungs had harmful bacteria more frequently than yellow mucus.  Still,  there were at least 40 times in 100 when colorful mucus was not caused by harmful bacteria. snowyco, Fri, 21st Feb 2014

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