Think about snot. Gross, right? Have you ever seen someone look into his or her tissue after sneezing? You might have wondered what they were thinking. Why would anyone want to look at the icky mucus running out of his or her nose? Well, they may be onto something. It turns out that snot is a good measure of your health.
Snot may be just another nasty bodily function you wish would go away, but it actually has a greater purpose. The color, texture and thickness of your mucus can be an indicator of your health. It’s one way to tell during cold and flu season if your body has an infection, if you have allergies, and when it may be time to see a doctor.
The Importance of Mucus
Every day, our bodies produce up to 2 quarts of mucus—that’s a half-gallon, or about 8 cups worth! This moist film helps keep our nose, mouth and throat from drying out. It’s part of our body’s way of fighting off bacteria, viruses and infections, protecting our lungs and the rest of our body from contaminants such as dust, smoke, and harmful microbes.
According to Erich P. Voigt, M.D., associate professor in the department of otolaryngology at NYU Langone Medical Center, “normal snot (or nasal mucus) is filled with infection-fighting antibodies, which kill off pathogens we inhale before they have the chance to make us ill. Nasal mucus also moisturizes the air we breathe and regulates its temperature so it’s just right before entering our lungs.”
When we get sick, our mucus may change color or thicken, our nose tissue may become swollen or inflamed, we may have a stuffy or runny nose, or we may experience other upper respiratory-related discomfort.
Why is My Snot Green?
The color of our mucus is a good measure of how sick you may be. Read more below to find out what your snot is trying to tell you.
Clear mucus means you’re healthy.
Clear, runny mucus accompanied by itching and sneezing probably means you have seasonal allergies. If it lasts longer than three or four days, you may have an infection.
As an article in Health points out, “When we get sick with a cold or sinus infection, our bodies begin to produce more mucus than normal to double down on the viral or bacterial invaders.”
Red or pink mucus contains blood from broken blood vessels, which means you may be blowing your nose too hard.
Cloudy white mucus indicates the beginning of a cold, allergies, or dehydration. It’s important to rest and drink lots of water during this stage, making sure to support your body with immune support products, so it can fight off microbes.
Thick, yellow mucus means your immune system is fighting the early stages of a respiratory tract infection, and you may be experiencing congestion. It indicates a higher concentration of living and dead white blood cells hard at work battling a bug. It may be time to see your doctor.
Green mucus indicates an infection. The color is caused by the presence of a green enzyme called myeloperoxidase, which helps produce immune cells called neutrophils.
Darker gold mucus that is thick and sticky may indicate a fungal sinusitis caused by mold spores.
Black mucus could mean you may have inhaled dark-colored particles, like smoke from a fire or heavy exhaust, or you may have a chronic sinus or fungal infection. Don’t wait. It’s time to see your doctor!
Watch this video from The American Chemical Society and PBS for more tips!
Not Feeling Well? Try This.
If you’re not sure if you have allergies, a cold, or something else, there are many seasonal support products to get your health back on track, including dietary supplements, essential oils, and nasal rinsing systems to promote feelings of comfort during seasonal challenges.
Essential oils: Nasal inhalation-related aromatherapy products made with essential oils provide natural, temporary relief from minor symptoms of respiratory discomfort.
Herbal tea: Drinking lots of water and warm fluids such as calming herbal teas will help flush out and detox your body, while keeping you hydrated.
Humidifier: Keep the air in your home or office moist year-round with a humidifier to help your sinuses drain properly, especially during the winter when the heater is running constantly, or if you live in an arid climate such as the desert.
Indoor air quality: If you have allergies, it’s important to remove irritants from your home or office by vacuuming and dusting regularly, change out air filters at least every 60-90 days, and maintain indoor air quality.
Probiotics: If you get colds or infections often, you might consider that immune support begins in the gut. Taking a daily probiotic may help support a healthy gut, as well as immune health.
Saline nasal rinse, spray or neti pot: Use a sterile, drug-free nasal rinsing system, such as Nasaline from Squip, to wash away allergens, thin out mucus and provide temporary relief from symptoms associated with allergies, colds or the flu.
Seasonal relief: Sometimes the immune system overreacts to a substance it sees as harmful. To temporarily relieve these types of symptoms, try these natural seasonal relief options.
How do you stay healthy during year-round? Share your tips in our comments below!