What your mucus can tell you about your health

November 13, 2017 | by Nina Lundberg, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Do you make a habit of checking out your snot after you blow your nose?

Most people don’t. I admit, it sounds pretty gross. But if you’re feeling ill, your mucus could give you a clue about what’s going on.

First of all, why do we even have nasal mucus? It helps trap dirt and bacteria and keeps your nasal passages moisturized.

Normal mucus is clear to white. When it starts to look yellow or green, it’s because you have a virus, bacterial infection or allergy.

You really can’t tell whether it’s a virus, bacteria or allergy that’s causing the color change. But the color indicates your body is fighting off an intruder.

If your mucus is tinged red or brown, it’s blood (if it’s black, it’s likely dust or dirt). Blood in your mucus could result from frequent nose blowing or breathing very dry air. If you’re seeing a lot of blood in your mucus, however, tell your doctor.

Stuffy sinuses are uncomfortable. And if they’re not cared for, infections can grow in the mucus-clogged nasal passages.

On its website, Harvard Medical School lists some excellent ways to alleviate sinus congestion and help prevent sinusitis:

  • Run water through your nasal passages daily. Run water gently into the nasal passages to help clear excess mucus and moisten membranes. Good times to do it are in the morning and at night, when you brush your teeth. During the day, use nasal saline spray to moisten nasal passages.
  • Drink more water. Good hydration helps keep the mucus thin and loose. Have a bottle of water at your desk at work, or put a glass near the kitchen sink to remind you to drink water throughout the day.
  • Breathe in steam. Linger in a hot shower. Or bring water to a boil, and pour it into a pan; place a towel over your head, and carefully bend over the pan to inhale the steam. To avoid burns, keep your distance at first and move in gradually to a comfortable space.
  • Get a humidifier. A humidifier in your home (in particular, by your bed) and where you work can help prevent nasal passages from drying out. Keep humidifiers clean and free of bacteria and mold.
  • Prop up your head. Mucus pools in your sinuses at night when your head is down, so have your head propped up with pillows or a wedge during sleep.
  • Be gentle with your nose. Blow your nose gently, one nostril at a time. Forceful blowing can irritate the nasal passages and propel bacteria-laden mucus back up into your sinuses.

Finding a new family doctor can be downright daunting. We can help. Choose the primary care or family doctor for you.

Got a stuffy nose, sinus infection or flu? Our Walk-In Clinics can help you feel better, no appointment needed.

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