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What is Nasal Mucus?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Nasal mucus is a substance produced in the nose by mucous membranes. Mucus is produced in many parts of the body for a variety of different reasons. The primary reason for nasal mucus is to protect the body from harmful agents that might enter and infect a person. Another reason for mucus in the nose is to keep the skin inside the nostrils from drying out.

Mucus is made from cells that tend to absorb massive quantities of any liquid. These cells are then mixed with the body’s natural liquids and they expand. Mucus also has other cells that carry antibodies and some that are actually antiseptic, which means they can sometimes directly kill bacteria they encounter. The consistency of mucus often changes depending on how much water is mixed with it, so sometimes it can be very runny, or it may be thick or even crusty.

A person’s body produces nasal mucus in response to many perceived threats. For example, if the body detects any allergens in the air, it will produce more mucus as a way of getting rid of it. In this way, nasal mucus is almost like tree sap. Both tree sap and nasal mucus work to trap incoming threats, and they both dry up, thereby neutralizing those threats. A lot of mucus will run out of the nose, but a good portion of it is also generally swallowed, which allows the stomach to destroy any threats trapped inside.

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The color of nasal mucus can sometimes give clues to the cause. Most doctors say that clear mucus is usually a sign of some kind of immediate physical response, which will generally suggest allergies or an immediate bacterial threat. Many doctors believe that white mucus might suggest some kind of viral infection, while dark green mucus is known to suggest a long-standing bacterial infection. The color of mucus isn’t always considered a reliable indicator, but in some cases, people can use it to make cursory judgments about their condition.

There are many treatments for excessive nasal mucus, along with several home remedies. The most basic remedy is to simply blow the nose, but some doctors think this can cause sinus infections. There are also drugs called antihistamines that limit the body's immune response, and they can potentially lessen nasal mucus. Some experts suggest that interfering with mucus can actually be counterproductive because it may short-circuit the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

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burcidi
Post 3

Whenever I have sinus issues, I get thick nasal mucus. It's so difficult to breathe when it happens. There are only two things that give me relief. One is a humidifier which I use all night when I have nasal congestion. The other is a neti pot which I use to flush out my nose using saline solution.

I don't know what I would do without these because I get sinus and nasal congestion about three times a year. And each time, the congestion lasts for several weeks.

literally45
Post 2

@SarahGen-- Yellow mucus is a sign of infection. It's normal to get more mucus when there is an ongoing infection because the body is trying to get rid of bacteria, viruses and their remains. The color of mucus comes from macrophages. These are cells produced by the immune system, it's their job to get bacteria and viruses out of the body. Sometimes dead skin cells are found in mucus too and they can affect the color.

If you're asking about how an infection in your lungs or ears cause mucus in your nose, it's because they're all connected. Phlegm from the lungs is removed via the throat. The throat, nose and ears have passageways to one another.

SarahGen
Post 1

Why do I get yellow nasal mucus when I have an upper respiratory infection or an ear infection?

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