What Are Common Causes of Green Mucus?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2019
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Green mucus typically indicates the presence of an infection, whether viral or bacterial. It is a sign that the body's immune system is fighting off a bacterium or virus, often resulting in an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). The common cold is one of the most common URTIs that leads to green mucus. Some patients develop sinusitis after a cold, which can result in the continuation of greenish mucus in the sinuses as the result of inflamed membranes. Other URTIs, including tonsillitis and rhinitis, also can result in mucus of this color in the throat and sinuses.

One of the most common causes of green mucus is the common cold, which originates from a virus. The symptoms usually include a runny nose, frequent sneezing and a sore throat. The green mucus often comes from both the nose and the throat, because a cough that produces discharge is common. Antibiotics do not fight viruses, so the typical treatment for a cold is lots of liquids, such as water and soup, along with a lot of rest. The symptoms can be treated with saline sprays to relieve congestion, and by gargling salt water to soothe a sore throat.


Sometimes a cold seems to be resolved, only to be followed by sinusitis, which occurs when the nasal membranes are irritated by an infection. Other than green mucus, symptoms include a cough, fatigue and frequent headaches. Many patients find it difficult to breathe because of nasal congestion and also cannot smell or taste food very well, often leading to loss of appetite. Pressure in the face, teeth and ears is another symptom of sinusitis. Home remedies for this condition include hydration, rest and acetaminophen to relieve facial pressure; doctors often prescribe amoxicillin to kill any bacteria in the sinus membranes.

Other upper respiratory tract infections that result in green discharge include an infection in the pharynx, larynx, sinuses or all of these. For example, tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils, causing the tissue to become red and dotted with pus that is white, yellow or green. Rhinitis, on the other hand, describes a stuffy nose that is caused by either allergens or a virus. It is often characterized by congestion, green mucus in the nose and swollen eyelids. Avoiding allergens is usually the best way to treat rhinitis caused by allergies, while nasal sprays and decongestants are best for cases caused by viruses.


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Post 3

I've experienced green mucus only once, due to a sinus infection. Did you guys know that mucus becomes green because of white blood cells? When there are bacteria in the body, lots of white blood cells are sent to the area to destroy the bacteria. They are called macrophages. They're the reason for mucus being green.

I think it's kind of cool. How else would we know that there is a serious infection in our body?

Post 2

@ddljohn-- I'm glad that you've made an appointment with your doctor. You might have bronchitis, it happened to me once. Mine also started as a cold, I didn't go to the doctor and things got worse. I started coughing constantly, hacking up green mucus (sorry for the description), and wheezing as well. I was diagnosed with bronchitis and put on strong antibiotics. The antibiotic treatment cleared up my infection quickly.

My doctor said that if I had waited longer, my bronchitis could have even turned into pneumonia! So it's not a good idea to delay treatment when a cold isn't going away, especially if there is green or yellow mucus.

Post 1

I've had a cold for two weeks and now I've started coughing up green mucus as well. I was hoping that my cold would go away on its own but I guess it's not going to happen. I've made an appointment with my doctor.

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