What Are the Common Causes of Green Pus?

Erin J. Hill

Green pus is almost always a sign of infection somewhere in the body, though there are a number of different specific causes. In general, the greenish color indicates the presence of certain antibacterial proteins. This isn’t in and of itself very telling when it comes to seriousness or harmfulness of the infection, and it’s usually just a matter of individual immune response and body chemistry. These sorts of proteins are usually carried in the white blood cells and can be produced for a number of reasons. Green pus can be concerning to see, but in most cases it will go away on its own. Anyone who is worried about the amount of pus they see, particularly if it seems to change color or if the condition causing it seems to be getting worse, should probably talk to a medical expert for help. Sometimes pus-related infections require strong medications like antibiotics to go away.

Acne may lead to green pus buildup.
Acne may lead to green pus buildup.

Antibacterial Proteins

Pus is most commonly a sort of brownish-yellow color, and green tinges are usually a bit more unusual. This doesn’t mean that green is necessarily any more concerning or alarming, though. Most all pus is made up of dead bacterial cells and other proteins that are basically waste products from the body’s war against a particular infection. A green color happens most often when there is an enzyme known as myeloperoxidase in with this mix. Myeloperoxidase is a specific antibacterial protein that is made by white blood cells, and can be helpful in fighting off certain kinds of infections.

Green pus may be present with skin infections.
Green pus may be present with skin infections.

Not everyone’s cells make this enzyme, nor do all make it in response to any specific sort of infection. In most cases, green coloring simply indicates that this protein has been secreted. It doesn’t say much about the severity of the infection or its causes.

If pain and fever accompanies an infection site with green pus, medical attention may be required.
If pain and fever accompanies an infection site with green pus, medical attention may be required.

Common Sightings

Green pus frequently occurs in response to upper respiratory infections like bronchitis or sinus infections. People suffering from these conditions may cough up or sneeze out pus, also sometimes called “mucus” when it occurs in the respiratory tract, that looks somewhat green. In most cases the pus will change colors as the infection progresses, but not always. This sort of coloring may also be present in simple problems like acne build-up, as well as in more serious conditions like internal abscesses and progressed skin infections.

Pus typically signals an infection, some of which can be treated with antibiotics.
Pus typically signals an infection, some of which can be treated with antibiotics.

Causes for Concern

Pus color itself doesn’t usually say anything about how serious an infection is, but there are certain warning signs that individuals should be aware of in terms of looking out for conditions that may be more worrisome. Open wounds that are very painful and which have large amount of pus in any color should usually be checked by a doctor, for instance. Pus that occurs internally may be harder to notice. The first sign of a serious internal infection is usually pain in the area of the problem and a high fever. For this reason, anyone with who has pain in a generalized location combined with a fever is usually wise to get a professional opinion and formal check-up.

Treatment and Care

Infections that produce green pus will often go away on their own, but not always. In general, experts recommend that people get help if their pus stays bright and vibrant in color for more than about a week, since this can indicate an on-going infection that may be growing in strength; changing colors can also be a cause for alarm, since this can indicate an escalated immune response. Noticing more pus can also be a sing of a problem, particularly if the condition is on-going. Most infections that don’t seem to be going away on their own are treated with antibiotic medications. These have to be prescribed by a doctor in many countries since specific antibiotics are more appropriate for treating certain types of infections.

In terms of basic care, anyone with an open wound should clean it thoroughly and cover it with a bandage to prevent dirt and bacteria from entering. It is also a good idea for people to use an antibacterial ointment on external wounds. If pus, redness, swelling, pain, or oozing or any kind occurs, an infection has more than likely taken hold and further treatment may be necessary.

Common causes of green pus may include sinus infections.
Common causes of green pus may include sinus infections.

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Discussion Comments


It's amazing how much pus there can actually be in a sore spot, below the surface. For some reason I'm prone to getting an infection in a spot around my eye and sometimes it swells up so much it's embarrassing and the doctor has to drain it.

I'm always a little bit shocked by how much fluid comes out of it. I guess it just builds up and builds up until it becomes really obvious and painful.

They put me on antibiotics, but they only work in the short term unfortunately. I guess I'm lucky that the pus is never green, but usually white or yellow, so I'm not in danger from a serious infection, but it is very annoying.


@Iluviaporos - If there is any pus at all, I would go to a doctor for surgical scars. It's just too easy to pick up an infection in a hospital these days.

I think people mistake other fluids for pus though. If it is actually thick and green or yellow and is still liquid, then it is pus. If it's crusty it might just be lymph fluid or the wound trying to scab over, which is perfectly natural and healthy.


@anon348904 - I'm not a doctor and I think you should definitely go to get the advice of a doctor if you're worried, but I would suggest that it depends on how much pus there is in the wound. I sounds like there is only a little bit of pus on the bandaid which isn't too bad.

I've had cuts that have become a little bit infected and which had a little bit of pus in them, but which cleared up very quickly. There wasn't any need for extra medication.

But, if your incisions start looking red or hot and if there is more than a little bit of pus then I would go straight to the doctor. The problem with surgical wounds is that they are quite deep, so an infection can go very deep very quickly.


I had surgery in mid September and three of my incisions opened. But they started healing and I started putting neosporin on them to help the scarring with the healing. I took my the bandaid off and it had greenish yellow pus on it. Does it mean it's infected?

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