What Are the Common Causes of Green Saliva?

Erin J. Hill

In most cases, green saliva is not actually saliva at all, but stomach bile, vomit, or other digestive enzymes. Sometimes saliva will become colored when one eats certain foods, such as lime-flavored snacks or certain vegetables. This is temporary and is not the sign of a health condition. At other times, someone may confuse mucus from the nasal cavities or lungs for green saliva. When mucus is dark like this, it usually signals an infection.

A doctor should be consulted right away for persistent or unexplained green saliva.
A doctor should be consulted right away for persistent or unexplained green saliva.

Occasionally, the appearance of greenish saliva is caused by stomach bile or vomit rising into the throat and mouth. This can be caused by acid reflux disorders, digestive upset, and other gastrointestinal problems. If it is an occasional issue, green bile may not automatically mean there is a problem. If it continues, or is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting or abdominal pain, it should be investigated by a doctor.

Lung infections are usually accompanied by coughing and trouble breathing.
Lung infections are usually accompanied by coughing and trouble breathing.

Many times people mistake mucus for green saliva. This is perhaps the most common reason for green fluid being in the mouth, since mucus can come from both the nasal passages and the lungs. When infection is present, mucus will usually be yellow or greenish in color, and it may have a slight odor. It's also often thick, but this will vary. If mucus is coming from the nasal passages, it usually means the person is suffering from a sinus infection or cold. Lung infections are more serious, and are usually accompanied by coughing, trouble breathing, wheezing, and other symptoms.

Green saliva can occur if a person eats something that temporarily dyes the saliva a different color.
Green saliva can occur if a person eats something that temporarily dyes the saliva a different color.

An infection usually needs to be treated by a doctor, especially one found in the lungs. Sinus infections often clear up on their own. Lung infections may worsen and lead to serious complications. Anyone who notices a substance resembling green saliva upon coughing or wheezing should consult with a physician right away for further investigation.

Mucus is often mistaken for green saliva.
Mucus is often mistaken for green saliva.

Green saliva can also appear if one eats something that temporarily dyes the saliva an odd color. For instance, eating green-colored candy or dark green vegetables can cause the saliva to appear green. This is temporary and will clear up within several minutes to an hour or so, depending on the quantity eaten and how dark the saliva has become.

Acid reflux and other gastrointestinal disorders may be the cause of green saliva.
Acid reflux and other gastrointestinal disorders may be the cause of green saliva.

Those who are suffering from any severe or unusual symptoms should consult a doctor. If saliva appears to be an odd color without any known cause, this should be checked right away. In some cases, saliva may also be thicker than usual.

A sinus infection can cause some individuals to discharge yellow or green mucus.
A sinus infection can cause some individuals to discharge yellow or green mucus.
Green saliva may actually be vomit that has risen to the mouth and throat.
Green saliva may actually be vomit that has risen to the mouth and throat.
A person suffering with a cold may confuse mucus for green saliva.
A person suffering with a cold may confuse mucus for green saliva.

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Discussion Comments

pastanaga

@indigomoth - I've noticed that I sometimes get a green tongue after eating a lot of crunchy dried green peas.

I actually suspect this might be because they use a dye in the peas so they stay a vivid green and don't turn brown or whatever they would ordinarily turn.

I suspect they probably put dyes into a lot of foods where you wouldn't expect them, but I'd be disappointed if this was true of the peas, since I always thought of them as a relatively healthy snack.

indigomoth

I can remember once as a child at a family gathering I decided to make some exciting drinks for my younger cousins and basically give them milk with a whole lot of sugar and food coloring in it.

Their mother thought they had suddenly become ill because their tongues turned green and apparently (my mother told me much later) they were urinating green as well for a while.

My aunt was not very happy with me after that, although, to be honest, I was delighted and wanted to get a green tongue of my very own!

browncoat

Sinus infections may clear up on their own, but it's often quicker if you get some antibiotics to help. Otherwise it can take forever, particularly if you've been unfortunately to get an infection during an allergy season or something like that.

I don't have particularly strong allergies but I do tend to get them a bit around spring and the couple of times that has coincided with a sinus infection the misery just seemed to go on and on.

I think it's probably because your sinuses are already inflamed with the allergies and then they have to cope with the infection.

It can cause a terrible headache and fever and all kinds of other symptoms as well, so it's not something I'm happy to just sit back and wait for it to go away on its own.

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