What are the Most Common Causes of Yellow Phlegm from the Nose?

N. Madison
N. Madison

An individual may notice phlegm, also referred to as mucus, coming from the nose for a variety of different reasons. The flow of yellow phlegm from the nose almost always means that some type of irritation or inflammation is present. In many cases, a person notices phlegm coming from the nose because of a virus, including a common cold, an allergy, or even asthma. Sometimes, however, a bacterial infection that affects the respiratory system is at fault instead.

A common cold may cause yellow phlegm coming from the nose.
A common cold may cause yellow phlegm coming from the nose.

Often, when a person notices a discharge of yellow phlegm from the nose, he assumes it indicates the presence of a serious infection. In truth, however, this often occurs when a person has only a minor viral infection, including one as simple as a common cold. When a person has a viral infection, the phlegm that comes from his nose typically starts out clear and gradually turns yellow. This is usually one of the signs that the body is fighting an infection. It doesn’t always mean that the body is fighting an infection that is bacterial or serious in nature, however.

Yellow phlegm does not always indicate the presence of a serious infection.
Yellow phlegm does not always indicate the presence of a serious infection.

Though yellow phlegm coming from the nose doesn’t always mean a person has a serious infection, it does indicate one sometimes. When a person has yellow phlegm coming from the nose, it can mean a person has a bacterial infection instead of one caused by a virus. This is particularly true when the yellow mucus is thick or sticky, though thinner yellow mucus can develop with a bacterial infection as well. Some bacterial infections also are accompanied by yellow phlegm that eventually turns green.

Yellow phlegm may be indicative of a common cold.
Yellow phlegm may be indicative of a common cold.

The presence of white blood cells called leukocytes is often responsible for the flow of yellow phlegm from the nose when a person has an infection. The phlegm starts out clear and may start to turn yellow after about two or three days. This change in color is the result of a buildup of white blood cells in the nasal passages.

Drinking plenty of water can help clear phlegm from the nose.
Drinking plenty of water can help clear phlegm from the nose.

Though the presence of yellow phlegm from the nose isn’t always a sign of a serious infection, this doesn’t mean a person should ignore it. In the event that yellow mucus lasts for more than about seven days, an individual may do well to seek evaluation from his doctor. Additionally, an individual may seek medical attention if he has symptoms that seem more severe than one might expect with a minor infection.

Yellow mucus that lasts more than seven days should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Yellow mucus that lasts more than seven days should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Some people use specially designed pots to flush and clear their phlegm from their nasal passages.
Some people use specially designed pots to flush and clear their phlegm from their nasal passages.
Nasal spray may be used to treat yellow nasal phlegm caused by a sinus infection.
Nasal spray may be used to treat yellow nasal phlegm caused by a sinus infection.
Drinking caffeinated beverages may contribute to excess phlegm, whether there is an infection present or not.
Drinking caffeinated beverages may contribute to excess phlegm, whether there is an infection present or not.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

donasmrs

I had yellow mucus from my nose once because of a piercing. My nose piercing got infected and I had yellow discharge with a terrible smell. I had to take antibiotics.

fify

@alisha-- Phlegm doesn't always originate in the lungs, it can also originate in the sinuses and the ears when there is an infection.

I get yellow phlegm from my nose when I have a sinus infection. I've asked my doctor about this and he said that it's nothing to worry about. Apparently, yellow phlegm means that the immune system cells are actively fighting an infection.

When I get phlegm because of my sinuses, I take an over-the-counter decongestant and that usually does the trick.

discographer

I've had a cough with yellow phlegm before when I had throat and upper respiratory infections. But the phlegm always came from my throat and never my nose. I don't really understand how phlegm can come from the nose, because doesn't phlegm form in the lungs?

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