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General Practice 2023

What does the color of phlegm mean: green, white, yellow or brown

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What does the color of phlegm mean: green, white, yellow or brown
What does the color of phlegm mean: green, white, yellow or brown
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The presence of phlegm is a sign that indicates some alteration in the respiratory system. The most common causes include respiratory allergy, a cold, or the flu, which cause a clear or whitish phlegm.

However, the color of the phlegm may vary, especially when there is some type of infection present, and it may become more yellowish or greenish. In addition, phlegm can also be accompanied by blood, which can turn red or pink.

Regardless of color, it is always advisable to consult a general practitioner or a pulmonologist, to identify the cause and initiate the most appropriate treatment, especially when there are other associated symptoms such as fever, wheezing or shortness of breath, for example..

Next we indicate the main colors of phlegm and what they can mean:

1. Green or yellow phlegm

These colors normally appear when neutrophils are present in the airways, which are the body's defense cells that produce a green protein that is dissolved in the phlegm, and the color varies according to the amount of protein. Thus, this type of phlegm may indicate an infection of the respiratory tract or sinuses, such as pharyngitis or pneumonia, for example.

See what other signs may indicate a lung infection.

What to do: A pulmonologist or general practitioner should be consulted to identify which type of infection is causing the phlegm and start treatment with the appropriate antibiotic.

2. Bloody or red phlegm

When there is blood in the phlegm in a small amount, it is usually a sign of bronchitis, however, when there is a lot of blood in the phlegm it can indicate more serious problems such as tuberculosis, pneumonia or lung cancer. Understand when it can be bronchitis.

What to do: It is necessary to consult a pulmonologist for diagnostic tests, such as X-ray and microbiological culture from sputum, to identify the problem and initiate appropriate treatment, which is usually done with the use of bronchodilators, in the case of bronchitis, or antibiotics in the case of tuberculosis, and the treatment should be carried out as indicated by the doctor.

3. White or gray phlegm

This type of phlegm is usually a sign of inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, but it can also occur during a flu or sinusitis, when the sinuses become too full and begin to drain into the throat.

In rarer cases, this coloration can also occur when eating a lot of dairy products, as milk derivatives make the phlegm thicker, presenting a whitish color when it is eliminated.

What to do: You should drink about 2 liters of water a day to help eliminate phlegm and, if there is no improvement, you should consult a clinician. to begin proper treatment of the problem causing the catarrh.

In the case of flu, for example, treatment is usually done with the aim of relieving symptoms, and the doctor recommends the use of Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, for example. Sinusitis can also be treated this way, but the doctor may also recommend the use of corticosteroids or antibiotics depending on the cause of sinusitis.

4. Brown or black phlegm

Smokers and workers in places with a lot of pollution, such as mines or bricklayers, usually have brown or black phlegm, which happens due to the presence of particles such as tar or resin that are stuck in the respiratory tract. In addition, brown phlegm can also arise due to the ingestion of some foods, such as chocolate, coffee or red wine, for example.

What to do: It is recommended to avoid places with a lot of dust or pollution, as well as stop smoking, if that is the case.

5. Pink phlegm

Cough with pink phlegm is usually an indicator that there is fluid in the lungs and is therefore very common in cases of heart problems such as heart failure, in which blood accumulates around the lungs, causing the entry of fluid into the lungs.

What to do: In this case, it is important to consult a pulmonologist or general cardiologist to adapt the treatment of the problem that is causing pink phlegm, which can be done with the ingestion of diuretic drugs such as Furosemide for heart problems.

What can indicate the consistency of phlegm

Normal and he althy phlegm usually has a more liquid consistency and, therefore, is easily reabsorbed by the body and does not make breathing difficult. However, the phlegm can get thicker, especially due to situations like:

  • Being in a very dry environment, such as in an air-conditioned room;
  • Not drinking enough water during the day;
  • Having a respiratory allergy to pollen or dust, for example;
  • Take medications that can dry up secretions, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, or decongestants.

Furthermore, phlegm also thickens during colds or flu, for example, but any other infection can also have this result. This happens because the body has more work to eliminate viruses and bacteria and, therefore, needs more water to function, leaving the phlegm drier.

Thus, to eliminate thick phlegm, it is very important to drink about 2 liters of water a day and nebulize with water or saline solution, because it helps to fluidize the secretions and facilitates their elimination. In addition, there are some home remedies with expectorant properties that help to eliminate phlegm, know which home remedies to eliminate sputum.

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