You may not give much thought to reaching for a tissue to blow your nose, but every time you wipe your runny nose, the contents of your tissues will offer some insightful cues into your current state of health. In normal, healthy individuals, mucus is produced throughout the day—shockingly more than a liter each day — but most people don’t notice, because it is thin, clear mucus that is swallowed as part of normal respiratory tract activity. If you’re sick, suffering from allergies, out in the cold, or exposed to airborne irritants, your mucus may become much more evident as you begin to feel stuffed up and reach for the box of facial tissues. If you have ever looked at a tissue after you’ve sneezed or blown your nose, you know that mucus can vary substantially in consistency and color. What you may not know is that various colors can indicate medical conditions ranging from mild to severe, so it’s important to pay attention when you feel stuffed up. Let’s get a closer look at the signals your snot might be sending when you blow your nose.

You’re Sick

During cold and flu season especially, a runny nose may be a source of dread, because it can be the first indicator of these seasonal respiratory illnesses. If you’re mucus is yellow or green, it’s a sure sign that you’ve come down with something. White or cloudy but colorless mucus may not necessarily mean that you’re sick, but it might put you on high alert, because it does indicate some irritation that may be related to a cold or flu. As mucus leans more toward the yellow and green end of the spectrum, it will thicken as the immune system rapidly sends white blood cells to the sight of your infection, causing more severe congestion and discomfort.

You Have a Nosebleed

If you see red or pink hues in your tissues, you can probably guess that there’s blood in your mucus. This is an indication of broken nasal tissue, which might occur due to impact after an injury or a simple nosebleed. Fortunately, it’s generally nothing to worry about.

You Should Lay Off the Cigarettes

When you see an ominous black or brown tinge in your handkerchief, this could be a sign of a serious fungal infection if you have been stuffed up consistently and aren’t a regular smoker. If you do smoke, black mucus might just be a sign that you’re inhaling too much smoke and could benefit from quitting—which can bring a wealth of other health benefits too.

You Need an Antihistamine

Seasonal allergies can cause mucus to thicken as nasal passages become inflamed and irritated, and this will usually be indicated by white or cloudy mucus. This thickened and clouded mucus may also be a sign of dehydration, so be sure that you’re getting enough water if you are blowing your nose more frequently.

When you see the signs that your immune system is working overtime, don’t hesitate to visit MeMD for an online exam with a board certified medical provider. We’ll help you get to the bottom of your symptoms so that you can get back to your routine quickly.


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