Ever wondered what is the sticky fluid that you cough up when down with a respiratory infection? It is a type of mucus that is secreted by the mucous membranes. It was believed in the medieval times that phlegm was one of the four bodily humors. These bodily humors are body fluids that influence the body health. Phlegm was thought to possess the property of coldness and wetness. It was due to phlegm that a person became apathetic and has a sluggish behavior. Thus, the old word belief has been upheld by the word phlegmatic.
Phlegm Color Guide
The color of phlegm can help diagnose a lot about the person's health. Different phlegm color, means a different type of infection. The following phlegm color meaning will help you understand the infection or cause better.
White phlegm is very rarely observed. It could be a sign of upper respiratory tract infection or indicates sinus congestion or sinus pressure. It could also indicate chronic heart failure in some cases. White phlegm is also an indication of bronchitis.
Clear or Pale Phlegm:
Clear, pale or watery phlegm is generally considered as normal. It is secreted by the sinus membranes and helps in functioning of the breathing mechanism. Clear phlegm is secreted abundantly and therefore sometimes drips from the nose. It may also be a sign of allergic reaction or infection by a cold virus. Some people suffering from hay fever may also drip clear or watery phlegm from their nose.
Light yellow phlegm color is a sign of a well-functioning immune system. It signifies that your immune system is having tough fight within your body and is at the beginning or end of a sinus infection. It is a sign of viral infection in the upper respiratory tract. Many times breathing dry air will also cause drainage of light yellow color phlegm.
Dark Yellow Color:
It means a bacterial infection or lower respiratory tract infection. If one develops chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath along with dark yellow color phlegm, they should seek medical attention.
Brown phlegm color meaning is often associated with people who smoke. You can find the phlegm mixed with your saliva. When you spread out the phlegm, you will find it to be grainy textured. This means it is mixed with dust and foreign matter due to damage to cilia commonly observed in COPD patients. If you are smoking too much, the phlegm color will be brown due to resin sticking to it. Just cut down on your smoking if you observe this, as it may worsen the underlying respiratory problems. Also, people who have inhaled a lot of dust and smoke, may throw up brown phlegm. It may also be a sign of chronic bronchitis, especially in chain smokers.
When one throws up brownish-green/yellow phlegm along with a bit of vomit, it may be a sign of intussusception. This is a serious disorder that is accompanied by severe abdominal pain, lump in abdomen, fever, lethargy, diarrhea. This disorder occurs when one part of intestine gets invaginated into another part of the intestine. This condition is very common in children than adults. Thus, if one observes rectal bleeding, red jelly-like stools with blood, painful episodes of breathing, along with brownish-green/yellow phlegm, they should seek immediate medical help.
Green Color Phlegm:
Green phlegm color means you have been infected and is commonly observed in cases of pneumonia and internal micro-bleedings. The phlegm is green due to an enzyme called myeloperoxidases (MPO), that is green in color. It is present in white blood cells and bacteria attracts more white cells than viruses. It could also indicate bronchitis, when accompanied by coughing, fatigue, wheezing, etc. Sinus infection, hay fever as well as house mites can also lead to green phlegm.
Blood Color Phlegm:
Blood in phlegm is a benign symptom of a bronchitis. The phlegm is normally streaked with blood. When you are coughing up a significant amount of blood, it maybe a sign of major illness such as tuberculosis. You need to seek immediate medical attention, if the amount of blood is more than normal. If one coughs up a lot of blood along with mucus, they should immediately call the emergency services.
Pink Color Phlegm:
Pink colored phlegm appears mucus tinged with pink color. It is indicative of serious conditions like chronic heart failure. If it appears suddenly along with fatigue, weakness, irregular heartbeat, swollen abdomen, swelling of extremities, persistent cough with pink or white mucus, it could indicate acute heart failure that requires immediate medical help.
When one throws up frothy phlegm, it indicates gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is a condition that is caused by stomach acid reaching the esophagus and damaging the muscular tube. It culd also be caused by pneumonia and lung edema. Thus, a doctors attention is required in all these cases.
The phlegm is produced in the lungs, throat passages, bronchial tubes, bronchiole and other organs of the respiratory system except the nasal cavity.
Uses of Phlegm
Now that we know the reasons and indications of the colored phlegm drained out of the body, it is important to understand its uses. The uses of phlegm are as follows:
- Helping the immune system when overworked
- It helps in trapping all the bacteria, virus, dust and other foreign bodies
- It helps in protecting the lungs from infection and possible damage from an infectious organism
- It also helps in protection all the respiratory system organs
Phlegm serves as an important symptom of a respiratory infection. It may signify the following illnesses:
- Acute respiratory tract infection
- Lung cancer
- Chronic sinusitis
- Marijuana use
- Breathing polluted air
- Digestive disorders like gastroesophageal disease
If you want to avoid development of phlegm, you will have to follow the following phlegm guide to keep your respiration obstruction free.
- Avoid breathing dry air and use humidifier to keep your nasal membranes moist.
- Keep nasal passages clear to avoid sinus congestion
- In case of infection, take plenty of rest as it will help your body fight the invading organisms.
- Drink plenty of water that is at room temperature. Use 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt for every 1250 ml water intake , daily.
- Healthy foods and healthy drinks help your immune system remain strong.
- Stop smoking immediately.
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