Sinus Infections

What Does Your Sinus Infection Mucus Color Mean?

May 26, 2023

6 minutes

Reviewed by Michael Kaplan, MD

Just when you thought you were getting better, you’ve blown your nose to discover that your sinus infection mucus color is everything but clear. When this happens, you might ask yourself, “What color is nasal discharge with a sinus infection?” or “When should I see an ENT?”

When you have a sinus infection, your snot typically becomes a thick, green color. This is because mucus acts as a trap for allergens, bacteria, and viruses that carries these foreign invaders outside of your body. These waste products, along with dead white blood cells, account for the greenish color of your snot.

Green snot is a sign that your immune system is doing its job! In this article, the sinus experts at Kaplan Sinus Relief will walk you through what each of the different mucus colors mean and advise on when it’s time to see your doctor.

What color mucus is bad?

You can tell a lot about what’s happening inside your body by the color of your snot. Knowing what each sinus infection mucus color indicates can help you determine if the problem can go away on its own, or if you need to seek medical attention. Here’s what each sinus infection snot color means:

What does clear snot mean?

Clear snot is the color of “normal” or healthy snot and it is made up mostly of water, salt, and protein. Most of your nasal mucus will drip down the back of your throat and into your stomach without you noticing. Mucus is something your body consistently makes to help line and protect your ear, nose, throat, and sinuses.

If you’re wondering “Why does my nose keep running?” and you are experiencing an abnormal amount of clear mucus coupled with sneezing, itchy eyes, and/or post-nasal drip, you may have persistent allergic rhinitis. Despite having cold-like symptoms, the lack of color in your nasal mucus is indicative that your body’s response is due to irritants and not a viral or bacterial infection.

What does white snot mean?

White snot can be a sign that you are at the start of a cold or an infection. It typically comes with feelings of congestion, stuffiness, or inflammation. You get the white or cloudy sinus infection mucus color when the swollen tissues in your nose slow the flow of your snot. This pulls the water content out of your mucus and causes your snot to become more concentrated.

What does bright yellow snot mean?

Thick, yellow snot is a sign that your infection is progressing and may have developed into acute sinusitis. There’s no need to panic though. Yellow phlegm is a good indication that your body is fighting off the infection!

What does green snot mean?

Green snot means that the bacterial or viral sinus infection has progressed and your immune system is really fighting back. The green color is a result of dead white blood cells and other waste.

If you still have green snot after 12 days or have had constant green snot for months, it may be time to call your doctor.

Why is my snot pink?

Pink snot is more often than not a sign that you’ve suffered some sort of nasal trauma. The pinkish hue comes from blood released from broken nasal tissue. This could be caused by an injury, blowing your nose too hard, or even dry sinus cavities.

Keep an eye on your pink mucus. If it is a result of an injury, seek medical attention. But if it’s caused by blowing your nose or a dry sinus cavity, it should clear up quickly. If it doesn’t, schedule an appointment to see your ENT.

Why is my snot red?

Higher concentrations of blood in the nose will turn your mucus red. As with pink snot, this is usually caused by a hit to the nose, blowing too hard, or breathing in dry air. It could also be a nosebleed.

To prevent dry nasal or sinus cavities try:

  • Applying Aquaphor or Vaseline to the inside of your nose
  • Using a Neti pot with sterilized salt water
  • Blowing your nose gently
  • Using a humidifier

Call your doctor immediately if you’ve been in an accident, are having frequent bloody noses, are losing a lot of blood, or if the child affected is under two years old.

What does brown mucus mean?

Brown snot is generally a sign that old blood is leaving your nasal cavity. You may have also inhaled dirt or other substances that are working their way out of your nose.

Why is my snot black?

Unless you’re a smoker or use certain types of illegal drugs, black snot may be a symptom of a severe fungal infection. There are four common types of fungal infections including:

  1. Mycetoma fungal sinusitis
  2. Allergic fungal sinusitis
  3. Chronic indolent sinusitis
  4. Fulminant sinusitis

Even if you are a smoker or use illicit drugs, if you are experiencing black mucus, you should call your doctor to rule out any serious diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?

Now that you know the answer to the question “What color is nasal discharge with a sinus infection?” Here are several other key sinus infection symptoms you should look for:

  • Nasal inflammation
  • Excessive mucus
  • Congestion
  • Sinus headache
  • Sore throat and cough
  • Fever
  • Dental pain
  • Ear infections

Keep reading: Are sinus infections contagious?

Get the sinus infection treatment you need at Kaplan Sinus Relief

Is your sinus infection snot color worrying you? Wondering, “Why can’t I breathe out of my nose?” If you are suffering from a chronic sinus infection cough, constant green sinus infection mucus color, or frequent sinusitis, you might be a good candidate for balloon sinuplasty in Houston.

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive and effective way to treat your underlying sinus issues and can deliver lasting relief in less than 20 minutes. Dr. Kaplan can help treat your chronic sinusitis and infections and get you feeling better again in no time.

Request an appointment to see if balloon sinuplasty is the right treatment option for you. 

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This article has been reviewed and approved by Michael Kaplan, MD


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