What Mucus Does For You
Mucus isnt stationary. In fact, mucus is always on the move around your body, in a predetermined pattern. It begins in the sinuses and then travels into your nose, down the back of the nose and throat, and then ends in the stomach.
Dr. Sindwani says if mucus did stay in one place, the bacteria within itcould cause infections.
Mucus traps bacteria, he notes, but then it gets pushed away into your stomach. The bacteria can be taken care of there, so it doesnt infect you or harm you in any way. If mucus were to sit around and be stagnant, the bacteria that are in it would continue to proliferate, because mucus is kind of a food for them. This overgrowth of bacteria could then get into your nasal and sinus tissues and cause an infection.
In addition to keeping potential infections at bay, mucus helps your nose function properly. For example, mucus traps chemicals called odorants, which represent different smells, and directs them to your smell receptors which live high up in the nose. That keeps your sense of smell in tip-top shape.
The nose also humidifies and warms the air we breathe with the help of mucus. Mucus mainly adds water or humidification to the air we breathe, so it doesnt dry out our passages or lungs, says Dr. Sindwani.
Why So Thick Why So Green
When the white blood cells in the mucosa encounter an irritant or infectious organism, they respond by producing enzymes to repel the invaders. These enzymes contain iron, and thats what gives the nasal discharge the green color. And if the mucus sits around , it becomes more concentrated and so may appear darker yellow or green. This is the natural order of things, whether the offending agent is a virus or a bacterium.
Causes Of Mucus In The Eye
The primary cause of eye mucus is the accumulation of oil, debris, and mucus while you sleep. Other causes for mucus in the eye include:
- Eye infections: mucus will appear gray or green
- Allergic conjunctivitis: small, dry particles of mucus
- Viral conjunctivitis: mucus will appear thick and crusty
- Styes: mucus is watery, and a lump will appear on the eyelid
- Dacryocystitis: mucus will be white and stringy
- Blepharitis: mucus will appear yellow
- Dry eye syndrome: mucus will be white or yellow and ball-shaped
- Contact lenses: wearing old or dirty contact lenses can increase mucus production. Also, contact lenses restrict oxygen to the eyes, contributing to eye dryness.
- Exposure to chemicals
Generally speaking, having mucus in your eyes isnt a cause for alarm, as your body is simply trying to protect itself, most likely for a foreign invader such as bacteria or viruses. Making note of the color, consistency, and amount of discharge can provide clues to help you decipher the possible causes of your particular type of infection or any other reason you may be experiencing this symptom. When in doubt, see your doctor to get an expert opinion.
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Is It Allergies Or A Cold
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between allergies and the common cold. There are more than a hundred strains of cold viruses. Each tends to become widespread at certain times of the year, which is why you may mistake a cold for a seasonal allergy. Allergies occur at the same time every year and last as long as the allergen is in the air . Allergies cause itching of the nose and eyes along with other nasal symptoms. Colds last about one week and have less itching of the nose and eyes.
Sniffle Detective: 5 Ways To Tell Colds From Allergies
ByCari Nierenberg04 June 2014
Seasonal allergies and colds share some common symptoms, so it may be hard to tell the two apart.
Both conditions typically involve sneezing, a runny nose and congestion. There are some differences, though. Additionally, colds usually include coughing and a sore throat, but these symptoms can also occur in people with hay fever who have post-nasal drip. Itchy eyes are common for seasonal allergies, but rare for colds.
Colds and seasonal allergies seem very similar in many ways, said Dr. Rima Rachid, director of allergen immunotherapy at Boston Childrens Hospital. Its the duration and chronicity of symptoms that might help tell the difference, she explained.
Its not unusual for parents and even doctors to confuse cold and seasonal allergy symptoms, Rachid told Live Science.
Young children frequently get colds, and their parents may not always think of seasonal allergies as the reason for kids constantly drippy noses. Seasonal allergies may first show up in a child at around ages 4 to 6, but they can also begin at any age after that, Rachid said.
And genetics play a role: People with one parent who has any type of allergy have a 1 in 3 chance of developing an allergy, Rachid said. When both parents have allergies, their children have a 7 in 10 chance of developing allergies, too.
Here are five signs to look for to determine whether symptoms are due to seasonal allergies or a cold.
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Sore Throat Or Body Aches
A sore throat or body aches could be an indication its something more serious.
“A quick onset of aches and pains, fatigue, exhaustion or weakness is unlikely with allergies, Rajani said. While allergies can cause fatigue, it is usually very gradual, not hitting you like a ton of bricks as has been described with viral infections.
When To See Your Doctor
It may be difficult to tell the difference between a cold or other viral infection, and a bacterial infection. Color isnt always the best indicator of whether you should see your doctor. Instead, pay attention to the duration of your illness and the worsening of your other symptoms.
Most colds last between 7 to 10 days. They usually peak in severity between days three and five. A bacterial infection may worsen as it progresses and continue beyond this time period.
Other signs you should make an appointment:
- yellow snot accompanied by a fever that lasts three or four days in a row
- headache that may be focused around or behind the eyes and is worse when bending over
- swelling around your eyes or dark circles
In rare cases, the infection may spread to the eye or brain. Seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- all-day swelling or redness around the eyes
- severe headache
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Cold Or Allergy Relief Starts With An Accurate Diagnosis
This post is available in: Spanish
Spring is the time of year many people tend to develop symptoms of seasonal allergies itchy, watery eyes runny nose sneezing sore throat, and congestion. But how do you know if your symptoms are being caused by allergies or by, say, a cold virus? And when should you seek care for your allergies?
Exposure to pollen can trigger allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, when your bodys immune system mistakenly identifies the microscopic grains of pollen as a threat and responds by releasing chemicals that can cause cold-like symptoms.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention , symptoms of allergic rhinitis can occur during certain seasons or year-round, depending on the allergen, and affect as many as 60 million U.S. adults a year.
People with respiratory illnesses like asthma may be more sensitive to pollen, the CDC notes, and exposure to pollen has also been linked to asthma attacks and increases in hospital admissions for respiratory illness.
Is it a cold or an allergy?
Pollen exposure can also trigger symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis an inflammation of the lining of the eye, or conjunctiva, which, according to Dr. Acquino, is what produces the red, watery, itchy eyes common with allergies. The CDC estimates that allergic conjunctivitis is found in up to 30 percent of the general population and as many as 70 percent of patients with allergic rhinitis.
How Is Allergic Rhinitis Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He may ask if you know what makes your symptoms worse. Tell him if you have pets. You may need any of the following:
- Skin testing may show what you are allergic to. Your healthcare provider lightly pricks or scratches your skin with tiny amounts of a possible allergen. He watches to see how your skin reacts. If a bump appears within a few minutes, you are likely allergic to the allergen.
- A nasal swab is used to test fluid from your nose for allergic disease.
- A rhinoscopy is a procedure used to check for another cause of your symptoms, such as polyps or a foreign object. Your healthcare provider will use a thin tube with a camera on the end to look inside your nose.
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Have You Lost Your Sense Of Taste And/or Smell
Loss of taste or smell is another key difference between COVID-19 and seasonal allergy infections. While nasal congestion can cause a loss of smell, people who are sick with a COVID-19 infection may lose their sense of smell and/or taste without any sinus congestion at all. According to the CDC, loss of smell or taste has been commonly reported as a COVID-19 symptom among women and younger or middle-aged patients.
Back Up: Why Do We Cough Anyway
Coughing is a natural response to irritation in your throat or airways. To put it simply, receptors in the throat, trachea, and lungs respond and lead to activation of the cough center in the brain, explains Clifford Bassett, M.D., founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.
Coughing is an essential defense mechanism, he says, and its your bodys way of pushing any unwanted stuff out, including pollen, mucus, and pieces of food, to make more room for air to get through.
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Remedies For Bright Yellow Mucus
There are plenty of effective and affordable ways to manage yellow mucus, these include:
- Steam inhalation
This seems to be the easiest and most effective remedy for yellow mucus. There is a long list of natural expectorants that can be used such as eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, comfrey, and licorice. Simply put one or a combination of these herbs into boiling water and inhale the steam.
- Warm compress
Warm compresses work in breaking up the mucus, allowing it to flow naturally out of the nose.
This particular therapy simply involves massaging the pressure points on the sinuses several times daily.
Drinking plenty of water, as well as eating fresh vegetables and fruits, has been found to speed up recovery from bright yellow mucus.
Blood In Snot When Blowing Nose
The constant blowing and rubbing are what causes the Bloody mucus. This can be due to dryness, irritation or any number of other reasons but most likely because your nose has been damaged by allergen exposure over time which resulted in inflammation around these tissues causing them become swollen/reduced in size resulting into clogged sinuses as well flow issues. The result? Blowing outwards rather than upwards helps reduce discomfort quite significantly.
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When Should You Be Concerned
If you have congestion with the following symptoms, it may be time to get evaluated:
- Severe symptoms
- Symptoms that persist for more than two weeks
- Starting to feel better and then getting sick again, usually with a cough and a temperature above 102 degrees F. These are signs of a secondary infection .
- Yellow or green mucus for longer than two weeks accompanied by pain and pressure in your sinuses and face. These symptoms may indicate a sinus infection.
Many sinus infections go away on their own without antibiotics, but some do require treatment. Your healthcare provider can determine what over-the-counter or prescription medicine is best to help relieve your symptoms.
What If The Snot Texture Changes
The actual texture of your snot has a lot to do with its moisture content. Nasal mucus that flows freely has more water content than snot that is hard. In some cases, drinking more water may help thin your mucus. Changes in texture can happen throughout the duration of an illness.
Watery discharge from the nose may be a warning sign of a cerebrospinal fluid leak. A leak happens when theres a tear in the membranes surrounding your brain, likely from injury or certain medical conditions, like hydrocephalus.
Other symptoms of a CSF leak include:
- sensitivity to light or sound
- positional headaches for example, you may feel more pain while sitting up versus lying down
If you suspect you may have a CSF leak, seek medical attention.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Sinusitis
The signs and symptoms of sinusitis vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and which sinuses are involved. Symptoms and signs of sinusitis are:
- Thick, green or yellow coloured mucus from the nose or down the back of the throat.
- Loss of sense of smell or taste.
- Bad breath and/or bad taste in the mouth.
- Sore throat and/or cough.
It is important to consult your doctor if these signs or symptoms develop.
What Does Clear Snot Mean
Clear snot is considered normal or healthy. Your body produces around 1.5 quarts of this discharge each day, though you likely swallow most of it. This type of mucus is made up of water with proteins, antibodies, and salts. Once it reaches the stomach, it dissolves. Your body continues making it around the clock to help line and protect your nose and sinuses.
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever may also cause clear, runny nasal discharge. Although you may feel quite ill, allergies arent caused by a virus. The symptoms are your bodys response to irritants like pollen, cat or dog fur, and dust mites.
Other symptoms may include:
- itchy nose, throat, or roof of mouth
- discolored skin under the eyes
Some women develop a runny nose during pregnancy called nonallergic rhinitis. Researchers explain that this condition is caused by hormonal changes and can develop at any gestation. Its more common between weeks
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Sinusitis Can Be Acute Or Chronic
There are two types of sinusitis:
- Acute sinusitis can last for up to three weeks, and is caused by bacterial infection in most cases. This usually occurs as a secondary complication of a viral respiratory infection such as the common cold, or as a result of untreated allergies.
- Chronic sinusitis can last more than three weeks. This may be caused by bacterial infection, or more often, it is a chronic inflammatory disorder similar to bronchial asthma. Chronic sinusitis can last for months or years if not treated. Allergies, structural problems or immune system problems may lead to chronic sinusitis.
Bacterial And Viral Infections
Infections such as the flu, acute bronchitis, and pneumonia can cause your airways to make extra mucus, which youll often cough up. It may be green or yellow in color.
The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 doesnt usually cause mucus in the chest. But complications from the virus can include pneumonia, which does involve chest congestion.
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When To Visit Your Doctor About Phlegm
If you are not feeling unwell, and the phlegm is clear, yellow or green then it is safe to wait to see if this clears by itself before seeking medical advice. However, if you see bloodstained sputum, or any shade of red, black or brown phlegm then contact your health professional. If coughing phlegm up is associated with or weight loss, seek urgent medical advice.
In general, see your doctor if you are not improving, having thick, dark or bloodstained phlegm, have a persistently raised temperature over 38 degrees C, have breathing problems or feel generally unwell.
What Are My Treatment Options For Colds
Unfortunately, there is no cure for a cold virus once youve been infected. The good news is that there are many over-the-counter medications and products that can treat your symptoms. If extra rest, drinking hot fluids, nasal irrigation, and saline gargles and washes are not enough to manage your cold symptoms, you could benefit from:
Always read the Drug Facts label on all types of medications before you take them. Its possible that some active ingredients may be in more than one medicine. Also, please note that young children should not be given certain cough and cold medicines check with your pediatrician before giving any medicine to young children and babies.
Its important to work closely with your doctor to determine the best allergy management strategy, depending on your living and work environment and unique sensitivities. With careful diagnosis and treatment, most people can find a way to manage their allergies successfully. Dont lose heart if youre struggling with allergy symptoms a physician can help you develop a plan to improve your situation. And if you have a cold instead of allergies be encouraged that most cold viruses fully resolve in a week or two, and that rest, fluids, or OTC medications can help you manage your symptoms more comfortably.
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When To Contact A Doctor
If a person with asthma has phlegm that turns yellow or green then they may want to wait a few days to see if it returns to normal. However, if it remains yellow or green for more than a few days then they should make an appointment with a doctor.
They should also monitor their other asthma symptoms just in case they begin to get worse.
If a person with asthmas phlegm turns red, brown, or black, then they should speak to a doctor right away, even if they only notice a little of these colors. This is because it could be a sign that a more serious condition is present.