Coughing is typically a natural reflex to eliminate foreign substances or germs where it can help prevent the respiratory tract from being infected. This response may result in the production of mucus, which is a sticky, viscous substance located in the throat. To determine the type of cough or illness being experienced, it is necessary to identify the phlegm.
For babies, since their respiratory systems are still growing and adjusting to the outside environment, babies can have phlegm from birth. Phlegm production in infants occurs more frequently when they contract a cold or respiratory illness. Although it can occur at any age, infants between the ages of 6 months and 3 years are more likely to experience it. It’s crucial to keep an eye on your baby’s symptoms and seek medical help if you see any signs of breathing problems, wheezing, or prolonged coughing.
Green or Yellow
In this Article
The presence of green and yellow phlegm signifies that one’s body is fighting against an infection produced by white blood cells. It can be caused by bronchitis, which starts with a dry cough and leads to phlegm that is white, green, or yellow in color. Likewise, pneumonia, a respiratory complication, can cause green or yellow sputum, and in severe cases, sputum mixed blood.
This brown-colored phlegm is an indication of the presence of old blood within it, representing a change from the red or pink color phlegm. Such phlegm is also an indication of inflammation in the lungs caused by a bacterial infection. Chronic bronchitis, experienced by both smokers and individuals with cystic fibrosis, can also cause this type of phlegm. Moreover, the inhalation of dangerous substances such as asbestos can result in incurable lung diseases and brown phlegm. Additionally, brown phlegm may also be a symptom of lung abscess, caused by a bacterial infection that leads to the buildup of painful pus within the lung cavity.
White phlegm occurs due to an infection of bronchitis, which can turn into yellow or green phlegm if left untreated. Thick and white phlegm can also occur due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Additionally, white phlegm can be caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as the airways narrow, leading the lungs to produce an excess of white phlegm. Congestive heart failure can also result in excessive white phlegm. This occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump blood gradually throughout the body.
Black phlegm often occurs due to the inhalation of dust that was commonly found among coal miners. However, it may also be indicative of a more severe condition such as fungal infection of the lungs. Furthermore, habitual smoking and cocaine consumption can contribute to the manifestation of black phlegm.
Red or Pink Colored
Coughing up red or pink phlegm can be a warning sign of a potentially more grave underlying medical condition. This discoloration indicates the presence of bleeding in the respiratory or lung tract. Severe coughing may lead to the rupture of blood vessels within the lungs, resulting in coughing up blood. However, red or pink phlegm may also be symptomatic of severe disease, such as congestive heart failure, lung cancer, and advanced lung infections.
Every day, the body produces clear mucus, caused by the mixture of water, proteins, antibodies, and dissolved salts that are essential for maintaining moisture in the respiratory system.
The color of phlegm can change depending on several factors, including bacterial infections , health problems, and other potential causes. If you notice a prolonged change in the color of your phlegm, as described above, you are advised to consult your doctor immediately. Remember, the color of mucus is merely an indicator and should be analyzed in conjunction with other symptoms you may be experiencing. If your phlegm color appears normal, but your symptoms worsen, do not hesitate to seek urgent medical attention at a nearby healthcare center.