Coughing Up Green Mucus – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

If your child or anyone in your family coughs up green mucus or phlegm, you might consider having them checked for bacterial infections. Green phlegm usually indicates a respiratory infection that is bacterial in nature.

What Causes Coughing Up Green Mucus?

The primary cause for the green color of phlegm is infection. Infection can be further divided into 2 parts: viral and bacterial. Either infection can cause a person to cough up green mucus.

  • Viral infections

Viral infections are some of the most common causes of green phlegm or mucus. Viral infections often happen along with sinus headache or sinus pain. Sinus pain or headache refers to the pain felt by a person in his/her sinuses. The sinuses are cavities found within our facial bones and tissues. These sinuses serve as “drainage” systems” which drain out excess fluid or mucus. Viral infections can cause an increase in the production of mucus. The increase mucus production then clogs the sinuses, preventing proper drainage of the fluid. When the mucus is not drained properly, it stays in the sinuses and nasal cavities and becomes a perfect breeding ground for the growth of other infectious agents. The growth of other infectious agents (especially bacteria) then contributes to the green discoloration of the mucus or phlegm.

  • Bacterial Infections

A bacterial infection, such as strep throat, is also one of the more common causes for green phlegm or mucus. When the sinuses, the nasal passageway, and the throat, are infected by bacteria, the body responds by increasing mucus production. The increase in mucus production clogs the passageways, thereby preventing proper drainage. When proper drainage is  affected, the stale mucus and secretions become great venues for bacterial growth. This usually happens during the latter stages of infection.

coughing up green mucus

There are other causes as to why a child or any other individual may cough up green mucus, other reasons include:

  • Allergic Reactions

The events that follow allergic reactions can also cause a person or a child to cough up green mucus. Allergic reactions often instigate an increase in mucus production. Increased mucus production then triggers infections which cause the phlegm or the mucus to appear green.

  • Low Resistance to Bacterial Infections

Coughing up green mucus can also be attributed to the child’s immunity state. The immune state of children is low, often times predisposing them to different bacterial and viral infections that cause the phlegm or mucus to turn green.

What are the Symptoms in Coughing Up Green Mucus?

Coughing up green mucus is not a disease itself; it is a symptom of disease or a prevailing infection. Symptoms associated with coughing up green mucus are often found in respiratory infections such as bronchitis or tuberculosis. To understand clearly the symptoms associated with cough and green mucus, here are the diseases and infections associated with coughing up green mucus and their respective signs and symptoms:

  • Headache or migraine
  • Face pain or pain that becomes worse upon bending or lying down
  • Excessive tearing up of the eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Clogged nose or nasal stuffiness
  • Cough with clear, yellow or green phlegm
  • Nasal drainage that may be clear, yellow or green in color

Bronchitis is a condition where bacteria infect the major airways in the lungs (bronchi). The signs and symptoms of this condition are the following:

  • Cough
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Low grade fever and chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Clear, yellow or green phlegm or mucus

It is important to note that mucus does not appear green immediately.  Mucus or phlegm appears clear during the early stages of infection, and as the infection proceeds, the color of the mucus changes to yellow and eventually to green. The presence of green mucus usually indicates a long-term infection or of secretions that are not properly drained or expelled from the throat.

How to Treat Coughing Up Green Mucus?

Treatment for coughing up green mucus focuses on eradicating the primary cause. Example: if the cause is a bacterial infection, antibacterials (medications that kill bacteria) are given. For viral infections, antivirals coupled with bed rest and fluids are usually advised. The point is to eradicate the green mucus or phlegm, the primary cause must be eradicated. Aside from removing the primary cause (whether viral, bacterial, allergic or immune related) the physician may advise the patient to employ the following measures to manage the current condition.

  • Drinking warm water or tea with mint, menthol or eucalyptus

This measure can help the child cough up the phlegm easily. Helping the patient cough up the secretions relieve the clogging of secretions in the nasal and respiratory passageways. When the clogging is relieved, bacteria and other infectious agents cannot have grounds to breed.

  • Steam therapy

Steam therapy involves the process of letting the child inhale or breath in steam. The steam liquefies the mucus, making it “soft” and easier to cough up.

  • Germicidal gargles

The doctor may also prescribe germicidal agents such as betadine to help remove the mucus and also to kill the bacteria that comes with it.

How to Prevent Coughing Up Green Mucus?

The key to preventing a child from coughing up green mucus is to prevent him/her from acquiring infections.


2 Responses to “Coughing Up Green Mucus – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment”

  • Dave P. says:

    Hi. I’m having green mucus because of recurrent allergies and now, I have cough. My nasal allergies was present for the last two days and I also had cough afterwards. My concern is, I’m having fever and I don’t know whether this is a result of my allergy or other things. So do you suggest I need to take antibiotics? Thanks.

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