0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

In This Article

Shades of health: Decoding the many colors of sputum
284

Shades of health: Decoding the many colors of sputum

The gelatinous liquid lining our airways can have different colors and textures, with each having a specific significance

Different colors of sputum can provide crucial insights into one's health

Phlegm, sputum, mucus or snot ­— the slimy, gelatinous liquid that lines our lungs and airways has several identities. Largely made up of water (over 97%), sputum also contains proteins, sugars, salts and a substance called mucin, which gives it its jelly-like texture. Just like its various names, mucus can manifest in different colors and textures. Every color of the sputum has a specific significance that provides crucial insights into one’s health.

What are the functions of mucus?

Mucus, infamous for showing up in untoward situations, serves some really important functions. “It acts as a lubricant, keeping the airways moist and facilitating their movement during respiration,” says Dr Arunesh Kumar, senior consultant and head of respiratory medicine, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.

He also shares that mucus has a protective role, preventing bacteria, viruses, fungi, allergens and other particles from entering the lungs. “Phlegm traps and sometimes kills these foreign particles and expels them from the body,” he adds. Further, the antibodies present in mucus combat viruses and bacteria, protecting the air passages.

In certain cases — such as a chest infection or allergy — our body produces excess mucus to fight the influx of pathogens. Usually expelled from the body through the nose and mouth, mucus can also enter the stomach when swallowed. Upon reaching the organ, it gets digested and eliminated through feces and urine.

Different colors of sputum: What do they signify?

“The color of the sputum can range from white, cream, yellow and green to blood-tinged, dark brown and even black, depending on the physiological and pathological status of an individual,” says Dr Prabhu Prasad, consultant interventional pulmonologist, Manipal Hospital, Goa. The significance of the different colors is as follows:

♦ Yellow or green

Yellow or green-colored phlegm indicates that your immune system is fighting a chest infection; such colors getting darker is an indication that the infection is getting severe. “It is a sign that the current treatment isn’t working and needs to be changed or intensified,” says Dr Kumar. On the other hand, if the phlegm is turning whitish, it means that the individual is recovering from the infection.

♦ White

“While white sputum is usually considered normal, it can also indicate nasal congestion due to a mild cold, allergies, asthma or viral infections,” says Dr Manish Itolikar, consultant physician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai.

♦ Brown

According to Dr Itolikar, brown-colored sputum can result from bleeding in the respiratory tract, which can arise due to sinusitis or a severe or chronic infection. It can also be a symptom of underlying conditions like bronchiectasis, where the airways widen, leading to a buildup of excess mucus.

♦ Black

“Blackish phlegm is seen in the case of fungal infections and severe asthma,” says Dr Prasad.

Black sputum is commonly seen among smokers, especially in the mornings. Conditions like black lung (also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis), an occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of coal dust, can also cause black-colored sputum.

♦ Pink or red

Red sputum indicates that one is coughing up blood, usually resulting from an infection. It can also be a sign of several other conditions, including lung cancer. “Pink, frothy phlegm accompanied by shortness of breath and chest pain can be a sign of cardiac failure,” says Dr Kumar.

Sputum can be of different colors, which can provide crucial insights into one’s health

Sputum culture test: A useful diagnostic method

In this test, a sputum sample is taken and examined under the microscope to detect infection-causing pathogens. Some conditions that can be diagnosed by a sputum culture test include pneumonia, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis.

Look out for persistent cough

“A persistent cough that lasts over three weeks without a known cause requires medical intervention,” says Dr Kumar. He adds that even if the cough is a manifestation of a known infection or allergy, its persistence beyond three weeks is a cause for concern.

Takeaways

Mucus or phlegm acts as a lubricant, facilitating the movement of airways during respiration. It also prevents pathogens from entering the lungs. Sputum can be of different colors — such as white, green, yellow, brown and black — each providing crucial information about one’s health. If a cough persists beyond three weeks, immediate medical intervention is necessary.

Share Your Experience/Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Summit Registration

NOTE: The summit will be held at NIMHANS Convention Centre, Bengaluru.

Wellness Registration Form

-
-
-
Total Amount INR 3000
Trending

Articles

Article
Some couples consciously decide not to have children despite familial and social expectations, wanting to make the best of their relationship. Children should be had for their own sake, says psychotherapist Tasneem Nakhoda
Article
Insufficient consumption of heart-healthy foods can affect cardiovascular health. Experts discuss beneficial dietary choices
Article
Cycling and walking are both great cardiovascular activities that aid weight loss and keep various health conditions away. Pick one that suits your fitness goals and physical condition, say experts
Article
Summer drinks, though hydrating, can have excess sugar. Nutritionists suggest a few alternatives to keep the body temperature and sugar levels down
Article
Packed with protein, this recipe will help in weight management by keeping you full for a long time
Article
Researchers have found that a quick snooze can improve the retention of information by strengthening memories, leading to better recollection over an extended period
Trending

Articles

Article
Some couples consciously decide not to have children despite familial and social expectations, wanting to make the best of their relationship. Children should be had for their own sake, says psychotherapist Tasneem Nakhoda
Article
Insufficient consumption of heart-healthy foods can affect cardiovascular health. Experts discuss beneficial dietary choices
Article
Cycling and walking are both great cardiovascular activities that aid weight loss and keep various health conditions away. Pick one that suits your fitness goals and physical condition, say experts

0

0

0

Web Stories 

0

0

0

0

0

0

Opt-in To Our Daily Newsletter

* Please check your Spam folder for the Opt-in confirmation mail

Opt-in To Our
Daily Newsletter

We use cookies to customize your user experience, view our policy here

Your feedback has been submitted successfully.

The Happiest Health team will reach out to you at the earliest