Sputum, also known as phlegm, is a substance that is secreted by our cells found in the lower airway of our respiratory tract. It differs from the saliva that is produced in our mouth.

Sputum can contain a range of colors; it can be transparent, white, green, yellow, red, or pink. All of this can pertain to a specific medical condition.

Knowing the sputum color meaning and symbolism can help you understand the right time to seek proper medical help.

A Complete Guide on Sputum Color Meaning and Symbolism

Our sputum is a substance that is produced by our body to ensure that it will stay healthy. It has a slippery and sticky consistency that coats our lungs, throat, and nose.

It serves as a lubricant that guarantees that our body will remain functional. However, there are instances when it will have some strange colors. In this article, we will learn the different meanings of each mucus color.

Clear Mucus is Perfectly Normal

Having clear sputum should not be a cause of alarm. It is the standard color of our mucus, which means that our body is correctly functioning. Y

You should not be worried if you’ve seen clear sputum in your tissue. There are instances when your body will produce a significant amount of clear mucus. You should treat this as a vital sign.

Sometimes, people who have severe allergic reactions will realize that they will have a severe case of a runny nose. They will produce a considerable quantity of transparent and liquid mucus.

It is a sign that you are near an allergen, and you will be suffering from more severe symptoms if you do not do something about it. Other times, this is an early sign of a respiratory illness such as colds.

White Mucus is a Sign of Dehydration

If you have a sticky and white mucus, it is a sign that your sputum has lower water content. It is an indication that you are dehydrated, and you need to increase your water intake.

However, if you are getting enough water and your mucus is still white and sticky, this can be related to a health condition that is making you dehydrated.

It is also an early symptom of sinus infection and cold. When the white blood cells start to converge in our mucus, it aims to fight the disease. Thus, turning our sputum white.

Yellow Mucus is an Indication of Infection

People who have a cream-colored or yellow mucus should know that something is happening in their upper respiratory tract.

If you have a terrible allergy, colds, or presence of infection, your body’s response is to produce a significant number of white cells to combat the disease.

According to the expert, white blood cells will have a greenish shade. However, when it has a lower concentration, it will appear yellowish.

Green Pertains to a Serious Infection

Green sputum is a sign that you will be battling with an infection for a longer time. Once you start seeing green mucus in your tissue, this is an indication of a terrible sinus infection.

It is advised to visit your doctor for a checkup. You should be a bit concerned if the green phlegm comes from your lungs or throat. Coughing a significant amount of green goo can be a sign of pneumonia and bronchitis.

Brown Phlegm is Not A Good Sign

Brown phlegm should sometimes be a cause of alarm. It can indicate that something terrible is happening, such as pneumonia.

Your sputum with a rusty shade can be an indication that there is blood in it. According to the expert, the patient may have a clot in their lungs.

Therefore, there is a possibility that you have lung cancer. Visit your doctor immediately if this is the color of your sputum.

Pink and Red Mucus Is a Sign of Bleeding

Reddish or pinkish mucus suggests that there is blood in the patient’s respiratory system. However, you should not immediately panic. It is not unusual to find red or pink sputum in your tissue if you have been blowing your nose excessively.

The membrane on your nose can quickly get dry and irritated. The tiny blood vessels can rupture and will lead to this color.

Nonetheless, you should be concerned once you notice that there is excessive bleeding. Visit your doctor immediately if you have been sneezing or coughing an excessive amount of blood.

Black Phlegm Pertains to Fungal Infection

Black phlegm is not something that you want to see. Sometimes, this can be as simple as inhaling substances such as tar. People who are smoking can encounter this sputum color.

However, there are cases when this can be related to a fungal infection known as Exophiala dermatitidis.

People who are suffering from cystic fibrosis or those who are immunocompromised are more prone to this infection.

Medical Conditions that Can Change the Color of Your Sputum

There are various reasons why our body will produce too much sputum. Here are some of the health issues related to the changes in the amount and color of your sputum.


People who are suffering from asthma are highly sensitive to allergens, respiratory infections, and environmental pollution.

Their sensitivity can lead to the inflammation of their airways and boost the production of mucus.

Cystic Fibrosis

This disease is caused by a defective gene that can lead to the blockage of the airway and cause breathing difficulty.

The thick mucus will be a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria. Most people with this condition can develop a chronic infection in their lungs.

Flu- Or influenza can transform our sputum to green.

Some of the symptoms of this disease include headache, weakness, fatigue, and high fever. People can also feel pain, ache, and cough.

People should stay and rest at their homes when they have flu. They should also drink enough water and keep themselves warm.

If you are feeling a tremendous amount of pain, the doctor may prescribe you OTC painkillers.

The patient should feel better after around a week. Taking antiviral drugs can decrease the time that you will feel sick.


This condition is an infection on the airway of our lungs. Our bronchi can be inflamed, and we will produce more mucus. People who have bronchitis can produce green or yellow sputum.

An acute type of bronchitis can last for around three weeks, while chronic bronchitis can persist for three months.


Some symptoms of pneumonia will include loss of appetite, shivering, sweating, fever, increased heart rate, and breathing difficulty. In case you think that you are suffering from pneumonia, be sure to consult the physician.

TB (Tuberculosis)

Coughing pink or red phlegm is prevalent among people with TB. They may also notice related symptoms such as swelling, especially on the neck area, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and night sweats.

When Do You Need to See the Doctor?

Anybody who suspects that they are suffering from severe respiratory tract infection should seek immediate medical treatment.

If you have pneumonia, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You should not do a self-diagnosis since it shares the same symptoms with other RTI.

The mild form of pneumonia can be treated by plenty of rest and drinking lots of water. Antibiotics are also useful in handling it.

Common RTI can be resolved after a couple of days. However, there are still times when you must seek medical attention.

If your cough lasts for more than three weeks and if your sickness persists for more than three days, it is recommended to see the doctor immediately.

If the patient is coughing up blood and is showing signs of breathing difficulty, you should also see your doctor. Patients who have underlying lung and heart conditions also need proper treatment.

Tests That Can Evaluate Your Sputum

To determine the content of the patient’s sputum, the doctor will send the specimen into the lab. Signs of infection and the presence of cancer can be identified through the various tests. Your test may include:

Sputum Culture

This procedure can be done by placing the specimen on the agar dish and evaluating them for any sign of growth.

It is done to determine the presence of the bacteria that cause your illness. After successfully identifying the presence of the bacterial strain, the laboratory can then determine which type of antibacterial medicine will work best against it.

Sputum Test for TB

Sputum samples can also be taken to the patient to look for the presence of tuberculosis. Multiple samples will be taken to make an accurate diagnosis.

Sputum Cytology

In this process, the sputum will be analyzed using a microscope. It is usually done to find signs of cancer cells and TB.

Note that further tests will need to be conducted to determine the exact location of the cancer cells. Sputum may contain several cells, white blood cells, and foreign matter.

Understanding the sputum color meaning and symbolism can help you determine if the changes in the color of your phlegm are related to a health condition. It will also help you seek proper medical intervention at the right time.