Yellow runny nose? Here's what it means

Woman in the snow blowing her nose

Our bodies react in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways when we’re ill – such as producing some interesting-looking nasal mucus! You might not want to ask your friends ‘What does yellow snot mean?’, so let us delve into this sticky topic with you instead. Discover what yellow snot in nose can be an indication of, and what you can do about it.

Why do we have nasal mucus – yellow, clear, or otherwise?

First thing’s first: let’s gain a general understanding of nasal mucus. Yellow mucus is just one shade on the spectrum. Mucus can also be clear, white, or green. And it actually performs a couple of important tasks.

We have mucus in our nasal passageways to humidify and warm the air we breathe in, making it more comfortable. The mucus also acts as a frontline guard, trapping any nasty potential visitors that might make us ill, such as allergens, bacteria and viruses. And it’s while performing this task that the mucus might change colour, like when we experience yellow nasal mucus.

Keep a box of Cushelle Tissues on your bedside table, as you’re more likely to need to blow out yellow snot in the morning. They’re soft on your skin yet still strong.

What does yellow mucus out of my nose mean?

Yellow snot in the nose can be a sign that your body is dealing with a pathogen (a pathogen is anything that might cause an illness, such as bacteria or a virus like the common cold). That’s why you might have a cold with yellow snot.

Your clever mucus traps the invaders that could lead to illness, and your immune system sends in the cavalry – such as white blood cells – to help destroy the debris.

What causes mucus to change colour?

Interestingly, it’s these white blood cells that make the colour of your mucus change – not the bacteria or virus agents themselves. That’s because certain types of white blood cell contain colourful enzymes, which can turn our mucus yellow, or green when they’re very concentrated.

That’s also why your snot might turn from yellow to green during the course of an illness like a cold. A cold with yellow snot in the morning might be explained by the mucus sitting in your nose for a prolonged time. The white blood cells could have built up overnight, and therefore tinted your mucus to a stronger colour.

What can I do about yellow snot from my nose?

As yellow mucus from your nose can be a sign that your body is trying to clear out an infection, you can help by blowing your nose regularly with a soft Cushelle tissue. It’ll help shift all that debris and help make you feel more comfortable. Cold symptoms such as a runny nose with yellow mucus are also a good indication that you need to get plenty of rest, so that your body can focus on getting better. Keep up your fluids to stay hydrated too.

Now you know a why you might have yellow snot from your nose. As with anything relating to your health, pay a trip to a medical professional if you’re concerned about your symptoms.


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