Coughing Yellow Mucus

Coughing Yellow Mucus: Causes, Picture, Symptoms, Treatment

Coughing yellow mucus may occur when you suffer from the common cold or other respiratory problem. It is mostly secreted by the cells in your bronchi and bronchioles (the lower airways of the respiratory tract). In normal people, the mucus forms a protective lining in specific parts of your body. It keeps the areas from drying out. It also helps your body defend against foreign invaders like bacteria and virus. The mucus production in excess can make you uncomfortable. It mostly occurs when you suffer from health problems. You must never confuse saliva and mucus. Saliva is produced by your mouth for easy digestion. But, mucus contains white blood cells to combat infection. Yellow mucus while coughing indicates you have a medical condition. The mucus contains dead cells, foreign particles you inhale into your lungs. The mucus can vary in color. But, yellow mucus signifies the presence of infection. Read ahead to know the complete details.

What Is Mucus?

Coughing yellow mucus Before knowing the reason for coughing yellow mucus, you must know about mucus. Mucus is the slippery and sinewy fluid produced by the different lining tissues in your body. In most cases, the mucus covers areas like the mouth, nose, throat, sinuses, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. The gooey substance acts as a protective barrier, which keeps the external particles like bacteria and virus from attacking the body. It also provides a moisturizing layer that keeps significant organs from drying out. Mucus also traps the irritants like smoke or dust. Mucus is essential for your normal body functions as it contains antibodies as well as enzymes to kill bacteria. So, it helps your body fight off infections.

In normal cases, your body produces 1 to 1.5 liters of mucus every day. It is a normal condition, which you may not notice at all. You tend to observe the mucus production closely when it increases in quantity or changes its color. Such a scenario occurs when you suffer from any type of health condition or illness. During an illness, your mucus tends to thicken in texture. So, you can observe darker mucus, appearing yellow in color. It is different from the clear, thin mucus that you produce in normal cases. So, you need to pay more attention to your body.

Coughing Yellow Mucus

When you thick, yellow mucus, it indicates some health issues. In most cases, coughing yellow mucus points towards infection. When your body fights an infection, the white blood cells release neutrophils. It is a type of protein released by inflammatory cells. It fights off the bacteria and virus that attack your body. The toxic substance released by your body has the ability to kill the bacteria or virus affecting your health. So, you can notice yellow colored mucus. But, it can change into green as your disease progresses. The severity and length of your sickness can change the color of your mucus. By getting medical assistance, you can manage the problem.

Causes Of Coughing Yellow Mucus

Coughing yellow mucus means your body is trying hard to fight an attack from external entities. So, it means you have an infection due to a virus or bacteria. So, you may wonder how your mucus has a yellow color. It occurs due to the presence of white blood cells. The white blood cells start attacking the external invaders in your body. After the cells have performed their work, it gets discarded. The discarded white blood cells accumulate in your mucus providing it a yellowish tinge. Wondering what causes you to cough up yellow mucus? Then, read ahead to get details about the underlying problems leading to the yellow mucus production.



It is the disease occurring due to the inflammation of your bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes are the airways that carry air to the lungs. The disease can start as a dry cough. But, after some time, you can cough, clear or white phlegm. As the disease progresses, it results in coughing yellow mucus. When the color starts to change, it indicates the progression of the disease from viral to bacterial. The cough due to bronchitis can last up to ninety days.

Signs Associated With Bronchitis

Bronchitis is classified into two types, acute and chronic. Both the conditions have the following signs that you need to observe:

  • Persistent cough producing mucus (green or yellow in color)
  • Low fever
  • Wheezing
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Tightening sensation in the chest
  • Breathlessness
  • Headaches
  • Blocked sinuses
  • Body aches
  • Blocked nose

When you observe the following signs, get medical help. With proper care and medications, you can manage the problem.


X ray depicting pneumonia

Pneumonia can trigger coughing and mucus production. It is the infection that triggers inflammation in the air sacs of your lungs. You can suffer from the inflammation in one or both your lungs. Various organisms like fungi, virus, or bacteria can trigger the inflammation and result in pneumonia. When you fail to get treatment for the inflammation, the problem can escalate from mild to life-threatening. Older people, as well as young children, including infants, are more prone to serious complications due to the problem. Pneumonia can affect people with other underlying health problems or weak immune systems. So, you need to get treatment for the respiratory issue.

Symptoms Of Pneumonia

Apart from coughing yellow mucus, the problem can also trigger other symptoms in your body. The symptoms vary depending on the type of pneumonia you suffer from. So, you can see the following signs:

  • Cough producing green, yellow or bloody mucus
  • Chest pain when you try to breathe or cough
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lower body temperature (it is noticeable in people over 65 years of age or with the weak immune system)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in mental awareness or confusion (common in older people)



Sinusitis, also known as sinus infection occurs due to the inflammation of the paranasal sinuses. Paranasal sinuses are the cavities in your body producing the necessary mucus in your nasal passages to work effectively. A bacteria, virus or allergies can trigger the inflammation. It can lead to the affected person coughing yellow mucus.

Symptoms Of Sinusitis

People affected by the disease can suffer from other symptoms. Apart from the green or yellow mucus discharge, you can experience the following:

  • Facial pain
  • Pressure in your sinuses
  • Blocked nose
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Nasal discharge
  • Congestion

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis

It is a progressive disease that causes chronic lung problem. The genetic disease can cause mucus to build in your lungs. So, people suffering from the problem can experience persistent lung infections. So, it limits your ability to breathe properly over time. The mucus starts building up in the lungs, which clogs the airways. It can also trap germs like bacteria. So, you can suffer from infections, inflammation, and respiratory failure. You can also experience other complications due to cystic fibrosis.

Signs Of Cystic Fibrosis

Young children or adults affected by the problem can suffer from a persistent cough. So, it leads to coughing yellow mucus. Some people can also observe phlegm color from green to brown. People suffering from the problem can also experience other symptoms like:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Skin tasting salty
  • Frequent lung infection like bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Poor growth
  • Low weight gain (even with good appetite)
  • Difficulty with bowel movements
  • Frequent bulky stools or greasy stools

At times, the mucus production can scare you. If you feel discomfort due to the problem, then see your doctor immediately. The mucus can reduce considerably when you seek treatment for the underlying condition. Based on the severity of the problem, you can respond best to home treatments, antibiotics or other breathing treatment. In severe cases, you need surgery to fix the issue.

Coughing Yellow Mucus: Diagnosing The Underlying Problems

When you see the difference in the color of the mucus you cough, you need to make an appointment with your doctor. Simple cases are overcome with home remedies or by taking over-the-counter medications. But, serious health problems need extensive evaluation. So, your doctor can suggest the following diagnostic methods:

Imaging Tests

The imaging tests can offer a comprehensive view of your lungs. It can detect the problems in your respiratory system, throat, nose or abdomen. So, your doctor can detect the exact reason for coughing yellow mucus. The different tests, providing comprehensive details about your lungs are:


X-Ray images offer a clear picture of your heart, lung, ribs, and other parts. So, your doctor can suggest taking an x-ray to detect problems like collapsed lungs, pneumonia, and other problems.

CT scans

A chest CT scan offers detailed images of your chest and lungs. It offers a comprehensive view of the inside of your lungs as well as chest. It is the painless imaging tests that can help your doctor detect the exact problem.


The chest MRI can offer more clarity into the images offered by other techniques. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field as well as radio waves to produce detailed images of structures within the chest. It is helpful in detecting cancer. So, it aids in diagnosing the size of the cancerous tumor, its extent, and degree of spread to other areas.

 Sputum Evaluation Tests

Your doctor can send your mucus or sputum for testing it in the laboratory. The sample of the mucus analyzed in the lab can detect infection or cancer. So, the tests can successfully reveal the presence of bacteria or fungi affecting your respiratory system. It can provide comprehensive information on serious issues affecting your lungs like cancer. Therefore, your doctor can suggest the following tests:

Sputum Culture

A sample of your mucus is placed in an agar dish (growing media) to look for the presence of any type of growth. It is mostly suggested to determine the presence of specific bacteria that triggers pneumonia. Your doctor mostly takes the fresh morning sample of your mucus for the testing. It can provide precise information on the bacterial presence.

The sample collected in a sterile, dry, and break-resistant plastic container and checked under a microscope. When the strain of the specific bacteria gets detected, your doctor orders for further testing. It will help figure out the best antibiotic that proves effective against the bacteria. The testing is also known as sensitivity testing.

Sputum Test To Detect Tuberculosis

It is ordered by the medical professional when the chest x-rays show symptoms of tuberculosis. So, you need to provide a sample of the sputum. The sample is obtained by coughing yellow mucus. It is sent for testing to detect the TB bacteria. In most cases, you need to provide several samples to get the right one for an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor also orders a test for drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.

Sputum Cytology

Sputum cytology is the test suggested by your doctor to detect cancerous presence in your lungs or detect tuberculosis signs. It is not an effective screening tool to detect cancerous presence. Your doctor much more sophisticated techniques to confirm lung cancer. Your doctor takes the mucus sample and sends it for testing in the lab. It is looked under the microscope to detect the bacterial presence. The lab technicians can do special stains as well as use other techniques to determine the issue precisely. If bacteria are detected, the sample gets placed in culture for growing (Sputum culture). It helps determine the exact bacteria triggering the infection.

Coughing Yellow Mucus: Effective Treatment Options

People who suffer from infection or other respiratory problem need the problem to go away as soon as possible. The constant coughing can make you uncomfortable. So, you need to find an effective method to get relief from the problem. See your doctor to know the exact cause to get proper treatment. In most cases, the doctor can suggest the following treatment options:

Overcoming Allergies

If an allergic reaction causes the buildup of mucus, then your doctor suggests taking antihistamines. It can block or limit the action triggered by the allergen. It also loosens the mucus. So, you can see less frequent coughing. You can get antihistamines easily in a drug shop. It is available over-the-counter.

Treatment For Bronchitis

Your doctor recommends rest and drinking enough fluids to treat mild cases of bronchitis. People affected by severe cases of bronchitis can only manage the condition and not get a cure for it. You can take the following medications to get relief as per your doctor’s suggestion:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • Narcotic medication
  • Analgesic medication
  • Cough Medication

Treatment For Pneumonia

If pneumonia causes coughing yellow mucus, then your doctor can suggest apt treatment to provide you relief.

  • Antibiotic medication to treat bacterial pneumonia
  • Antiviral medication to overcome viral pneumonia
  • NSAIDs to control fever
  • Cough medication to provide relief from coughing
  • Quit smoking
  • Get plenty of rest

Treatment For Sinusitis

To treat sinusitis, your doctor first clears the infection you suffer. Therefore, you need to take antibiotics to clear the problem. Your doctor can also suggest taking antihistamines to relieve the distress associated with the problem. In rare and severe cases, you need to undergo surgery to overcome the distress related to sinusitis.

Treatment For Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive genetic problem. So, you have no complete cure for the disease. But, the earlier intervention can prevent worsening of the problem. It requires treatment for different issues in the body. But, the treatment for respiratory problem includes:

  • Chest physical therapy to loosen the mucus in the lungs and flush it out from the body.
  • Including aerobic exercise in your routine to reduce the thickness of the mucus.
  • Antibiotics to treat and prevent lung infections.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling in the airways.
  • Bronchodilators, to relax the muscles surrounding the airway.
  • Oxygen therapy for advanced stages of lung disease.
  • A pulmonary rehabilitation program for chronic breathing problems.

Home Remedies To Relieve Coughing Yellow Mucus

You can treat simple cases of health issues leading to mucus development at home. The simple yet effective methods can help you heal faster.

Rest At Home

Viral conditions can lead to coughing and yellow mucus production. So, it may not respond to antibiotics like other cases. It is important to take a good rest. It will help you overcome the condition with ease. Good hydration and well-balanced diet along with adequate rest can relieve the distress associated with the problem.

Use Humidifier

Use Humidifier

You can try using a humidifier at home to overcome congestion and mucus production. It will loosen the sputum and alleviate it more easily. So, using a humidifier will help you breathe properly.

Gargling With Salt Water

You can gargle with salt water to loosen the mucus. Mix half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Use the water to gargle. It will alleviate many problems including sinus infection that affects your throat.

Rub Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has properties to loosen the mucus in your chest. So, you can get relief from the thick and yellow mucus. You can also use products

Take Hot Shower

Taking a hot shower can loosen the mucus in your nose and throat region. It will help you get relief. Wondering how? The steam from the hot water has the ability to thin the mucus.

Good Hydration

Drinking water is good for your body. But, it can also help thin the mucus. So, drinking plenty of water can loosen the mucus. So, it becomes easier to eliminate it from your body.

Neti Pot Option

Neti Pot Option

It is one of the popular methods to loosen mucus. It is also referred to as nasal irrigation. You can use the neti pot, which resembles a teapot. It is helpful in flushing out your nasal passage using saline water. You can also use other methods of nasal irrigation like squeeze bottle or bulb syringe.


Mucus protects your lungs. It is produced by the respiratory system to prevent any bacterial, viral or fungal attack on your lungs. You need to pay close attention to the color and texture of your mucus. Coughing yellow mucus indicates the presence of a health problem. You start coughing only when you fall sick. Developing a chronic lung disease can also lead to yellow or green colored mucus. Get help from your doctor immediately to know the exact health issue. Your doctor can diagnose the problem and help you get proper treatment. It will clear the problem and help you breathe freely without coughing or mucus production.

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