Coughing up Mucus - What Could It Mean?

Javeria Usmani


January 19, 2022
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

Coughing up mucus - What Could it mean?
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Are you worried about coughing up mucus? Well, it is nothing to be afraid of, much less to let fear get the best of you. 

But, mucus can relate to chronic cough at times. A cough is a natural mechanism or reflex of your body; it helps clear your respiratory pathway from allergens and irritants.

Sometimes your cough may involve mucus expulsion. In that case, it would be a productive cough (wet cough). 

Although mucus production is healthy, one of the purposes of mucus is to act as a lubricant for the respiratory tract. However, appearance and color can be a hint to your health.

Before continuing further, have a look at constituents of mucus:

  • Water
  • Antibodies
  • Enzymes
  • Proteins 
  • Salt

It may also entrap:

  • Dead cells
  • Dust 
  • Debris

Your body makes nearly 1 liter of mucus per day. Yet, somehow, changes in texture, consistency, color, and phlegm frequency may cause an ailment. Similarly, increased production of mucus makes you feel irritated and uncomfortable. 

Let's dig deeper into what the color or texture of your mucus specifies. Keep in mind your doctor will go for a sputum test to conclude. 

1. Frothy White Mucus

Mucus with air bubbles or a foamy appearance is usually normal. However, if your mucus shows a slight pink or light reddish shade, it might be a sign of chronic illness.

This research article states: Cough and Sputum Production Are Associated With Frequent Exacerbations and Hospitalizations in COPD Subjects.

2. Thick or Solid White Mucus

Dehydration and swollen tissues are the reason behind thick white mucus. Using a humidifier and increase in water intake aids in recovering this problem.

Secondly, thick phlegm can also represent bacterial infection of your airways. Thus, it is essential to visit your doctor to start antibiotic treatment. 

Mainly asthma, viral inflammation, and allergies can turn your sputum white. Taking anti-allergies, anti-histamines, and nasal drops can work if an allergy is an underlying root. 

3. Clear Mucus

Naturally, the colorless or transparent mucus is perfect and a sign of a healthy body. However, it appears to be thin. In addition, changes in the consistency or frequency should be observed.

4. Charcoal/Gray Mucus

Charcoal or gray phlegm typically appears in people who work in chemical or charcoal manufacturing factories, coal mines, and smokers. 

In addition, factory workers or coal miners who do not adhere to safety precautions and use facemasks are more prone. This condition is an absolute risk of serious illness.

5. Yellow/Green Mucus

Purulent is the other name given to this type of phlegm. As it contains ‘pus’. This color appears when neutrophils (a type of white blood cells) accompany the sputum. 

Your doctor can prescribe you the medications after proper diagnosis. 

6. Red Mucus

Red or bloody shall be an alarming situation. If you cough up blood consistently, visiting the doctor is compulsory. 

Sometimes it can be due to an infection. But most often, it indicates danger—lung cancer, pneumonia, bronchitis, etc., or maybe the invisible cause.

7. Brown Mucus

Old blood comes as brown mucus while coughing. Often inhaling a large amount of dirt leads to brown sputum. 

8. Black Mucus

When lung tissue is damaged completely, or some infections due to fungus/bacteria cause mucus to turn black.

An informative research study discusses in detail cough and sputum production.


Cough and mucus are nature's gifts. In contrast, transition in the natural mechanisms should be observed keenly. Proper diagnosis is necessary if the condition remains persistent. 

• U.S. adults' knowledge of various infectious diseases by age 2017 

• Top respiratory products by revenue U.S. 2016 


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