Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Discolored respiratory mucus

On call

Discolored respiratory mucus

Q. Every time I get a flow of green mucus from my nose after a cold, I call my doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics. But when I called last week, my doctor was on vacation, and the young covering M.D. would not call in an antibiotic. I was very upset. What can I do to get an antibiotic if this happens again?

A. The short answer is to memorize your doctor's vacation schedule. But the real answer may not be any more welcome than the jest, since the covering doctor is probably right.

The membranes that line the nose, sinuses, middle ear, and larger bronchial tubes all contain mucus-producing cells. Large volumes of mucus are produced every day, but when you are healthy the mucus is clear and sticky, so you may not even notice it. Almost anything that irritates the respiratory tissue will trigger increased mucus flow; allergies and smoke inhalation are common examples.

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