The Secret Language of Boogers

As yucky as it may be, mucus is good for you. It helps keep your nasal passages moist and it helps protect you from infections by trapping foreign matter.

When I first started seeing an allergist (I was around five; my brother was around three), he told us to look at our snot every time we blew our noses. Old habits die hard; more than twenty years later, I’m still a booger looker.

The color of the stuff coming out of your nose can tell you a thing or two about your health.

  • Clear mucus
    If your boogers are clear, you’re in good shape. Clear is the natural, healthy color of your mucus.
  • Yellow mucus
    If your snot is yellow, you may have a problem. Yellow mucus often signifies something damaged up in nose-land. You may have a sinus infection with a blocked nasal passage, which can turn into chronic sinusitis. You may have nasal polyps or even bronchitis. If you have yellow boogers for several days — especially with sinus pain — you should probably call your doctor.
  • Green mucus
    Slimy green boogers are just as bad as yellow ones. Bacteria are usually to blame for green snot, but you may also see the color change to green from irritants like smoke or pollution. You may find green stuff coming out more when you cough than when you blow your nose, but it can come out either way. Out is always better than in! Chances are, if you’re coughing up green stuff, you’ve got an inflammation in the bronchial tubes in your lungs.
  • Brown mucus
    My boogers are a gross shade of grey or brown if I’ve spent the evening out at a smoky bar. If your sinuses are swollen, you may find blood mingling with your boogers, turning them icky dark colors. Smoking and drinking alcohol can make things worse.
  • White mucus
    White is probably the rarest of all booger colors. But don’t think you’ve won the jackpot if your snot is white, unless you’re hoping for a medical jackpot. White mucus can be caused by certain dairy foods. If you are experiencing congestion and pressure in your sinuses and drink milk, you may see your mucus turn white.

This list is not intended to diagnose any problems. If you are concerned about the things and colors coming out of your nose, call your doctor!

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