Medical Misconception: Green Mucus Requires an Antibiotic

Each month, a health care professional will weigh in on a health and wellness myth and will explain the real cause behind the malady.

This month’s misconception: Green mucus requires an antibiotic


Your nose is stuffy, you’re sneezing and coughing, and you’re feeling run down.

You’ve got a cold.

When you blow your nose, you notice green mucus. Surely, it’s a sign of infection, and you need an antibiotic to get rid of it, right?

Not so fast.

Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, and what you are most likely experiencing is a viral infection.

An upper respiratory infection, also known as the common cold, is one of the most common reasons people visit a doctor. Children can have six to eight colds a year, while adults can have anywhere from two to four colds a year.

More than 200 different viruses can cause cold symptoms. After the virus enters the body, your immune system reacts to it, causing an increase of mucus and swelling in the nose, sneezing and coughing. Over the first few days, the nasal mucus can change from thin and clear to thick and green. These symptoms can last from seven to 10 days.

Some medications are available to treat the symptoms of a cold, but they will not cure it.

Keep in mind: cold symptoms may be similar to the flu, certain bacterial infections or allergies. For a fever greater than 100.4 degrees F, or symptoms lasting longer that 10 days, contact your doctor.

Wendy Miller, M.D., of Carroll Health Group Primary Care, sees patients in Eldersburg.

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