Health Check: does green mucus mean you’re infectious and need antibiotics?

Health Check: does green mucus mean you’re infectious and need antibiotics?

While this article is written for the general public, not for those with CLL, I found the description of how our mucal secretions vary through the normal inflammatory sequence with respiratory infections from the common cold, sinusitis and acute bronchitis respectively quite enlightening. John Turnidge, Affiliate Professor of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide has summarised this in an an easily readable article:

Be aware that with CLL, infections we previously used to brush off easily can take longer to clear and become more serious due to our compromised immune systems. Developing pneumonia can have serious repercussions, so you should definitely go to your doctor if you feel your respiratory infection is worsening. In our case, a script or several for antibiotics - even if there isn't a bacterial infection, is a worthwhile compromise. Finally remember that prevention is better than cure - particularly in our case, so do ensure you are up to date with flu and pneumonia vaccinations.


Photo: Fog droplets on a wild turnip flower


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7 Replies

  • Interesting, but totally does not match my personal experience with respiratory infections. It is important to know your own body as well as what "science" says!

  • Fantastic photo Neil... I love those big shining fog/dew droplets!

  • Interesting. In addition to CLL I have a lung condition Bronchiectasis. This causes my lungs to produce excessive amounts of mucus and makes me prone to lung infections. at the moment it is potentially of more concern than the CLL. When I do get an infection my mucus never changes colour - it always stays white or cream. It just goes much thicker. My consultant says this is due to the CLL.

  • As an aside, my GP automatically prescribes me with a two weeks supply of antibiotics (rather than one) as he believes cll status requires a little extra help.

    Thanks for interesting article.

  • Very interesting, Neil, explains why I do not have yellow or green drainage anymore. I had wondered about that, having had numerous infections in the last 18 months, but no discolored drainage, which was previously always in the picture. Thanks for posting this. We truly can learn something new every day!!!


  • Per the statements 'But in the case of respiratory infections, the green or yellow colour is due to the white blood cells' and 'Over a number of days, the mucus becomes thicker and turns to yellow or green as the neutrophils – cells that help fight infection – arrive.', I've previously wondered if having low neutrophils, either from CLL or from treatment drugs, means that there is less discolouration when we have colds. The discolouration of the mucus could also be reduced by the reduced effectiveness and longer recovery time from respiratory infections.

    Certainly I'd like to go back to the days when my colds lasted me a week without medication and seven days with medication...

  • Thanks Neil. Will give this a read when the headline stops making me gag :-)

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