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Coughing up Yellow Mucus – Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Phlegm?

The term “phlegm” originates from the word “phlegma” which is Greek for inflammation. This phlegm accumulates in the area of the throat and will need to be coughed up.

In medical terms, phlegm is referred to as “sputum” or “expectorated” matter, meaning “coughed up substance”.

The majority of individuals refer to this as mucus or snot. When a person suffers from some infection or other disorder, this mucus gathers in the throat. This mucus aggravates the air passages and causes discomfort which triggers coughing which expels this mucus.

Allergies, asthma and infections can cause the respiratory tract to become inflamed and leading to a buildup of cells of inflammation or leukocytes in this mucus. This will cause the mucus to turn yellow. Yellow, thick mucus is a signal of a viral or bacterial infection. Individuals suffering chronic or acute bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia that is bacterial will normally cough up yellow thick mucus.

Causes of Yellow Mucus

There are many conditions that cause the cough of mucus that is yellow and these can include:


Pneumonia that is viral or bacterial causes a more frothy yellow mucus

Allergies or Asthma

Allergies or asthma that is caused by a reaction to some allergen substance


Bronchitis that is bacterial or viral and will force an individual to cough up yellow mucus and is a definite sign of inflammation. Could also be accompanied by excessive cough, fever and sore throat.


Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis causes yellow mucus to be coughed up. It is caused by smoking as well as working in hazardous environments. In this case, the mucus is thick and hard to cough up and might restrict getting oxygen to lungs

Influenza or Flu

Influenza or flu which is a common viral infection of the respiratory system

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the most perilous reason for coughing up mucus that is yellow, particularly if accompanied by weight loss due to low appetite. This need immediate evaluation by a medical professionals.


Tuberculosis is another cause for coughing up yellow mucus and could also contain traces of blood as well as generally feeling listlessness and having a fever. This is a disease requiring serious treatment and observation for the remainder of life in order to prevent any recurring of the acute phase

Coughing up Yellow Mucus Treatment

There are natural remedies along with OTC medications that may cause temporary relief to the stress of some the above listed conditions, especially viral infections of the sinuses. Here are some remedies that can be considered:

  • Solutions for steam inhalations might be helpful in quickly relieving any pressure or congestion in the sinus and nasal cavities when yellow mucus starts to accumulate.
  • Smokers need to make a serious attempt to quit smoking.
  • Eat foods that are antioxidants as they can boost the immune system as well as help fight the infection.
  • Prevent sinus problems by being aware of the possible environmental sinus irritants.
  • Acupressure for the sinuses which is also referred to as “sinus pressure point” is a safe and proven very effective way of preventing worse infections from developing.
  • Drink lots of room temperature water thru out the day and this thins the mucus for flow that is easier as well as helps to also prevent infections.
  • OTC or over the counter drug remedies can be used to primarily relief symptoms

Avoid using the following nasal sprays unless advised by a physician:

  • Naphazoline
  • Xylometazoline
  • Phenylephrine
  • Oxymetazoline
  • Avoid stress as prolonged stress weakens the immune system
  • Very warm baths or showers can stimulate perspiration which helps detoxify the body as well as boost the immune system

If these home remedies do not work or if the symptoms only get worse it is advisable to seek medical treatment as quickly as possible.

Coughing up Yellow Mucus

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