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Cold and Flu Center

Reasons for Coughing Up White Mucus

author image Rica Lewis
A health-care professional for more than 10 years, Rica Lewis has obtained numerous certifications in the industry. In 2006 she began channeling her knowledge into health-related articles for print and online publications. Her work has appeared in "Metroparent Magazine," "Anew Heart Healthcare Magazine" and community newspapers. Lewis earned a diploma from LongRidge Writers Institute.
Reasons for Coughing Up White Mucus
A fever, excess mucus and a sore throat are symptoms of an infection.

Mucus is an important fluid in the body that is made up of water, cells and salts. It protects and lubricates the body's mucous membranes and is present in the stomach, lungs and intestines as well, according to Kids Health. Excess mucus that is coughed up is generally the result of infection. The consistency and color of the mucus can change as an illness runs its course. These details as well as other symptoms are significant to diagnosis.


The winter months often bring cold and flu symptoms, especially among children, who are typically more susceptible to sickness than are healthy adults. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that sinus symptoms most often result from an infecting virus. Symptoms of sinusitis go beyond those caused by the common cold and include nasal congestion and mucus discharge that is white and becomes yellowish or greenish. Other signs are pressure in the face, fever, ear pain, fatigue and pain along the jaw or in the teeth. Children’s symptoms differ and may include vomiting, coughing, gagging on mucus and persistent nasal discharge.

Common Cold

The common cold is a sickness that strikes adults from two to four times and children as many as 10 times yearly. More than 200 viruses can cause a simple cold, which often makes an infection inevitable. Symptoms of a cold vary form person to person and differ with each occurrence. Most individuals experience a sore throat, watery eyes, sneezing and mucus discharge that starts out clear and becomes creamy and thick. The mucus passes from the nose to the throat and is coughed up. The Mayo Clinic reports that the discharge color may change as the cold runs its course.


Bronchitis is an infection that is more serious than the common cold but not as severe as pneumonia. The infection results from inflammation in the airways, caused by illness, exposure to irritants such as tobacco, or a viral infection. Cold-like symptoms are common, including a runny nose, sore throat and fatigue. The infection causes excess mucus that may change colors from white to yellow or green, which indicates the inflammatory cells have moved into the airway and are coloring the sputum, according the Merck Manual of Medical Information. If coughing lasts more than two or three weeks or produces blood, contact a doctor. Shortness of breath and wheezing should also be reported.

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