Dr. Dean

Cream To Green -- The Color Of Phlegm

Posting Date: 01/09/2001

You might be fascinated by the color of the mucus you cough up, but rarely does anyone else care to hear a description.

Now, however, based on findings that spit darkens as the immune system releases its defenses, doctors in Birmingham, England are matching patients' spit to a simple color chart to determine the severity of lung disease.

The colors range from cream to dark green.

The chart was used by general practitioners and nurses to identify which patients with COPD -- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- had infections. All patients had similar symptoms, but the infected patients had dark green sputum.

COPD includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, obstructive airway disease, and some types of asthma.

For a simple a cold or flu, I don't think you need the guidance of a color chart. But it appears to be quite useful for distinguishing types of lung infections.

Source: BBC News Online. December 14, 2000