Snot is one of the mundane realities of life you probably don’t think much about, until you or someone you know gets sick.
Then suddenly it is everywhere — often in oozing, vibrant green abundance.
But does green or yellow snot mean you need antibiotics? Probably not, according to the experts.
Research has found that doctors are more likely to prescribe antibiotics to patients with green or yellow nasal discharge.
But the same study showed they were often doing so unnecessarily.
Dr Michael Tam, from the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said colourful snot was not a good reason to go rushing to the family doctor.
“The presence of green snot … does not indicate that you need antibiotics,” Dr Tam said. “Green nasal discharge is most commonly due to a viral infection of the nasal mucosa — basically, the common cold.”
Antibiotics will not help treat a viral illness. So if your snot turns green as the result of a common cold (which is caused by a virus) there’s no point taking them, Dr Tam said.
He said green or yellow nasal discharge could be caused by a bacterial infection, but even then, unless the infection is severe, you are better off without antibiotics.
Using antibiotics when you don’t need them can contribute to antibiotic resistance in the microorganisms in your own body and within the broader community.
Dr Tam said it was important to remember antibiotics could also have unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhoea and allergic reactions.
What makes snot green?
It might gross you out, but snot has an important bodily function. Snot, or mucus, is a mixture of water, salt, and proteins from your own body called mucins, which give it its sticky, stretchy qualities.