What does the colour of your child’s snot really mean?

TerryWhite Chemmart
Thanks to our brand partner, TerryWhite Chemmart


To take them to daycare or not to take them to daycare? That is the question. Dealing with snotty noses is part of the parenting package. For some (ahem, me) it’s a never-ending cycle which makes juggling work and family life quite the challenge.

Many, many mornings I’ve gotten ready for work only to go into my little one’s room and be greeted by a snot-covered pillow and a grumpy face. Sometimes I know straight away that my kid is in no shape to be around other humans. Other times, it’s not so cut and dry.

So how do you decide whether to keep your child at home or not?

Step 1: Analyse the colour and consistency.

Is the snot clear and thin? Or is it yellow or green and thick in texture? A cold normally starts with clear, thin mucus that gradually gets thicker as the immune system kicks into gear. Yellow or green snot is a sign that your child’s cells have started fighting the infection (unless it’s a chip or a pea your child shoved up their nostril a week ago). Contrary to popular belief, your child is most contagious during the clear, runny nose phase but they will be most uncomfortable during the thick, yellow/green snot phase. Some parents swear that their children get a clear, runny nose when teething so it can be hard to make a decision about daycare without further analysis and advice.

My boy at daycare on one of his snot-free days. Image: Supplied.

Step 2: Check your child’s temperature.

Does your child have a fever? A fever is a sign that your child is fighting off a bug that you wouldn’t want him or her to share with others. If your child is on the tail end of a cold and has no temperature, you can probably head to work without worrying. If they have heaps of snot and/or a temperature, it’s time to replace those heels with a pair of uggs and cancel that meeting because your little one might be too sick for daycare. When it comes to colds and flu, sharing is definitely not caring.

Step 3: Trust your intuition.

Use your parental intuition to figure out if your child is their normal self or if they are not 100 percent. Although this can be tricky to tell if your child is between the ages of two and four and hates the world and everyone in it.

Ask yourself, “Does my child look well enough? Would they cope in a group environment? Or do they need some extra mum/dad cuddles?”

Don't spread those colds, boys! Image: Supplied.

Step 4: Call your centre director.

Snotty noses usually fall under the general illness policy which isn’t too specific, so it’s a good idea to chat to your centre director for clarification. Jo, the director at my kids’ daycare, says that if they have clear snot and no other signs of illness, they are fine to attend. Otherwise, they need to go to a pharmacist or a GP. Jo also encourages parents to consider the educators and other families by asking, “Is it fair on the carers to have to wipe my child’s nose all day? Is it fair to other families and children to possibly spread an infection around?” Sage advice, Jo.

Step 5: Visit your pharmacist.

I know lots of people think Dr Google can diagnose everything from irritable bowel syndrome to gluten intolerance, but the internet is full of misinformation. Your best bet in most snotty nose cases is to visit a pharmacist for some trusted, professional advice on colds and flu. They can often help you make the right decision on whether to send your child to daycare, and advise the best course of treatment for your little one. Another bonus is that you can just show up, no appointment required. Easy.

The colder months mean more snotty noses! Image: Supplied.

Knowing what to do when your child morphs into a mucus factory isn’t easy. Snot-crusted schnozzers also have a way of emerging when your other half is away and you have a jam-packed week of work and meetings. Snotty noses are part of life with young kids and it’s good to have a plan of action in place for when the next booger arrives.

What's your tip for taking care of your bub with a snotty nose? Tell us below!

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.