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Snot a Booger

Updated on July 19, 2009

What it - Snot

Seriously, sinus snot is different from boogers, and a lot more painful too. Trust me, I know. I have been experiencing snot like the rest of you for my entire life, but sinus snot is different and you need to know the difference. It can change your life.

This is not a regular snot page to educate you on different types of phlegm, or that most snot is just snot from a cold, or that antibiotics won't work on virus pus. We get that. 90% of all snot is fine. The quart of discharge that we make each day is needed by our bodies.

Sinus snot is not a booger. A booger is just a piece of dried-up nose drainage that comes in different shades of brown or white.

Sinus snot is not nasal discharge that happens when you have a cold and need someone to hand you a tissue.

Sinus snot is not the piece of phlegm that you cough up into your hand when you have bronchitis or pneumonia1.

Read on to see what sinus snot actually is.

Sinus Snot - A visual tour

Sinus headaches and pain is usually caused when the nasal passages become swelled due to congestion. The sinus ostia; the little openings that allow sinus cavity mucous to flow from the sinus cavity to the perinasal cavity, become clogged. Pressure builds as the mucous can no longer run. This is where the problem begins.

The naturally clear mucous becomes thicker, due to an infusion of white blood cells, as your body's natural defense system comes to your aid. If you take antihistamines or nasal decongestants, these will also cloud your mucous.Finally, if the humidity levels in your current home and workplace are low, the mucous will have less water vapor at its disposal and will become thicker.2

When the pus lays there in the sinus cavity with no escape, pressure is not the only by-product. Bacteria grows and grows, leading to an infection. Your body sends out alerts and neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, comes charging in. As biochemical warfare takes place, certain enzymes and co-enzymes are produced by the neutrophils cells and this is where the color change takes place. The co-enzyme ferrous (iron) is the culprit that turns the built-up pus to green.

Most of us grew up hearing that if your snot turns green, you probably have a sinus infection. This is true. Most physicians (who you should generally trust!) will say that, "Just because you have green or yellow snot does not mean you have a sinus infection." They are right and wrong. This doublespeak is due to legal issues and fears rather than the common sense of our ancestors. See the link above for an example.

Unfortunately, there are few photos of this actuality out there. If I could, I would show you a few of my own, but I just had sinus surgery to open up the passages to my maxillary sinuses so hopefully I won't ever have the opportunity to see snot globs again, but I can explain what they look like from my own observation.

Low-level sinus snot is due to an early infection or slow sinus cavity drainage. It is more creamy white-yellow in appearance, and the consistency is that of pus, rather than nasal runny water discharge. At this stage, you may think you have a cold. Bright-yellow sinus snot is the last stage before things become very serious. At this point, the white blood cells are revving up their chemicals for true warfare. You need to take immediate action at home or you will need professional help.

Mid-level sinus snot is due to a well-progressed infection or clogged sinus cavity drainage. It is definitely yellow or green, and sometimes very bright. The consistency is still that of pus. Your body's immune system is working as hard as it can. See a doctor immediately because unless you're one of the lucky few, you will have sinus headaches and pain before long.

Snot at Amazon

High-level sinus snot is due to an infection that will not end. Your sinus cavity is completely blocked and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Either you will have to have medicinal treatments or you may need surgery. As the sinus infection spreads, and your body begins to lose, the pressure must be relieved. There is only one way out. The problem is that the sinus discharge has moved beyond the thicker pus stage, to one of globs. The old sinus pus has become congealed to the consistency of dried paste or glue. These globs can become so thick that they are forced out in little blobs through your ostia. Your sinus cavity will continue to create discharge, but the old stuff is in the way. When it is forced through your ostia, it takes on a new appearance. In my case, that of raspberry drupelets.3 It's amazing to behold because you wonder how such an alien form could come into existence. But now, you know.

1 It could be a glob of sinus snot that falls down into your mouth. This is commonly called phlegm, but should be distinguished from respiratory phlegm. If it is being pushed out of a clogged sinus ostia, collects and congeals, it could possibly fall to the back of your throat and make you gag. This becomes sinus phlegm that you either swallow or spit out.

2 If you suffer from sinus headaches, use this information to your benefit: humidify, boost your immune system or seek medical help, and decide on your game-plan with antihistamines and decongestants. They will help reduce swelling (good) but thicken mucous (bad).

3 I love wild raspberry pie!

Pus Poll

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      Becky 5 years ago

      I had the same thing happen to me. I ended up having sinus surgery with enourmous polyps removed last Wednesday. I am writing now because the nasal stuff has turned bright yellow. After reading all the other posts I calling the ENT tomorrow!

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      ME 6 years ago

      I have found a lot of posts about what Im going to explain, but no real medical explaination...just a lot of people who have experienced the same thing and looking for an answer.

      I have been sick with the flu and thena terriblehead cold. I had lots of pressure in my right ear and thought it would turn to an ear infection, ie ringing and pain..that never happened but the pressure in my head was so bad and my teeth hurt. After feeling like I was getting a little better and some of the pressure released i had the strangest thing happen. I was blowing my nose and out came the regular gooey discharge and then i bent over and this yellow/orange, bright like a highlighter marker, runny nose for about 2 minutes and then stopped. It was like having a bloody nose without the blood. It was like a runny nose but it was an unnatural yellow I have never seen come out of my nose before. It happened again the next day. What is happening?

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      kathy 7 years ago

      I have an ongoing sinus headache for two weeks now, ifelt a pop n my nose n knew I had to blow it. When Isis this very dark red, very thick mucus came out n ran like a hose, what is this