What Color Is Your Snot? Here's What It's Trying to Tell You When It Turns Green, Brown, and More

We've already established that your pee's color and smell can tell you a lot about what's going on in your body; as such, it shouldn't be surprising that your snot's color has a lot to tell you, too. Add to that the fact that the flu vaccine is only 23 percent effective this year, and, well… let's just say that I'm really happy I just found this snot-tastic infographic today. I'm also a little grossed out, but hey, gross knowledge about what might be going on in my giant, oversized schnozz is better than no knowledge at all.

Cleveland Clinic put together graphic, which helpfully breaks down not only some of the more common colors your snot might be, but also — and probably more importantly — what those colors mean. I have awful sinuses in my aforementioned gigantic nose, so I probably pay more attention to how stuffed up I am at any given moment than a lot of people do… but maybe we should all be listening (or perhaps more accurately, watching) our snot a little more closely. As annoying as it can be sometimes, mucus is an incredibly important part of how our bodies work. Not only does it protect our soft tissues from drying out, but moreover, it also traps things like bacteria and dust before they can get inside us-- and it contains antibodies to help us fight off sickness, to boot. Michael M. Johns, III, MD of the Emory Voice Center described mucus to WebMD as “the oil in the engine,” noting that without it, “the engine seizes.” Fun.

So what do you when your snot turns weird colors? You try to figure out what it wants you to know. Here are the most useful takeaways I pulled from the Cleveland Clinic's infographic; head on over to their website to get the lowdown on the full spectrum of shades. Don't forget your tissues!

If Your Snot Is Clear…

Congratulations! You're perfectly healthy. Hoorah!

If Your Snot Is White…

You're getting sick. White snot is the first sign of illness, so get ready to feel some congestion.

If Your Snot Is Green…

Your immune system is waging full-out war with whatever bug you've got. Green is also more severe than yellow (which typically comes between the white and green phases), so if you've been sick for 12 days or more, you might want to get to a doctor; it could be sinusitis. Ick.

If Your Snot Is Brown…

This one actually isn't as bad as you might think. It could be blood; more likely, though, it's something you inhaled: Dirt, paprika, whatever. Look at it as proof that your nose hairs are doing what they're supposed to do.

If Your Snot Is Black…

Good gravy, get thee to a doctor. Black snot sometimes appears in smokers and users of other illicit substances — but if you don't fall under either of those headings, you might have a serious fungal infection. Ear, nose, and throat doc, here you come.

Check out more over at the Cleveland Clinic's website.

Images: mcfarlandmo/Flickr; Giphy (3)