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Cough with yellow phlegm: causes, treatment and remedies

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Mucus or phlegm is a colorless transparent fluid that helps us keep the tissue of the airways well moistened. However, when this fluid changes its appearance and acquires a certain color or consistency, it can alert us to the presence of an infection or a health problem. Yellow phlegm, in particular, usually indicates that there is an infection in the paranasal sinuses, lungs or upper respiratory tract and, in many cases, is accompanied by a constant cough. In this FastlyHealarticle, we are going to explain what are all the causes of cough with yellow phlegm so that we can know what disease or condition is causing this symptom and, in addition, we will show what treatment to follow in each case and what home remedies we can use to remove mucus more quickly.

Why do I have a cough with yellow phlegm – causes

When mucus turns yellow, it is a sign that the body is trying to fight some type of infection or virus that is compromising the health of the sinuses, upper respiratory tract, or lungs. That yellowish or greenish hue of the phlegm comes, specifically, from the white blood cells , and is that when there is an infection, the body sends these cells to fight bacteria or viruses and these cells have a greenish enzyme, which is why when there is many white blood cells, mucus turns yellowish in color that may progress to green as the infection progresses and progresses.

Here are the most common diseases or conditions that can cause yellow phlegm:


Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes , which are the tubes that carry air to the lungs. The most common form of this condition is called acute bronchitis, which can be caused by bacterial infections, the same viruses that cause colds and flu, or lung irritants such as tobacco smoke, dust, gases, air pollution, etc. Among the main symptoms of acute bronchitis are the following:

  • Dry and persistent cough with or without phlegm. If over time the cough with yellow phlegm appears, it is a sign that the bronchitis may be evolving from viral to bacterial.
  • Wheezing
  • Pressure in the chest.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Short of breath.
  • Slight fever.


A thick, yellow mucus can also be caused by sinusitis. This is the inflammation and infection of the paranasal sinuses , which are hollow cavities through which air passes through the inside of the bones that surround the nose. It can be caused by a cold that later turns into a bacterial infection, allergies, sinus obstruction due to anatomical problems (deviated septum, nasal polyps, etc.), vegetations, etc. Its frequent symptoms are:

  • Pain or pressure in the cheeks, forehead, nose, or between the eyes.
  • Headaches.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Tos.
  • Expulsion of white or yellow-green mucus.
  • Postnasal drip – mucus in the back of the throat.
  • Facial sensitivity
  • Bad breath.
  • Decreased senses of taste and smell.
  • Throat pain.
  • Fatigue.


Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung tissue due to the presence of an infectious agent. It is usually caused by infectious agents such as streptococcus pneumoniae , hemophilus influenzae , legionella, and mycoplasma ; viruses such as influenza and chickenpox; fungi such as penumocystis jiroveci . The symptoms that a patient with pneumonia presents are:

  • Cough, which may be accompanied by yellow or green phlegm and in some cases even a little blood.
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing well.
  • Fever.
  • Shaking and chills

Some patients also report excessive sweating, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, and malaise.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that causes difficulties in breathing normally due to obstruction of air flow from the lungs. It is usually caused by prolonged exposure to irritating gases or particles such as cigarette smoke and chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two of the common diseases that can contribute to COPD. Among its symptoms , the following may be found:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pressure
  • Chronic cough that can be accompanied by phlegm, which can be clear to white, yellow or greenish.
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Weightloss.
  • Lack of energy.

It is important to note that the symptoms of this disease appear when there is already significant damage and that they get worse over time.

Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, chronic lung disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other parts of the body. It is an inherited disease caused by a defective gene that causes the body to produce excess mucus and it accumulates in the airways and pancreas. Among the symptoms it causes are:

  • In newborns: growth retardation, difficulty or inability to gain weight, salty-tasting skin, absence of stools during the first 24 or 48 hours of life.
  • At the respiratory level: respiratory infections, nasal congestion, cough with phlegm, sinus pain.
  • At the intestinal level: abdominal pain, gas, abdominal bloating, nausea, loss of appetite, pale stools, weight loss.
  • Later, infertility (men), malformed fingers, and pancreatitis may occur.

Treatment of cough with yellow phlegm

The treatment of cough with yellow phlegm will depend in each case on the cause that is causing this symptom. Therefore, it is advisable to go to the doctor and follow his instructions to successfully treat the disease or condition that is behind the cough and the expulsion of yellow mucus.

Next, we show what are the treatments that are usually recommended for the conditions that we have mentioned above and that can be the origin of the cough with yellow mucus.

Treatment of bronchitis

If the cough with yellow phlegm is caused by a picture of acute bronchitis, the specialist will recommend a treatment aimed at alleviating the symptoms, which may include the following:

  • Pain reliever medications: to relieve discomfort, reduce pain and fever.
  • Anti-inflammatories: to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Cough suppressants in the event of a dry cough.
  • Bronchodilators: in case of panting or wheezing to help open the airways.
  • Antibiotics: only in cases of bronchitis caused by bacteria.

In addition to the above, it is advisable for the patient to rest, increase the consumption of healthy liquids, such as water and natural infusions, and use a humidifier at home to increase the humidity of the environment.

Sinusitis treatment

To relieve sinus symptoms, the specialist may recommend the use of nasal saline sprays, nasal corticosteroids to prevent and treat inflammation, nasal decongestants, and pain relievers. Antibiotic medications may only be needed for severe or worsening acute bacterial sinusitis. Anti-allergy may also be prescribed if the cause of bronchitis is an allergy.

In the following article, we show some good natural remedies for sinusitis .

Treatment of pneumonia

The treatment of pneumonia is determined based on the severity of the symptoms, since in some cases only outpatient treatment is required while in others hospital admission is necessary if there are serious factors. To treat this disease, antibiotic drugs are prescribed to cure the lung infection. These are usually administered orally, but if the patient is hospitalized, they can be administered intravenously, in addition to other respiratory treatments or oxygen therapy.

It is also important to stay well hydrated, rest, avoid physical exertion and use a humidifier in the room.

COPD treatment

There is no definitive cure for COPD, however, to relieve the symptoms it causes, the specialist may recommend the following:

  • Quit smoking completely to prevent COPD from getting worse.
  • Medications: bronchodilators, inhaled or oral steroids, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Pulmonary therapies: oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation program.
  • Surgery for severe pulmonary emphysema that does not respond to medications.

We show much more detail about this condition in the article COPD: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment .

Cystic fibrosis treatment

An early diagnosis of cystic fibrosis is necessary to improve survival and quality of life for those affected. Treatment for this disease may include the following:

  • Treatment of lung and respiratory problems: oral, inhaled or intravenous antibiotics, nasal inhalers, mucolytic solutions, oxygen therapy, respiratory physiotherapy, administration of influenza and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines annually.
  • Treatment of intestinal problems: eat a diet rich in vitamins and proteins, consume pancreatic enzymes, vitamin supplements, insulin.

Home remedies for coughs with yellow phlegm

Among the effective natural remedies to eliminate yellow phlegm and calm a cough at the same time, the following stand out:

  • Steam hot water with eucalyptus or mint: fill a pot with water and put it on the fire to bring it to a boil. When it boils, add some eucalyptus or mint leaves and cook for 10 minutes. Then, place the pot on a table and bring your face closer to inhale the hot vapors that it gives off for about 10 minutes.
  • Good infusions to eliminate yellow phlegm: thyme, ginger and rosemary. All of them have natural expectorant properties.
  • Honey and lemon: in 1 cup of hot water, add the juice of 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon and 1 tablespoon of honey. Lemon is an expectorant and honey acts as a powerful natural antibiotic.
  • Onion: cut an onion into different pieces and place them in a container, then put the container on the bedside table and inhale the vapors that it gives off during sleeping hours.

In the following article, we show more home remedies for snot .

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Cough with yellow phlegm: causes, treatment and remedies , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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