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Women's Health

Phlegm

12/16/2008

Question:

I have a cold and when I blow my nose it is a yellow color. What might the yellow color mean? Is my cold soon going to get better?

Answer:

What a great question. Many people wonder about this. The yellow color means that your immune system is fighting the virus that causes the cold. Your white blood cells, which are like the soldiers, surround the virus and kill it. Then the white blood cells also die (this is normal and your body makes plenty of them) and your body eliminates them by mixing with the mucous in your nose and getting you to blow it away.

Usually, the cold will last from 7-14 days. The best treatment is to drink fluids, take Tylenol or Advil every 4-6 hours, and the most important thing is to use very good hand washing technique. Wash your hands or use antiseptic hand cleaner EVERY time you sneeze, use a tissue, before you eat, etc.

If you sneeze, sneeze into a clean tissue or use the crook of your arm to cover the sneeze (the virus will die on your clothes). Wash your hands a lot. Some people say that vitamin C helps, but the research shows that it helps the most when you take vitamin C on a daily basis especially during cold season even if you don't have a cold. Antibiotics do NOT help and can actually be harmful.

Hope this helps and that you feel better soon!

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Response by:

Elizabeth R Barker, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP, CHE, PhD Elizabeth R Barker, APRN, BC, FNP, FAANP, CHE, PhD
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University