Does Clear Phlegm Mean I Don't Have an Infection?

The flu is often accompanied by phlegm or mucus in the throat.
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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Healthy phlegm or mucus is usually thin and clear, and so we tend to assume if we’re producing clear phlegm, or clear snot, there is no infection or illness present. The truth is that clear phlegm can be a symptom or side effect of certain infections and illnesses. These infections are usually viral in nature, which means antibiotics are not necessary. Some of the most common viral infections that produce clear phlegm include sinus infections, the common cold, and influenza. Usually, your body will fight these infections on its own, but you should see your doctor if other severe symptoms are present and persist.

You can experience clear phlegm during either a viral or a bacterial infection, but clear mucus is more common during viral infections. For example, you might produce clear mucus if you have a sinus infection that is not bacterial in nature. If this is the case, the mucus might also be sticky or glue-like and you might have swollen and tender sinuses and nasal passages. If the bacteria become trapped in the nasal passages, the sinus infection might become a bacterial infection. When this happens, your mucus can become yellow or green and it might become thick or clumpy.

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Other kinds of infections that produce clear phlegm include the common cold and influenza. Both of these infections are viral infections, and both can cause you to produce an excess of clear mucus that is present in your nose and the back of your throat during the beginning and ending stages of the illnesses. During the first few days of contracting a cold or flu, your phlegm will probably be thin and clear and you might have a runny nose. Once your body starts responding to these infections, though, your phlegm might become yellow or green and even change consistency. Later, once your immune system is closer to eliminating the infection, the mucus will become clear again.

Since clear phlegm is more commonly present with viral infections, usually you do not need antibiotics to treat them. If the symptoms are particularly severe, your doctor might prescribe medication to treat the sinus infection or manage the cold or flu symptoms. Otherwise, over-the-counter medications are usually effective in managing the symptoms until your body’s immune system fights the infection. Always seek medical attention if the phlegm becomes discolored or if it is accompanied by severe symptoms such as pain, chills, or a fever.

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Discuss this Article

Perdido
Post 4

If I have a cough with phlegm, even if it is clear phlegm, I usually see my doctor. In my experience, I can't recover from chest congestion with phlegm unless I have help.

If I have a viral infection, I can at least get some strong prescription cough medicine to help me sleep. Some doctors will even prescribe pain pills to help you with the soreness in your lungs and bronchial tubes from coughing up all that phlegm!

OeKc05
Post 3

I had so much clear phlegm in my throat and nose during the week I was sick with a cold that I had to keep tissues stuffed up my nostrils! Within fifteen minutes, a tissue would become soaked, and I would have to replace it.

It just seemed more efficient than blowing my nose every few seconds. Clear phlegm with a cold may not indicate an infection that can be treated by a doctor, but it really can make your life miserable!

I couldn't go anywhere, because I would not be seen with that tissue plugging my nose. However, if I removed it, clear mucus would drip down constantly!

Kristee
Post 2

@Oceana – My sinus infection started out with clear phlegm, but within a few weeks, I started producing yellow phlegm. It really stopped up my nasal passages and made it hard to breathe. I also developed an ear ache, and one side of my throat was really dry and sore.

I tried taking antihistamines, but nothing really helped. I finally went to my doctor, and she told me that bright yellow phlegm is a sign of a bacterial infection.

She gave me antibiotics, and I got better within a few days. If I had known how easy this was to treat, I would have gone long ago!

Oceana
Post 1

I knew I had a sinus infection when what I thought were allergy issues just did not go away. My ears and nose became clogged with phlegm, but since it was clear, I didn't go to the doctor.

I took decongestants to relieve my sinus pressure. This dried up the phlegm a bit and reduced the swelling in my nose. I was able to breathe at night, and it was the best of the phlegm remedies I had tried.

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