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What causes running nose with thick yellow mucus?

Answered by
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Dr. Michelle Gibson James

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :2001

Answered : 16701 Questions

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Posted on Fri, 9 Jan 2015 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Question: my 3 year old has had a runny nose for a week . the discharge is yellow and thick and darker in the morning, when should i suspect a sinus infection?
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Answered by Dr. Michelle Gibson James 38 minutes later
Brief Answer:
fluids, mucolytics,antihistamines would help

Detailed Answer:
Hi, thanks for using healthcare magic

Most upper respiratory tract infections (infections of the nose, throat, upper airways, sinuses) can eventually result in the discharge turning from clear to yellow and ,in some cases, green.
In some cases this may indicate a bacterial infection but in many it is only the progression of a viral infection.

In sinus infection there would normally be accompanying facial pain (because sinuses in face congested). The discharge may also have an odor. In addition there would likely to be persisting fever.

You may want to consider the use of : (1) fluids- enough fluids would help decrease the thickness of the secretions so that they are expelled more easily

(2)mucolytics- these are medications that also decrease secretion thickness
Eg are bisolvan, mucomyst, guaifenesin (found in robitussin)

(3)decongestant- either topical or oral would also help
Topical decongestants would be normal saline or oxymetazoline or xylometazoline
Oral would pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine

(4)oral antihistamines

You are likely to find over the counter medications combining the , mucolytics, antihistamines and oral decongestants.

If he has fever, facial pain or the discharge has significant discharge then he may need oral antibiotics

I hope this helps, feel free to ask any other questions

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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