Closeup of a young boy with tissue by face.

Reocurring Snot, Ahem, Cold Symptoms in Kids

By Martin Janning, MD, Outreach Specialist at GRHS: Ear, Nose & Throat Physician & Sleep Specialist

This three-part series features common pediatric ear, nose, and throat symptoms to help parents identify the normal versus abnormal conditions kids have – and when to talk to their family physician about it. In part one, we looked at concerns with snoring and children. A rite of passage for being a kid means sharing a lot of germs. Here’s part two: what does all of that snot mean? Icky — but keep reading.

Do you feel like your child constantly has a runny nose?

It’s no secret that children are prone to getting colds. It is very normal for children, especially at the age when they are in daycare or in school, to have a recurring cold. If your child’s cold symptoms last more than seven days, especially if symptoms worsen, it’s probably time to call the doctor.

Does the color of your child’s mucus mean anything? 

Clear mucus usually means everything is normal. Our bodies produce 1.5 quarts of mucus a day to keep our sinuses, throat, and lungs moist. This creates a strong armor to protect our bodies from bacteria in the air. However, sometimes clear nasal discharge may mean an allergic reaction. This is your body’s response to irritants like pollen, cat, dog, or horse dander, and dust mites.

Yellow or green mucus is a sign that your child may have an infection and their body is working hard to fight it off. When we have colds or infection our immune system sends certain types of white blood cells to the nasal passageways. These cells contain an enzyme that is green colored and then, in turn, will change the mucus the yellow or green depending on the number of enzymes the body releases. If your child has yellow or green nasal discharge for more than seven days, you may want to contact your child’s provider.

When a child has a reoccurring cold, it is not a cause for immediate concern but may warrant further evaluation by your child’s doctor. They will be able to answer your questions and concerns, and if recommended, can set up a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist.