Medical Mythbuster: When a Child’s Runny Nose Turns Green, That’s a Sign You Need Antibiotics

By Kia McCarthy, NP
Reliant Medical Group Pediatrics

Many parents mistakenly believe that their child’s green nasal mucous means there is a worsening infection present. In truth, most colds in children will follow a natural course lasting around 10 to 12 days, with a runny nose changing from a yellowish to greenish discharge around days three to five. However, this change in color is not an indication that the infection has worsened into a sinus infection requiring antibiotics. It’s frequently a sign that the body’s immune system is working hard against the virus.

When white blood cells and antibodies swarm to fight off a cold, nasal discharge turns yellow and then often greenish in color. Eventually the nasal discharge turns clear before completely resolving. As long as everything follows this expected course then there is no need to worry. If, on the other hand, a green runny nose has gone on for more than two weeks, then it is time to consider talking to your health care provider. It could be an indication that a cold has changed into a sinus infection.

Remember, be sure to have your child wash their hands often to prevent colds and other illnesses.

Medical Mythbuster: When a Child’s Runny Nose Turns Green, That’s a Sign You Need Antibiotics

About Kia McCarthy, NP

A graduate of Connecticut College and Simmons College, Kia started her career as a nurse in 2004. “I have nurses in my family and have been very lucky to work with extremely dedicated and talented nurse practitioners during my career,” she explains. “When the opportunity presented itself to expand my knowledge as a nurse practitioner to provide more comprehensive care, I decided to jump right in.”

For Kia, there is no more...

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