Jay Dolitsky MD FAAP Ped ENT Clinical Associate Professor of Otolaryngology New York Medical College ENTandALLERGY.com
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Male: Having a runny nose and maybe the mucus gets a little bit discolored, does that mean you have to treat with the antibiotics? Dr. Dolitsky: No, a common misconception is that the color of the mucus indicates the nature of an infection. In fact, that is not true. Generally, if someone has a runny nose, whether it is clear or yellow or green. That does not suggest necessarily that a green or yellow runny nose is infected with a bacteria. Viral infections such as the common cold will frequently also lead to yellow or green discharge and in fact sometimes allergies will lead to although mostly clear occasionally, yellow and on a rare occasion green discharge. The best way to determine whether a child with a runny nose needs to be treated with an antibiotic is the duration of the runny nose. If a child has cold like symptoms with a stuffy runny nose, yellow, green or otherwise for ten days without improvement, that is much more likely to be a bacterial infection such as a sinus infection and would be better treated with an antibiotic. But you should unless there is some other substantial symptoms such as a terrible headache or swelling of the eye, or something that suggests that there is an acute sinus infection, you are better off waiting for the full 10 days because most of the time it will go away without the use of an antibiotic. You would be better off without it.