White mucus is a substance which is produced by the body in regions known as mucus membranes. The nose and cervix are both examples of areas in the body which may produce normal white mucus. In most cases, mucus that is white in color is considered normal and healthy and does not typically indicate an illness or infection. That said, any mucus which seems to originate in the lungs should be checked by a doctor.
Many people mistakenly believe that any type of mucus indicates illness. This is not so, since the body produces mucus almost constantly to help prevent infection. The nose, for instance, continuously manufacturers a thick whitish mucus which accumulates inside the nostrils to catch dust, dirt, and other bacteria so that it doesn’t enter the body. The cervix in females also produces mucus throughout the menstrual cycle to help aid in fertility.
It is only when white mucus becomes yellow, green, brown, or another unusual color that illness is a possibility. Sometimes nasal mucus will take on a yellow or green color if high levels of dust or germs have been inhaled, even if illness has not occurred. Vaginal or cervical mucus that is any color other than clear, white, or off-white should be investigated by a doctor.
The cervix typically creates white mucus throughout most of the month, and clear mucus during ovulation. Green or yellow discharge can indicate a vaginal infection caused by bacteria or sexually transmitted diseases. Mucus should also be odorless. An unpleasant or fishy smell is a strong indicator that an infection is present. Foamy or unusually thick discharge can also be a sign of infection.
Sometimes even white mucus can indicate an infection if it becomes thick or chunky in texture, similar to cottage cheese. These are symptoms of a yeast infection when they occur along with itching, burning, or inflammation. Medications can be used to treat the vast majority of vaginal or cervical infections. They can also be prevented in some cases by using a condom during sex.
Any mucus, whether white or another color, that seems to come from the chest or lungs should be taken seriously. Although the lungs do produce mucus regularly to help ward off infection, when enough is produced to become noticeable it could indicate that an illness is already present. This is especially true when accompanied by a cough or other symptoms like shortness of breath or wheezing.