Updated: Jun 25, 2021
Snot is the discharge that comes from your nose when you have a bad cold. You'll want to carry tissues or a handkerchief with you when you're sneezing, to keep the snot contained.
There are two meanings of the noun snot: the first, mucus, can be unpleasant.
The second meaning, an irritatingly arrogant person, is also unpleasant. If a little kid acts like a snot, his babysitter is definitely not going to let him stay up past his bedtime. If you're a snot to your best friend, he / she might not speak to you the next day. Snot comes from the Old English word gesnot, or "nasal mucus," from the Germanic root.
Now, we have all had SNOT at one time or the other in our lives; be it the infantile snot of a toddler with enlarged adenoids causing nasal blockage (the Americans call the Adenoids as the "sewer" of the nose, and indeed, it can be quite stinky!) or the persistent early morning sneezing and SNOT that comes with allergic rhinitis, which is the bane of urban living and house dust mites (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (European house dust mite) , Dermatophagoides farinae (American house dust mite) or our local specialty .... Blomia tropicalis.
So when should you be worried about your own snot?
Well, lets see:
1. Blood (Red or Pink) in your snot: this could be a simple problem of constant rubbing of your nose and injuring the Little's Area at the front end of the nose; resulting in nose bleeds, or it could be a sign of something more sinister like Naso-Pharyngeal Cancer (NPC) which is still one of the more common cancers in Chinese persons till today. This NPC cancer is diagnosed by taking a small biopsy from the back of your nose aka the Post Nasal Space. It is a "silent" area with minimal symptoms at the initial phase of growth, so it is highly important to get a check if you are of Chinese descent or have family members with a history of NPC.
2. Yellow or Green stinky snot: this is usually a sign of some infection ongoing in the nasal cavities or the paranasal sinuses. In kids, a unilateral snotty / stinky nose, is often associated with a Foreign Body eg peanut / lego block which gets lodged after the child inserts it. If left untreated, these can evolve into "rhinoliths" which may require a General Anaesthetic to remove as they become encrusted & rock hard.
Rhinolith encrusted in the left nose in a child with overlying stinky yellow snot
courtesy of MED TUBE : sharing medical knowledge website
3. In Adults, yellow - green snot is most commonly due to Sinusitis (acute or chronic) and we usually treat these patients firstly with antibiotics, failing which we may discuss more interventional treatment eg Sinus (Antral) Wash out or Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (ESS). This EES is commonly performed under Navigational guidance or Image Guided Surgery (IGS) these days to reduce complications.
4. Black snot: this is rare indeed, but may indicate a FUNGAL sinus infection which can be deadly in immuno- compromised or diabetic patients. Please seek urgent medical consultation if you discover such black mucus coming from your nose or sinuses.
Photo showing black fungal spores and hyphae (courtesy of MOLD-HELP.org)
5. Clear / Sticky snot: is most commonly seen with allergic rhinitis. In Singapore the most common allergen encountered remains the House Dust Mite (DP / DF / BT) then cockroach then animal dander (cats 🐈 & dogs 🐕), grasses and so forth. Your specific allergens can be identified by either a Skin Prick Test (SPT) or IgE RAST blood tests. Nowadays, many specialists offer Sub-Lingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) in addition to the usual Intra nasal steroid sprays & anti-histamines.
Photo courtesy of DIATER Ltd showing the Sub Lingual Immuno-Therapy (SLIT) kit; this SLIT is applied by a dropper under the tongue for a period of 3 to 5 years under medical supervision.
So, really the BEST thing to do for SNOT is to consult your GP and / or see an ENT Specialist.
We will take a detailed history and then examine your nose with a naso-endoscope to look inside your nose and nasal passages. We may take a nasal swab for culture to see if any bacteria or fungi grow and thereafter prescribe the appropriate antibiotics. Sometimes we may order a CT scan of your paranasal sinuses for chronic infection or suspected tumours. If there is any abnormal growth seen during the naso-endoscopy, we can also take a small biopsy for histo-pathological testing; this will help determine if the growth is cancerous in nature.
Once we have ascertained the exact cause for your SNOT, then together, we can plan the appropriate treatment for you.
Here's to a SNOT free weekend! TGIF folks 😊