WELLNESS
10/07/2014 08:12 am ET Updated Mar 03, 2015

Ask Healthy Living: Where Does Snot Come From?

JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

The question: Why do we get stuffy noses when we're sick? And why does it feel like I could blow my nose until the end of the time?

The answer: Even without a cold (or the flu or allergies), our bodies naturally make around a liter or a liter and a half of mucus every day, WebMD reported. And it's not just in your nose. That mix of fluid and proteins lines the sinuses, nose, mouth, throat, lungs and digestive tract to keep those surfaces from drying out (ouch).

When we're sick, our bodies get busy fighting off the infection -- and some of that fighting manifests as the very symptoms we associate with our maladies. "Some part of why we feel sick when we have an infection is actually the body's immune response," says Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician and researcher Pritish Tosh, M.D. Those symptoms are "important to recruit the immune cells to fight off the infection," he says, but they also happen to be the very things making us want to crawl under the covers and stay there.

A stuffy nose, then, is your body's attempt to block and expel an infection attacking via your respiratory tract. The extra secretion of mucus to the nose -- which comes from the cells that line your sinuses and upper reparatory tract -- is the effort to flush out the nasal passages to send those unwelcome germs packing.

It'll be hard to be proud when your nose is rubbed raw by tissues, but when it feels like you could blow your nose forever and still have snot to spare, pat yourself on the back: A seemingly endless supply of mucus is a sign your body is fighting hard. Those sniffles signify "a stronger immune response to the infection, and in general, you can anticipate a stronger immune response to a more aggressive infection," says Tosh.

And when that snot turns colors (if you're brave enough to look)? "That often will suggest you have white blood cells in there that are trying to fight off an infection," says Tosh, which could be viral or bacterial.

Have a question for Healthy Living? Get in touch here and we'll do our best to ask the experts and get back to you.

"Ask Healthy Living" is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
The Best Way To Wash Your Hands
CONVERSATIONS