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Sputum Color As Indicator Of The Quality Of Nursing Care

Picture-1 Who really likes to think about sputum or mucus?  Well, Thomas Sharon, R.N. at legalnurseconsultanttom.com points out that sputum color is an important factor to look at when evaluating the quality of breathing tube care.  Breathing tubes such as tracheostomies and ventilators are a common medical medical conditions for nursing home and long-term care residents.

Obviously, these medical conditions require ongoing nursing care which is beyond the common knowledge of many nursing home residents and their families.  As nurse Tom discusses in his recent post, nurses must reposition and clean the breathing tube in order to prevent infection and medical complications.  There are many preventable medical complications in respiratory patients that may be easily identified by a family member or friend with common sense.

Nurse Tom points out that the color and consistency of the sputum is frequently indicative of the quality of nursing care and may be used to identify potential medical complications such as infection or suffocation.  Further, the breathing noises are important to pay attention to as well, as congested raspy breathing noises usually demand immediate nursing attention.

Below is the chart from Nurse Tom’s site, demonstrating how to identify respiratory problems from the color and consistency of secretions.

 

Color Consistency Odor Comment
Clear Thin None Within normal limits
Clear Thick None Within normal limits
White Thin None Within normal limits
White Thick None First sign of problem-might be due to dehydration
Yellow Thick None to slight Upper respiratory infection-get the nurse and find out what the treatment plan is
Yellow to green Thick Slight Infection is getting worse-the treatment plan is not working. Find out what they are doing about it
Cream colored Thick Moderate This is purulence (pus) coming from the lungs. Ask the doctor if there is an infectious disease consultant on the case. If not, make a demand for one
Coffee colored Thick and chunky Foul This is likely a dangerous deep lung infection with possible gangrene. Insist on a detailed explanation of the interventions

 

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  • I am currently treating a pt (5yr old male) with persistent cough with clear thick mucus. The cough began about 4-5 weeks ago and is persistent, it usually last for about 2-3 hours and start around 2-3AM and last until 5-6AM. During the day, the pt exhibits mild cough with less sputum production. Up until now, a home humidifier has helped to a certain extent, but on occasion a wheezing is sometimes heard as described by the parents. The pt exhibits no chest tightness during the “attacks.” Please reply at your earliest convenience, thank you in advance.
    Sincerely,
    Ranjiv Bains D.C.,B.Sc.

  • Sonia

    Which bacterium is associated with a “green” sputum?

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  • audrey sanford

    what causes grey to black sputum

  • Healthy phlegm is normally clear or white. The grey / black sputum you are referring to is usually related to chronic smokers. This is due to resin sticking to the walls of the lungs and being ejected by the body.

  • ladolceliving

    This has been really helpful. Thanks a lot.

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