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TheGermDoctor, Doctor
Category: Medical
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Experience:  17 years as a physician, Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases
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Coughing up orange phlegm. What is it?

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What does coughing up solid orange creme colored phlegm indicate?
My roommate is a 27 y/o male who rarely gets sick. When he gets sick, it is usually something minor. The other day he started to have a really bad cough which sounded like he had stuff in his lungs that he couldn't cough out. Yesterday, he started coughing up solid orange creme colored phlegm, that occasionally has a greenish tint to it making it appear brown. He has had a fever of around 101.3 F and has an extreme headache and some body aches. He is extremely tired and has slept nearly the entire day. For the past couple of months, he has been tired and takes about a 2-3 hour nap every day.
His health has always been really good. He is not on any medications, and he doesn't have health insurance. I'd really like to take him to a doctor, but we can't afford it. Is this something we could remedy at home? If so, what can I do to help him out?

Orange/ green and brown sputum to me suggests there is a component of blood mixed in the sputum- It likely is from irritation of the airways with bronchitis, and is most likely a viral infection, although certain bacterial infections can cause sputum like this. His fever and aches also most fit with a virus like influenza.

For now I would encourage fluids, Tylenol or Advil, possibly humidified air if the cough bothers him, and OTC cough and "flu" medications. I suspect this likely is a virus that will run its course in a couple days, but if his symptoms seem to be worsening, the sputum become more purely bloody, and he gets chest pain or shortness of breath he will need to see a doctor regardless. If his symptoms are not getting better within a couple days he also will need a chest X ray and a doctor's examination.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thank you so much for your answer. I appreciate it.
Do you think that this could be pneumonia at all? Is it possibly contagious?
I, myself, am unable to take OTC cough and "flu" medications, so I don't really know how to choose them. Do you have any recommendations for a good OTC cough and "flu" medication?
Would a nebulized treatment of Xopenex help this kind of cough at all?
Can this kind of infection cause a jump in heart rate? Low or high blood pressure? A drop in oxygen levels?
Is there a point in time, where if his vitals change or are abnormal, that I should take him to the doctor? That is, what vital stats should I be concerned with?
If things get worse, I will definitely make sure to take him to the doctor.
Thank you again.

Well, it is possible this is pneumonia- Obviously without examining him I would be a fool to be definitive one way or another- Pneumonia is best diagnosed by examining someone's chest and checking an X ray- His symptoms are more suggestive of a virus, but that is the best I can say online, as I am sure you understand. That is why I am being more cautious in saying a chest X ray and seeing a doctor is needed if he does not improve in a couple days.

Yes, this can be contagious- particularly if it is a virus- this is spread by close contact and airborne droplets. I would advise frequent hand washing after you have been around him and avoid his direct droplet secretions.

As far as OTC medication, I personally use the store brand , generic (i.e. cheaper) form of Dayquil and Nyquil. They all work equally well and control symptoms. Check the bottle for something that controls cough, and has a decongestant. The bottle will explain how to take it.

Xopenex likely will not help much unless he has wheezing. It does not help in most uncomplicated influenza cases.

This would not be expected to effect heart function, blood pressure, or pulse or oxygen unless he develops a secondary complication- A small number of people after 'the flu" then come down with pneumonia, which can then cause sepsis and complications- Again one would be concerned if symptoms worsen, his sputum does not settle down, fevers continue to rise, he develops shortness of breath, or chest pain. All of these again would be reasons to see a doctor.

Good luck.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.

I understand completely. :)
Thank you so much! You have answered all of the questions I have so far and helped me better my knowledge in how to help him.