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Green or yellow phlegm likely to be bacterial

Confirming widespread beliefs by doctors and parents alike, the color of phlegm coughed up by people is indeed a good indicator of whether that person has a bacterial infection, an international group of researchers found.

Green or yellow "sputum," as clinicians call it, more often than not reflects a bacterial infection, whereas clear, white or rust colored phlegm most likely does not, according to the new study.

The results could help doctors determine whether or not a patient would benefit from antibiotics.

"When someone comes in and complains of sputum production and it's clear or white, there's no reason to spend money on antibiotics," said Dr. Neil Hampson, a professor emeritus at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, who was not involved in this study.

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