- Is It Normal?
- When to Go to the ER
- Stages of Hemoptysis
Coughing up blood or hemoptysis refers to the spitting of blood or blood-stained mucus from the throat and lungs (the respiratory tract). Coughed up blood often looks bubbly and is mixed with mucus. It may be red or rust-colored in appearance. It is often small in amounts, unlike vomiting blood where a large amount of blood is expelled or vomited from the mouth.
Coughing up blood may be caused by certain benign conditions such as a throat infection or very severe conditions such as lung cancer. Due to the possibility of serious underlying conditions, coughing up blood should not be ignored.
Some of the causes of coughing up blood are as follows:
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs)
- Aspiration (accidental entry of food or other material into the lungs)
- Lung cancer
- Violent or excessive coughing
- Lung infections such as pneumonia
- Bronchoscopy with biopsy
- Bronchiectasis (a condition that causes enlargement of the arteries in the lungs)
- Bronchitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the bronchi present in the lungs)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels in the lungs)
- Injury to the arteries of the lungs
- Pulmonary edema (a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs)
- Congestive heart failure
- Autoimmune conditions such as lupus
- Certain medications
Is a little blood in phlegm normal?
You may get little streaks of blood in phlegm due to reasons such as excessive coughing. Blood in phlegm, however, may be due to serious conditions such as lung cancer, pulmonary embolism, and heart failure.
You must seek medical care for blood in cough/phlegm if:
- The coughing up of small amounts of blood lasts more than a week.
- You are coughing up more than a few teaspoons of blood.
- There is a presence of blood in the urine or stools.
- You have shortness of breath.
- You experience chest pain.
- You feel light-headed or dizzy.
- There is a presence of fever.
- You have rapid or excessive unintended weight loss.
What causes coughing up blood?
Coughing up blood or hemoptysis can have many underlying causes. Reasons range from mild irritation of the throat to severe lung cancer.
You can cough up blood when there is an issue with the respiratory tract (hemoptysis). Some of the common causes of hemoptysis include:
- Chronic cough due to smoking, constant throat irritation, and fibers such as dander and cotton
- Bronchiectasis (damaged airways), due to cystic fibrosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Bronchitis, either short term (acute) or long term (chronic)
- Lung cancer
Other rare causes of hemoptysis include:
- Congestive heart failure because of mitral stenosis
- A crack or cocaine use
- Foreign objects lodged in the airways
- Inflammatory or autoimmune conditions such as:
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
- Microscopic polyangiitis (a condition that can damage the blood vessels)
- Churg–Strauss syndrome (a disorder marked by blood vessel inflammation)
- Goodpasture disease (a life-threatening autoimmune disorder that attacks tissues in the lungs and kidneys)
- Behcet disease (rare disorder leading to blood vessel inflammation throughout the body)
- Lung abscess
- Benign lung tumors
- Parasitic infection of the lung
- Pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (rare vascular anomalies of the lungs)
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)
- An injury like a gunshot wound or car accident
- Use of anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Hughes–Stovin syndrome (consists of deep vein thrombosis)
- Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (an inherited disorder that causes abnormal connections between arteries and veins)
- Sarcoidosis (abnormal collections of inflammatory cells that form lumps known as granulomata)
In some cases, while doctors may not diagnose the exact cause of hemoptysis, the condition may go away within 6 months.
Other conditions that can cause coughing up blood include:
- Pseudohemoptysis: Refers to a condition where the blood comes from the upper digestive tract. Diagnosis is the only way to differentiate between hemoptysis and pseudohemoptysis.
- Hematemesis: Refers to vomiting ground coffee-like material mixed with a bit of food.
How can doctors determine why I am coughing up blood?
Coughing up blood may be caused by various conditions that may range from mild to serious. To know the exact cause of coughing up blood, you need to consult a doctor. Your doctor may ask details about coughing up blood such as since when you are having it, how much blood you cough up, and whether you have other complaints such as breathlessness, fever, and chest pain. They may also ask about your history of taking any medications or smoking.
To diagnose the cause of coughing up blood, your doctor may ask the following tests to be done:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest
- Chest X-ray
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Sputum examinations such as microscopy or culture to look for infections
- Lung scan
- Lung biopsy
- Bronchoscopy (a procedure in which a flexible tube is inserted through the nose or mouth to examine the lungs and airways)
- Blood counts
- Blood clotting test
- Pulmonary arteriography/angiography (a procedure to see the blood flow through the lungs)
Latest Lungs News
Daily Health News
Should I go to the ER for coughing up blood?
If you notice more than a few teaspoons of blood while coughing or you have been coughing blood for more than a week, you should immediately go to the ER. Also, if you notice these symptoms, you should call the ER right away:
- Chest pain
- Blood in the urine or stools
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid or severe weight loss
Coughing up blood could be a sign of a serious medical condition. If left untreated, the underlying causes may aggravate and lead to other complications.
What are the different stages of hemoptysis?
Hemoptysis is divided into different types based on the blood amount coughed up over 24 hours.
The three main types of hemoptysis include:
- Scant or mild hemoptysis: Coughing up less than 20 mL or less than a tablespoon indicates mild hemoptysis.
- Non–life-threatening or nonmassive hemoptysis: Also known as moderate or submassive hemoptysis, this condition refers to when there is coughing up of blood between 20 and 200 mL (about a cup) of blood.
- Life-threatening or massive hemoptysis: Refers to a condition where you cough up about 100 mL to over 600 mL, or about a pint of blood.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Why Am I Coughing Up Bloody Mucus? Related Articles
Children's Cough Causes and TreatmentsChildren's cough causes include infection, acid reflux, asthma, allergies or sinus infection, whooping cough, and exposure to irritants. Treatment for a child's cough include cough medicine for children over the age of four.
How Can I Stop My Child From Coughing?Treatment for cough is not recommended unless the cough interferes with the child’s sleep or activity or is accompanied by a fever. Different age groups of children require different therapies to stop them from coughing. Some good home remedies to treat cough in children include honey, warm milk, hydration, steam inhalation, resting, saline nose drops and other strategies.
Lung CancerLung cancer kills more men and women than any other form of cancer. Eight out of 10 lung cancers are due to tobacco smoke. Lung cancers are classified as either small-cell or non-small-cell lung cancers.
Lung Cancer PictureCancer of the lung, like all cancers, results from an abnormality in the body's basic unit of life, the cell. See a picture of Lung Cancer and learn more about the health topic.
Lung Cancer SlideshowLearn about lung cancer early warning signs, symptoms and treatments. What causes stage IV lung cancer? Get more information on small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and the diagnosis of lung cancer stages.
Know Your Lung Cancer Facts QuizLung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S. and worldwide. Get the facts about lung cancer with this quiz.
What Causes a Buildup of Mucus in the Lungs?What causes mucus in the lungs? Learn the signs and symptoms of accumulation of mucus in your lungs and what to do if you have too much mucus in the lungs.
What Is Mucus?Mucus is a normal substance produced by lining tissues in the body. Excess mucus or mucus that is yellow, green, brown, or bloody may indicate a problem. Mucus production may increase when allergies, a cold, flu, cough, or sore throat are present. Antihistamines and cold and flu medications may help alleviate excess mucus. A neti pot may be used to decrease nasal congestion and clear mucus.