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Coughing up blood

Definition

Coughing up blood is the spitting up of blood or bloody mucus from the lungs and throat (respiratory tract).

Hemoptysis is the medical term for coughing up blood from the respiratory tract.

Alternative Names

Hemoptysis; Spitting up blood; Bloody sputum

Considerations

Coughing up blood is not the same as bleeding from the mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract.

Blood that comes up with a cough often looks bubbly because it is mixed with air and mucus. It is usually bright red, although it may be rust-colored. Sometimes the mucus contains only streaks of blood.

Common Causes

A number of conditions, diseases, and medical tests may make you cough up blood. These include:

Home Care

Medicines that stop coughing (cough suppressants) may help if the problem comes from heavy coughing. These medicines may lead to airway blockages, so check with your doctor before using them.

Keep track of how long you cough up blood, and how much blood is mixed with the mucus. Call your doctor any time you cough up blood, even if you do not have any other symptoms.

Call your health care provider if

Get medical help right away if you cough up blood and have:

  • A cough that produces more than a few teaspoons of blood
  • Blood in your urine or stools
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Light-headedness
  • Severe shortness of breath

What to expect at your health care provider's office

In an emergency, your doctor will give you treatments to control your condition. The doctor will then ask you questions about your cough, such as:

  • Type
  • Time pattern

The doctor will do a complete physical exam and check your chest and lungs. Tests that may be done include:

References

Brown CA III. Hemoptysis. In: Marx JA, ed. . 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 31.

Media

    Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.