Read below about coughing up blood, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your coughing up blood from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Blood in sputum

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Coughing Up Blood Symptoms

It can be very unnerving to have blood appear when you cough, whether it's a trace amount or far more. It's important to remember that a great many conditions can cause blood in your saliva and some of them can be readily treated. Yet coughing up blood can be a sign of serious illness and it's one of those symptoms that you should never ignore. The medical name for coughing up blood is hemoptysis.

Characteristics:

  • Bright red blood, with or without other material present such as mucus or saliva.
  • Frothy saliva and phlegm that is streaked with blood, or rust-colored, or pink.
  • Dark blood with bits of food in it.
  • Dark blood that looks like coffee grounds.

Who is most often affected?

  • Anyone who is currently a smoker, or who has a history of smoking.
  • Anyone with an illness or condition that causes prolonged, heavy coughing.
  • Those over 40 years of age.

When is it most likely to occur?

  • You may have a heavy cough on awakening from sleep.
  • The irritation of cigarette smoking can trigger a heavy cough and subsequent bleeding.

Is it serious?

  • Coughing up a small amount of blood is not usually serious in a young person, unless it happens more than just once or twice.
  • If you also have signs of illness such as fever, pain, and fatigue, the appearance of blood is a concern. Aside from the illness that's causing your cough or bleeding in the first place, one of the main dangers of this condition is choking on the blood that comes up.
  • This can be a serious symptom if you also have shortness of breath and/or chest pain, or the blood looks very dark, or there is more than just a small amount of blood.

Coughing Up Blood Causes Overview

Many conditions can have coughing up blood as a symptom. The most common are those involving your respiratory system; your circulatory system; injuries; drug use; or a foreign body.

Respiratory system infections, trauma, or other diseases, especially if these diseases cause severe coughing:

  • Bacterial, viral or fungal infections.
  • Certain congenital illnesses you are born with them.
  • Certain illnesses which appear later in life due to environmental factors. The most common of these are cigarette smoking and working around hazardous substances, such as asbestos.
  • Pulmonary edema, which is fluid in your lungs.
  • Traumatic damage to your lungs from automobile accident, gunshot or knife wound, sports injury, or internal examination of your lung (bronchoscopy.)
  • Use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine.
  • Aspiration (breathing in) of food, liquid, or other foreign body into your nose, trachea, or lungs.
  • Prolonged and heavy coughing for any reason, which can cause severe irritation of the tissues of your throat.

Circulatory system disease causes:

  • Pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in your lungs.
  • Mitral valve stenosis, which is an abnormality in your heart that blocks proper blood flow. This can cause pulmonary edema and subsequent coughing of blood.
  • Traumatic damage to the arteries of your lungs from automobile accident or other injury.

Rare and unusual causes:

  • Nosebleed.
  • Injury to your mouth.
  • Certain medications, especially anticoagulants (blood thinners). Anticoagulants slow down blood clotting and allows you to bleed more readily and freely.
  • Parasitic infection of your lungs, which you can contract in some parts of the world.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Coughing Up Blood

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced coughing up blood. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Nosebleed Requiring Treatment

    Nosebleeds are a common disorder that many (60%) will experience. It can be caused by a number of things that rupture the blood vessels in the nose such as: dry air, picking your nose, getting hit in the nose, or even just getting older

    Nosebleeds universally get better after treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    severe nosebleed
    Symptoms that always occur with nosebleed requiring treatment:
    severe nosebleed
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  2. 2.Lung Cancer (Non - Small Cell)

    Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, which usually grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. People with NSCLC have tumors in their lungs and may suffer from cough, chest pain, spitting up blood, and difficulty breathing.

    Non-small cell lung cancer is a serious disease, and to assess prognosis a consultation with an oncologist is needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    cardinal symptoms of lung cancer like chest pain or changes in breathing, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Small Cell Lung Cancer

    Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a fast-growing type of lung cancer. It spreads much more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer and is typically found in adult smokers.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, new headache
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Pulmonary Embolism

    A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage in an artery in the lungs. It is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage to the affected lung, low oxygen levels in your blood, or damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough oxygen.

    A pulmonary embolism is life-threatening. Recovery depends on treatment.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, cough, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, fever, wheezing
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

    Coughing Up Blood Checker

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  5. 5.Goodpasture Syndrome

    Goodpasture syndrome is an autoimmune disorder, which means immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Persons with this syndrome develop substances that attack a protein called collagen in the tiny air sacs in the lungs and the filtering units (glomeruli) of the kidneys.

    Autoimmune disorders of this type are considered irreversible, but symptoms can be effectively managed with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Cystic Fibrosis

    Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited disease of the mucus and sweat glands, affecting multiple organs, especially the lungs. The mucus clogs the lungs, causing breathing problems and making it easy for bacteria to grow. This can lead to problems such as repeated lung infections and lung damage.

    While cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease with no cure, many excellent therapies can help manage your symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, productive cough, salty-tasting skin, decreased exercise tolerance, recurring problem with leaking urine
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Valley Fever

    Coccidiodomycosis is an infection of the lung caused by a fungus found in the Southwestern part of the US, Northwestern part of Mexico, and some areas of South America. It is also known as Valley Fever.

    Usually 3 to 6 months at most with medication

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, muscle aches, shortness of breath
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Bronchogenic Cyst

    A bronchogenic cyst is an abnormal sac of air that grows out of normal airways and is present at birth. It can enlarge and compress the lung tissue around it, causing symptoms such as cough, difficulty breathing, pain, and fever.

    Problem goes away completely after surgery.

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, constant cough, coughing up green or yellow phlegm, shoulder blade pain, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone
    Symptoms that always occur with bronchogenic cyst:
    constant cough
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Tuberculosis

    Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs, although it can also affect other organs in the body. The bacteria can lie dormant in the body for a long time (even years), until they start causing symptoms such as cough, fever, loss of appetite, and night sweats.

    >6 months treatment with antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, rib pain, dry cough
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Coughing Up Blood Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You are coughing up blood and also have shortness of breath and/or chest pain.
  • There are more than a few drops of blood, especially if your bleeding does not stop.
  • The blood is dark or looks like coffee grounds, which indicates it is probably coming from your stomach.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Coughing up blood when you also have fever, lightheadedness, or other symptoms of illness.
  • Occasionally coughing up traces of blood, even if you have no other symptoms.
  • You also have blood in your urine or blood in your stool.

Remedies that you can try at home: You might use an over-the-counter cough suppressant temporarily to slow down a heavy cough, but you should still see a medical provider about any cough that produces blood.

FAQs About Coughing Up Blood

Here are some frequently asked questions about coughing up blood.

Can coughing up blood be caused by stress?

No, coughing up blood is not a sign of stress, and is not associated with stress unless there is an underlying medical condition that is aggravated by stress. Possible causes of hemoptysis, or coughing up blood, include a cut or laceration in the esophagus, pharynx, or mouth. This can be due to swallowing of a sharp object or damage to any of these structures by a penetrating wound from outside of the body. Damage to the lungs causes coughing up of blood as well.

Can asthma cause coughing up blood?

Hemoptysis or coughing up blood is not commonly caused by asthma. Asthma is caused by a constriction of the upper airways of an individual and is triggered by any number of causes including stress, smoke, dust, and cold air. It does not cause one to cough up blood. Asthma patients who cough blood should seek medical attention.

Are there instances when coughing up blood is harmless?

Yes, there are, but any time you cough up blood, with the exception of small amounts of blood due to previously diagnosed bronchitis, you should be seen by a physician. Coughing up blood is abnormal and should be evaluated promptly, as many causes of coughing up blood can be immediately life threatening.

Why am I coughing up blood after drinking alcohol?

If you are coughing up blood following consumption of alcohol, see a physician to seek evaluation. Coughing up blood after drinking alcohol can be caused by many processes. Liver failure can cause blood vessels that line the esophagus to fill with blood and eventually burst due to a mixture of pressure and abrasion from swallowed food. This bleeding takes place very rapidly and can cause one to exsanguinate (bleed out) within minutes. Alcoholic liver disease can also cause blood to clot less efficiently resulting in increased risks of bleeding.

Is coughing up blood with a cold normal?

Generally no, coughing up blood with a cold is not normal. However, with a constant and severe cough it is possible to injure the skin of the pharynx and cough up a small — dime sized — amount of blood. You should, however, seek medical examination to make sure that you do not have a more serious infection.

Coughing Up Blood Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced coughing up blood have also experienced:

    • 20% Cough With Bloody - Streaked Phlegm
    • 6% Cough
    • 3% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
  • People who have experienced coughing up blood were most often matched with:

    • 38% Nosebleed Requiring Treatment
    • 30% Lung Cancer (Non - Small Cell)
    • 30% Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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