Understanding coughing up blood

Coughing up blood is usually a symptom of an underlying health condition. The blood might originate from the lungs, throat or the stomach. The significance of the condition is usually contingent on the quantity of blood and the time span the blood was coughed out but this sign should not be ignored.

When to consult a doctor

It is essential to set an appointment with a doctor once an individual is coughing up blood since it is an indication of a serious respiratory condition. Seek medical care for the following:

  • Starts coughing up blood after a chest injury or a fall
  • Blood in the stool or urine
  • Coughing up more than a few teaspoons of blood
  • Individual experiences dizziness, chest pain, lightheadedness, fever or significant shortness of breath

What to watch out for

The blood that originates from the lungs or respiratory tract often appear bubbly. The reason for this is that it mixes with mucus and air in the lungs and the color ranges from bright red to rust-colored. The mucus might be completely tainted with blood or only have streaks mixed in.

If the bleeding originated in the mouth such as a wound or cut, it is not the same as coughing up blood.

Coughing up blood

If the individual experiences dizziness, chest pain, lightheadedness, fever or significant shortness of breath, seek medical care.

Underlying causes of coughing up blood

This symptom can be triggered by various issues that range from throat irritation to lung cancer. Even though coughing up blood should not be ignored, most causes are not serious.

If an individual has a respiratory condition or forcefully coughs, it can irritate the airways and result to coughing up blood. The common yet treatable causes include the following:

  • Bronchitis
  • Throat irritation due to excessive coughing
  • Pneumonia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

As for the serious causes of coughing up blood, they necessitate immediate medical attention such as the following:

  • Foreign body or particles embedded in the lung
  • Chest trauma
  • Damage to the arteries in the lungs
  • Lung cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lupus
  • Blood clot in the lung
  • Pulmonary embolism

Even certain medical procedures and tests such as laryngoscopy, bronchoscopy, upper airway biopsy and tonsillectomy can cause effects that can lead to the coughing up of blood.


The treatment is usually based on the cause. In case minor irritation of the throat due to excess coughing is to blame, over-the-counter cough suppressants and throat lozenges can be used.

The objective of treatment is to initially stop the bleeding and treat the underlying cause. In case a bacterial infection is the cause, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics. As for cases that involves significant bleeding, surgery or endovascular embolization is advised by the doctor to stop the bleeding.