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Alternative NamesHemoptysis; Spitting up blood; Bloody sputum
Definition Return to top
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.
Considerations Return to top
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 may only contain streaks of blood.
Causes Return to top
A number of conditions, diseases, and medical tests may make you cough up blood.
Diseases and conditions may include:
Diagnostic tests that can make you cough up blood include:
Home Care Return to top
Cough suppressants may help if this condition is due to throat irritation from violent coughing. However, cough suppressants may lead to airways obstruction in some cases. Always check with your doctor before using them.
It is very important to note how long you cough up blood, and how much blood is mixed with the mucus.
Also look out for these signs of severe blood loss:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
If you have any unexplained coughing up of blood, call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency department. This is very important if your cough produces large volumes of blood (more than a few teaspoons), or if you also have:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
In an emergency case, your doctor will give you treatments to control your condition. The doctor will then ask you questions about your cough such as:
The doctor will do a complete physical exam and check your chest and lungs. Tests that may be done include:
References Return to top
Rakel RE. Textbook of Family Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2005:402-413.
Murray J, Nadel J. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2000:497.Update Date: 11/12/2007 Updated by: Andrew Schriber, M.D., F.C.C.P., Specialist in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Virtua Memorial Hospital, Mount Holly, New Jersey. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.