phlegm, is a mixture of saliva and mucus that you’ve coughed up. Blood-tinged
sputum occurs when the sputum has visible streaks of blood in it. The blood
comes from somewhere inside of your body, either from along the respiratory
tract or digestive system. The respiratory tract includes the:
leading to the lungs
blood-tinged sputum is a symptom of a serious medical condition. However,
blood-tinged sputum is a relatively common occurrence, and typically isn’t
cause for immediate concern. If you’re coughing up blood with little or no
sputum, you should seek immediate medical attention.
of blood-tinged sputum include:
More serious causes
of blood-tinged sputum, which require medical treatment, can include:
cancer or throat cancer
embolism, or a blood clot in the lung
edema, or having fluid in the lungs
aspiration, or breathing foreign material into the lung
infections, such as tuberculosis
anticoagulants, which thin blood to prevent it from clotting
to the respiratory system
respiratory infections or inhaling a foreign object are the likely causes of
blood-tinged sputum in children.
When to see a doctor
call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
up mostly blood, with very little sputum
of breath or struggling to breathe
also have blood in your urine or stool
are associated with serious medical conditions.
When you see
your doctor to diagnose the reason behind the blood-tinged sputum, they’ll
first ask you if there was any noticeable cause such as:
They will also
ask how long you’ve had blood-tinged sputum. They will ask how the sputum
looks, how many times you cough it up in the day, and the amount of blood in
will listen to your lungs while you breathe, and may look for other symptoms of
concern, like a rapid heart rate, wheezing, or crackles. They’ll also ask you
about your medical history.
may also run one or more of these imaging studies or procedures to diagnose
can use chest X-rays to diagnose a variety of different conditions. This is
often one of the first imaging studies they’ll order.
can order a chest CT scans to provide a clearer image of soft tissues for
doctors to evaluate.
a bronchoscopy, your doctor will look into your airways to check for
obstructions or abnormalities by lowering a bronchoscope down the back of the
throat and into the bronchi.
can order blood tests to diagnose different conditions, as well as determine
how thin your blood is.
your doctor notices a structural abnormality in your lung, they may order a
biopsy. They’ll remove a sample of tissue from your lungs and send it to a lab
sputum will rely on treating the underlying condition causing it. In some
cases, treatment can also involve reducing inflammation or other related symptoms
blood-tinged sputum can include:
antibiotics for infections like bacterial pneumonia
- antivirals, such as Tamiflu, to reduce the length
or severity of a virus
suppressants for a prolonged cough
more water, which can help flush out
to treat a tumor or blood clot
For people who
are coughing up massive amounts of blood, treatment first focuses on stopping
the bleeding, preventing aspiration, which occurs when foreign material gets
into your lungs, and then treating the underlying cause.
doctor before using any cough suppressants, even if you know the underlying
cause of your symptoms. Cough suppressants can lead to airway obstructions or
keep the sputum trapped in your lungs, prolonging or worsening an infection.
Blood-tinged sputum can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying
condition that’s unavoidable, but methods are available to help prevent some
cases of it. The first line of prevention is to prevent the respiratory
infections most likely to cause it.
You can do the following to prevent blood-tinged sputum:
smoking if you smoke. Smoking causes irritation and inflammation, and also
increases the likelihood of serious medical conditions.
you feel a respiratory infection coming on, drink more water. Drinking water
can thin out phlegm and help flush it out.
your house clean because dust is easy to breathe in, and it can contribute to
or cause respiratory infections. Mold and mildew can also cause respiratory
infections and irritation, which can lead to blood-tinged sputum.
up yellow and green phlegm may be a sign of a respiratory infection. Seeing your
doctor for treatment early on to help prevent complications or a worsening of