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Coughing Up Blood (Hemoptysis)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What do I need to know about coughing up blood?

Coughing up blood may be a sign of a serious medical condition. Blood vessels in your lungs or airway weaken or break and begin to bleed. You may see small amounts in your sputum (mucus you cough up), or you may cough up large amounts.

What may cause me to cough up blood?

  • An infection, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or tuberculosis (TB)
  • A medical condition such as lung cancer, COPD, or bronchiectasis
  • An injury to your throat or chest
  • A foreign object in your airway
  • Cigarette smoking, or the use of illegal drugs, such as cocaine

How is the cause of coughing up blood diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood or sputum tests may show an infection and how much oxygen is in your blood.
  • A chest x-ray or CT may show a mass or buildup of fluid in your lungs. You may be given contrast liquid to help your lungs show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A bronchoscopy may show the cause of your symptoms. A scope is a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end. The scope is placed into your mouth or nose and moved down into your airway.

How is coughing up blood treated?

Treatment depends on how much blood you are coughing up and what is causing your symptoms. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to fight a bacterial infection or to control a cough. You may also need medicine to slow or stop the bleeding.
  • A saline rinse of your nose and throat may help decrease or stop the bleeding.
  • Bronchial artery embolization is a procedure to inject medicine into your damaged blood vessel. The medicine will help stop the bleeding.
  • Surgery may be needed to help stop severe bleeding if other treatments do not work. Surgery may also be done to look for and correct other problems with your airway.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Use caution with medicines. Certain medicines, such as NSAIDs, increase your risk for bleeding. Herbal supplements also increase your risk. Examples of herbal supplements are garlic, gingko, and ginseng. Ask your healthcare provider before you take any over-the-counter medicines.
  • Do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have new or worsening chest pain or shortness of breath.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your bleeding gets worse.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You are so dizzy that you think you may fall or faint.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have bloody mucus that is getting worse.
  • You have a fever and night sweats.
  • You feel more weak and tired than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.