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What is hemoptysis?

Hemoptysis is coughing up blood. This occurs when blood vessels in your airway or lungs weaken or break, and begin to bleed. You may bleed in small or large amounts that appear in your sputum (spit).

What causes hemoptysis?

  • An infection, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), HIV, or influenza
  • A medical condition such as lung cancer or heart or lung disease
  • An injury to your throat or chest, force when you vomit or cough, or choking on an object
  • Pain or anti-inflammatory medicines that are not taken as directed
  • Cigarette smoking, or the use of illegal drugs, such as cocaine

How is the cause of hemoptysis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may test samples of your blood or sputum for signs of infection. He may use a scope to check for bleeding in your airway and lungs. He may also collect fluid or tissue samples. X-ray or CT pictures may be taken of your chest to check for injuries. You may be given contrast liquid to help your healthcare provider see the pictures more easily. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is hemoptysis treated?

Your healthcare provider will treat the condition causing hemoptysis. 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.

What can I do to manage hemoptysis?

  • 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 do not go to smoky areas. Smoke may worsen your hemoptysis. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can also 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have new or worsening chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Your bleeding gets worse or you cough up a large amount of blood.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You are so dizzy that you think you may fall or faint.
  • You have pain or swelling in your legs.
  • Your legs and arms feel cold or look pale.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have new or increasing shortness of breath.
  • You have a fever.
  • You lose weight without trying.
  • You feel more weak and tired than usual.
  • You have a cough that does not improve or gets worse.
  • 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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