Skip to Content

Coughing up blood

Definition

Coughing up blood can be caused by a variety of lung conditions. Coughing up blood can take different forms: The blood may be bright red or pink and frothy, or it may be mixed with mucus.

Also known as hemoptysis (he-MOP-tih-sis), coughing up blood, even in small amounts, can be alarming. However, producing a little blood-tinged sputum isn't uncommon and usually isn't serious.

Call 911 or seek emergency care if you're coughing up blood in large quantities or coughing up blood frequently.

Causes

Hemoptysis refers to coughing up blood from some part of the lungs (respiratory tract). Blood coming from elsewhere, such as your stomach, can appear to be from the lungs. It's important for your doctor to determine the site of the bleeding, and then determine why you're coughing up blood.

The major cause of coughing up blood is chronic bronchitis or bronchiectasis. Other possible causes of coughing up blood include:

  • COPD
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Drug use, such as crack cocaine
  • Foreign body
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's granulomatosis)
  • Lung abscess
  • Lung cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Mitral valve stenosis
  • Parasitic infection
  • Strained or pulled abdominal muscle
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in an artery in the lung)
  • Trauma to the chest
  • Tuberculosis

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if you're coughing up blood. He or she can determine whether the cause is minor or potentially more serious. Call 911 or emergency medical help if you're coughing up a lot of blood or if the bleeding won't stop.

Last updated: December 20th, 2017

© 1998-2018 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use

Hide