What is coughing blood?

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Coughing up blood: Overview

Coughing up blood can be frightening. The blood may come from the lungs, stomach, or throat. You may cough up a few thin streaks of bright red blood. This probably is not a cause for concern. Coughing up large amounts of bright red blood or rust-colored mucus from the lungs can be a symptom of a more serious condition.

Several conditions can make you cough up blood from the lungs. These include bronchitis and pneumonia, or more serious problems such as cancer or a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolus).

Depending on what is causing your cough, it may go away after the illness is treated. Your doctor may tell you not to suppress the cough with cough medicine if it is better for you to cough up the blood and spit it out.

How can you care for yourself when you're coughing up blood?

  • Make a note of when and for how long you cough up blood. Also note if you are coughing up spit with a small amount of blood, or mostly blood. Take this information to your next appointment with your doctor.
  • Drink plenty of water. This helps keep the mucus thin and helps you cough it up. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase your fluid intake.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Do not take cough medicine without your doctor's guidance. They can cause problems if you have other health problems. They can also interact with other medicine.
  • Do not smoke or use other forms of tobacco, especially while you have a cough. Smoking can make coughing worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Avoid exposure to smoke, dust, or other pollutants.

Coughing up blood: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have wheezing and difficulty breathing.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You cough up clots of blood.
  • You have any new symptoms, such as chest pain with difficulty breathing or a fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.