What does it mean when you cough up blood?
Coughing up blood either on its own or mixed with phlegm is not usually a sign of a serious problem if you are young and have no other health conditions. However, it can be a sign of something serious if you are older or if you smoke.
The most common reasons for coughing up blood are:
- a prolonged, severe cough
- a chest infection
- a severe nosebleed or bleeding from the mouth or throat
Less common causes of coughing up blood can include:
- pulmonary embolism
- pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs)
- lung cancer or throat cancer
- tuberculosis (TB)
- taking anticoagulants medicines
In some people, coughing up blood is a one-off event and no cause is found.
If you are coughing up small amounts of blood, see your doctor as soon as possible.
If you are coughing up a lot of blood or you can’t stop coughing blood, this is a medical emergency. Go to hospital immediately or call an ambulance.
What is haemoptysis?
Haemoptysis is the medical term for coughing up blood.
In most cases, the blood comes from your airways or lungs, usually because of a long-term cough or a chest infection.
Sometimes, the blood can be dark and contain bits of food or what looks like coffee grounds. This suggests that the blood may be coming from your digestive system. If this happens, see a doctor or go to a hospital immediately.
Can an upper respiratory infection cause you to cough up blood?
Yes. An upper respiratory tract infection that causes a prolonged, severe cough can cause you to cough up blood.
If you are coughing up blood because you have a respiratory infection, the blood is likely to be mixed up with spit or phlegm. You may also have other symptoms, such as fever (high temperature) and cough.
Can you cough up a blood clot?
It is possible to cough up a blood clot. This is a medical emergency that can be a serious side effect of taking anticoagulant medicines.
See your doctor or go to a hospital immediately if you are coughing up blood clots or large amounts of blood.
You should also see your doctor as soon as possible if you are coughing small amounts of blood. They will be able to check the cause and give you any treatment you may need.
Some people can develop a blood clot in their lungs (pulmonary embolism). This can cause them to cough up blood.
Can a nosebleed cause you to cough up blood?
Having a nosebleed does not technically cause you to cough up blood, but it can create the impression that you are coughing up blood. This is because when a person coughs up blood, the blood usually comes from the airways or lungs. However, when you have a nosebleed, the blood can run down, gather in your throat and come out in your saliva when you cough.
Can you cough blood from coughing too much?
Yes. An ongoing severe cough is a common reason for coughing blood.
What should you do if you’re coughing up blood?
There are many reasons why a person may cough up blood. If you are young and otherwise healthy, coughing up blood is not usually a sign of a serious problem. However, it can be a sign of something serious if you are older and smoke.
If you are coughing up lots of blood or it won’t stop, go to a hospital immediately or call an ambulance.
If you are coughing up small amounts of blood, see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can check if you need any investigation or treatment.