Sputum, or phlegm, is a mixture of saliva and mucus that you’ve coughed up. Sometimes sputum can have visible streaks of blood in it. The blood comes from someplace along your body’s respiratory tract.
The respiratory tract includes the:
- passageways leading to the lungs
Sometimes blood-tinged sputum is a sign of a major medical condition. But blood-tinged sputum is a fairly common event and isn’t usually cause for instant concern.
If you’re coughing up blood with little or no sputum, seek immediate medical attention.
Causes of Blood-tinged Sputum
Common reasons for blood-tinged sputum include:
- extended, severe coughing
- certain chest infections, like bronchitis
More major causes of blood-tinged sputum can include:
- specific infections, like tuberculosis
- pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lung
- pulmonary aspiration, or breathing foreign material into the lung
- pulmonary edema, or having fluid in the lungs
- lung cancer or throat cancer
- cystic fibrosis
- use of anticoagulants, which thin the blood to prevent it from thickening
- trauma to the respiratory system
Lower respiratory infections and breathing in a foreign object are the likely reasons for blood-tinged sputum in kids.
When to See a Doctor
Call a doctor or seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:
- coughing up primarily blood, with really little sputum
- blood in your urine or stool
- shortness of breath or struggling to breathe
- rapid heart rate
- unexplained weight loss
- chest pain
These signs are related to serious medical conditions.
Diagnosing the Reason for Blood-tinged Sputum
When you see a doctor about the blood-tinged sputum, they’ll first ask you if there was any noticeable cause, like:
- a cough
- a fever
- the flu
They’ll likewise want to know:
- how long you’ve had blood-tinged sputum
- how many times you cough it up throughout the day
- how the sputum looks
- the amount of blood in the sputum
Your doctor will listen to your lungs while you breathe and may look for other worrying signs, like a rapid heart rate, wheezing, or crackles. They’ll also ask about your medical history.
Your doctor may likewise use one or more imaging research studies or procedures to help them reach a diagnosis.
- Chest X-rays can be used to identify a range of various conditions. A chest X-ray is typically one of the very first imaging studies they order.
- A CT scan of the chest can supply a clearer image of soft tissues for evaluation.
- Throughout a bronchoscopy, your doctor decreases a bronchoscope down the back of the throat and into the bronchi. This instrument helps them check for obstructions or irregularities in your respiratory tracts.
- They can purchase blood tests to identify various conditions, as well as identify how thin your blood is and check to see if you’ve lost a lot blood that you’ve established anemia.
- If your doctor notifications a structural problem in your lungs, they might order a biopsy. Throughout a biopsy, a sample of tissue is eliminated from your lungs and sent to a lab for evaluation.
Treatments for Blood-tinged Sputum
Treating blood-tinged sputum will need treating the underlying condition that’s causing it. In many cases, treatment can also include decreasing inflammation or other associated signs.
Treatments for blood-tinged sputum can include:
- oral antibiotics for infections like bacterial pneumonia
- antiviral medications, like oseltamivir (Tamiflu), to reduce the duration or seriousness of a viral infection
- cough suppressants for an extended cough
- drinking more water, which can assist flush out remaining sputum
- surgery to treat a tumor or blood clot in the lung
For people who’re coughing up big quantities of blood, treatment focuses initially on stopping the bleeding and preventing goal, which happens when you breathe foreign material into your lungs. Then treatment concentrates on dealing with the underlying cause.
Call your doctor before using any cough suppressants, even if you know the underlying cause of your signs. Cough suppressants can lead to respiratory tract blockages or keep the sputum caught in your lungs, prolonging or aggravating an infection.
Preventing Blood-tinged Sputum
Blood-tinged sputum can often be a sign of an underlying condition that you can’t prevent. However approaches may be offered to assist avoid some cases of blood-tinged sputum.
The first line of prevention is to take steps to avoid the respiratory infections more than likely to induce this sign.
You can do the following to prevent blood-tinged sputum:
- Think about cutting down on cigarette smoking, if you smoke. Smoking triggers inflammation and inflammation. It also increases the possibility of severe medical conditions.
- Consume more water, if you feel a respiratory infection beginning. Consuming water can thin out sputum and help flush it out.
- Keep your house clean. Dust is simple to breathe in, and it can irritate your lungs and make your symptoms worse if you have COPD, asthma, or a lung infection. Mildew and mold can likewise cause respiratory infections and irritation, which can lead to blood-tinged sputum.
- See your doctor if you have yellow or green sputum. Coughing up yellow or green sputum may be a sign of a respiratory infection. See your doctor for treatment early on to help prevent issues or aggravating of signs later.