Coughing Up Blood with Mucus

A simple cough during your day hardly warrants a second thought but coughing up blood with mucus should give you pause. It can be a frightening experience, especially if it has never happened to you before.

While bloody mucus could indicate a more severe issue, it is a more common occurrence than you may think and is not always cause for concern. However, if you notice you are coughing up blood, you should speak with your practitioner to determine next steps.

Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced in your respiratory tract, consisting of your nose, throat, mouth, and lungs. Blood can mix with the mucus here and emerge during a coughing bout. Knowing your body and why this happens can help you understand what to do when you cough up blood.

Causes of bloody mucus

Several different factors can contribute to the appearance of blood in the sputum. Some are milder, such as prolonged, severe coughing, nose bleeds, mild chest infections, and bronchitis. These will usually clear up over time and typically are not indicative of a more significant problem;

On the other hand, there are a number of more serious underlying conditions that can cause you to cough up blood. Therefore, it is important to consult your practitioner if you have blood in your mucus. These include:

  • Lung cancer: a form of cancer that typically impacts those over the age of 40 and is more prevalent in smokers.
  • Cystic fibrosis: a genetic disease that causes the body to produce thick mucus that can clog the lungs. 
  • Pulmonary embolism: a blood clot in the lungs.
  • Pulmonary edema: fluid build-up in the lungs that typically occurs in those with a heart condition.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): permanent damage to the lungs that causes chronic coughing and makes it difficult to breathe.
  • Pneumonia: a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the lung tissue.
  • Tuberculosis: a bacterial infection in the lungs that can also cause fever, chest pain, and a severe cough.
  • Taking blood thinners (anticoagulants): these medications, including Warfarin, rivaroxaban, and dabigatran, are used to stop blood clots.
  • Other damage/trauma to the throat

Coughing up Blood

If you have any doubts about the severity of your symptoms or questions generally, you should consult your practitioner immediately. They may request a physical examination to determine the underlying reason why you are coughing up blood.  

Coughing up blood might also be cause for alarm if you also have other symptoms, such as:
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss
  • Bloody urine or stool
  • Extreme fatigue

Establishing a diagnosis

Your practitioner may require several tests to determine what is causing you to cough up blood with mucus. They will want to know whether you have a fever, flu, or are suffering from a persistent cough. It is essential to pay attention to your symptoms so you can tell your practitioner how long you have had bloody sputum, what it looks like, and the frequency and amount you have been coughing up.

Your practitioner will likely conduct a physical exam that will require listening to your lungs and checking for other symptoms. They may also run additional tests such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, blood test, and biopsy.

Treatment for coughing up blood with mucus

If coughing up blood turns out to be symptomatic of a more significant health condition, your practitioner will prescribe the appropriate treatment options for you . That may vary depending on your illness, but some potential care options include taking antibiotics for coughing and bleeding caused by bacterial infections or undergoing surgery to remove tumors in the lungs or throat.

Should your practitioner determine you have a severe respiratory condition, they might recommend home oxygen therapy, home ventilator care, or nebulizer therapy, depending on the diagnosis. 

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