Respiratory infection the most common reason for coughing up blood

If you cough up a little blood there’s usually no cause for concern. You may have blood in your mucus from having had a nosebleed and the blood from your nose washed down your throat. You may also see blood streaks in your mucus perhaps from a respiratory infection such as bronchitis, bronchiectasis or pneumonia. If, however, you are coughing up more than a couple teaspoons of blood or you are often coughing up blood, these may be signs of something more serious that needs medical attention.

Other causes and risk factors for coughing up blood

While the most common cause of coughing up blood (also known as hemoptysis) is respiratory infection, the symptom may also be associated with other conditions such as:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels in the lung)
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)

If you have a weakened immune system you are also more at risk for coughing up blood. Check to see if any of these other factors apply:

  • You have a family history of clotting disorders.
  • You have been exposed to tuberculosis.
  • You have had a recent surgery, cancer, or other serious illness.
  • You have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • You have smoked for many years and you’re over 40.
  • You have recently traveled long distance (risk of blood clot).
  • You have used drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants).

When to get medical help for coughing up blood

Coughing up blood can be a scary thing and you might be unsure whether you need medical help. If you have any of these associated symptoms, be sure to call a doctor:

  • Blood in your stool or urine
  • Chest pain
  • Light-headedness, dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.