Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Coughing up blood — whether in a large or a very slight amount — at any time, can be a frightening experience to both a patient and their family. It can be confusing at first. Is the blood flowing from your lungs, or is it coming from a nosebleed, esophagus, or stomach? Here’s what you should know about this unusual occurrence—and why experts believe it’s not usually a sign of a dangerous illness (though it should be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider).
FAQ #1: What does hemoptysis mean?
The word Hemoptysis is derived from the Greek words “haima” meaning blood and “ptysis” meaning spitting. It describes the spitting or coughing up blood from your respiratory tract, either alone or accompanied by mucus (lungs and throat). In many respiratory illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, and asthma, blood in the sputum is a common medical presentation for respiratory physicians. It can, however, be a symptom of a serious medical issue. A lung or stomach problem can cause this in severe circumstances.
FAQ #2: What are the most common causes of hemoptysis?
Some possible causes of blood-streaked sputum include:
- Blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism)
- Bronchitis and asthma
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Pulmonary aspiration
- Pulmonary edema
- Lung cancer
- Excessive, violent coughing
- Lung infections such as pneumonia
- Cystic fibrosis
- Using blood thinners
In adults, the most prevalent causes include bronchitis, bronchiectasis, tuberculosis, and necrotizing pneumonia or lung abscess. The most prevalent causes in children are lower respiratory tract infections and foreign body aspiration.
FAQ #3: What are the symptoms of hemoptysis?
The symptoms of hemoptysis include:
- Streaks of blood
- Bright red blood
- Bloody mucus
- Bubbly blood or mucus
FAQ #4: Is hemoptysis an emergency?
Coughing up blood for no apparent reason is always a cause of concern and should be reported to your doctor. If your cough is accompanied by dizziness or severe shortness of breath, or if you cough up a considerable amount of blood (more than a few teaspoons), seek emergency medical attention at once. The spotting of blood from the lower respiratory tract is known as hemoptysis.
However, it’s possible that it’s not a sign of something more serious. The majority of symptoms and causes of spitting blood are curable. Hemoptysis, on the other hand, can be fatal. If you’re coughing up blood, you should visit a doctor right away.
Symptoms that definitely warrant a call to your doctor are:
- Coughing up more than one teaspoon of blood
- Blood in urine or stools
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Severe shortness of breath
FAQ #5: Should I go to the doctor if I cough up blood?
Most of the time, blood is usually from your lungs and is often the result of prolonged coughing or a chest infection. Nevertheless, a large amount of blood being expelled from the airway is a medical emergency that demands immediate attention. It is recommended that you call your doctor if you’re coughing up blood to determine whether the cause is minor or potentially more serious.
FAQ #6: Can a sore throat cause blood in the saliva?
The condition is often attributed to acute infectious bronchitis. A severe sore throat, such as strep throat or tonsillitis, might result in a little amount of blood in your saliva or spit. A nasty cough can also do the same. However, any chronic or significant bleeding should be investigated by a medical professional to determine the source.
FAQ #7: What is the home remedy for coughing up blood?
Make sure you drink plenty of water and other liquids, especially warm ones. This can loosen your congestion by helping your mucus move and easier to cough up. Before increasing your fluid consumption if you have renal, heart, or liver illness and must limit fluids, consult your doctor.
FAQ #8: Is a little blood in phlegm normal?
There is a possibility of spitting out little streaks of blood in phlegm due to excessive coughing. Higher volumes of blood-tinged oral secretion, however, may be due to serious conditions and calls for medical intervention.
FAQ #9: What is the color of blood coming from the digestive tract?
Blood from the digestive tract is usually dark and contains bits of food or coffee grounds. This is a serious issue, and you should go to the hospital as soon as possible.
FAQ #10: Can you recover from hemoptysis with antibiotics?
Antibiotics will usually reduce bleeding (and sputum) in the majority of cases (requiring no further intervention). Those who continue to bleed despite antibiotic treatment need further assessment.
FAQ #11: Can hemoptysis be cured?
Mild to severe hemoptysis can often be treated by conservative treatment (e.g., treatment of the infection or anti-inflammatory measures). Haemoptysis is usually a self-limiting illness, but in less than 5% of instances, it can be severe, indicating a life-threatening condition that requires immediate evaluation and treatment.
FAQ #12: Can hemoptysis occur without any cause?
Yes. In 30 to 40% of patients, the identifiable cause of hemoptysis is unknown, but the hemoptysis usually goes away within 6 months. Little data is available regarding characteristics and outcomes of patients presenting with hemoptysis of unknown origin (i.e., “cryptogenic”).
FAQ #13: Which doctor treats hemoptysis?
Any patient with persistent, severe, or recurrent Hemoptysis should refer to a pulmonologist (respiratory system specialist) or otolaryngologist (ENT specialist).
In summary, hemoptysis has a wide clinical spectrum, ranging from benign to life-threatening. Regardless of the amount of blood coughed up, unexplained hemoptysis should not be taken lightly. Regular health screening is a great way of getting a comprehensive overview of your overall health and taking preventive measures before a disease strikes.
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