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Blood-Tinged Sputum
Sputum, or phlegm, is a mixture of saliva and mucus that you've coughed up. Blood-tinged sputum occurs when the sputum has visible streaks of b...

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Blood-Tinged Sputum Overview

Blood-tinged sputum is expectorated mucous matter from the airways that is tinged or streaked with blood. The blood can be either bright red or dark red in color. It’s also referred to as blood-streaked sputum, or sputum contains blood.

Blood-tinged sputum is different from coughing up blood with or without very little sputum (hemoptysis). Hemoptysis can be a potentially life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention. Sputum that is streaked with blood may be due to something as benign as irritation of upper-airway passages due to dry, ambient air. It may be a sign of a more serious medical condition, like pneumonia or a blood clot in the lung, especially if accompanied by other symptoms.

Associated Diagnoses

Associated diagnoses include:

  • bronchitis
  • nosebleed
  • laryngitis
  • cystic fibrosis
  • acute mountain sickness
  • aspiration pneumonia
  • bronchiectasis
  • congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • goodpasture syndrome
  • hookworm infections
  • legionnaire’s disease
  • lung cancer
  • non-small cell carcinoma
  • parrot fever
  • tuberculosis
  • pneumonia
  • pulmonary edema
  • pulmonary embolism
  • mitral stenosis
  • trauma
  • dehydration or dry environmental conditions

Diagnosis and Treatment

It will be important for your doctor to determine that blood is indeed originating from the respiratory tract. A complete history and physical examination will be required, along with diagnostic studies such as a chest x-ray and sputum culture and sensitivity. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

When To Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if blood-tinged sputum is accompanied by:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • persistent cough
  • fever
  • chills
  • night sweats
  • blood in the urine

When To Call 911

Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention if blood-tinged sputum becomes:

  • air hunger or gasping for breath
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • chest pain
  • sweating profusely
  • pain or numbness in the arm, hands, or fingers
  • pallor or blanching of the arm, hands, or fingers
  • dizziness or fainting
  • frank bleeding or coughing up copious blood or blood clots
Written by: Ana Gotter
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Published: Dec 1, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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