Coughing Blood: Causes

By McBratney, Susan PhD

What causes coughing blood?

A number of different respiratory conditions, diseases and disorders can cause coughing blood, many of which are serious, life-threatening situations. However, the source of the blood may be difficult to distinguish in some cases. Blood that is not coming from the lungs may be spit up from the throat or nose. Blood can also be swallowed and regurgitated from the stomach. 

Possible causes of coughing blood

Coughing blood is most commonly due to bronchitis and bronchiectasis (inflammation of the airways). Other possible causes, some of which are potentially life threatening, include:

  • Anticoagulated state (taking blood thinner medications)
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism)
  • Chest trauma
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Crack cocaine use
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Fat embolism
  • Foreign body
  • Legionnaires’ disease (type of bacterial pneumonia)
  • Lung abscess
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary aspiration (inhaling blood into lungs)
  • Tuberculosis

Conditions that can mimic coughing up blood

Some medical conditions can lead to blood coming from the mouth and mimic coughing blood. These include:

  • Esophageal cancer

  • Nosebleed

  • Throat irritation from violent coughing

What are the potential complications of coughing blood?

The complications of an untreated or poorly controlled cough that contains blood can be serious and even life threatening. Over time, coughing blood can lead to serious complications including:

  • Anemia

  • Severe blood loss

  • Shock


  1. Cough.
  2. Cough. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  3. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.

What is coughing blood?

Coughing blood is the production of blood or bloody mucus from the respiratory tract, which includes the lungs and main air passages. Coughing up blood from the respiratory tract is also called hemoptysis.

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What other symptoms might occur with coughing blood?

You may experience other symptoms while coughing blood, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. These symptoms may affect body systems other than the respiratory tract, such as the circulatory system and the digestive tract.

Other symptoms that may occur along with coughing blood

Coughing blood may occur with other symptoms including:

Read more about coughing bloodsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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