Coughing up Blood (Hemoptysis): Causes & When to Go to the ER

Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea

Feb 22, 2020


When it comes to your health, there are certain indications that make it easy to say, something’s not right. Whether it’s a fever more than 100 degrees or coughing up blood, you know that you’ll need serious medical attention. But, how serious is serious, and when should a trip to the emergency room be your first priority?

What is hemoptysis?

When you cough up blood that originated in your lungs or bronchial tubes, it’s known as hemoptysis. Other forms of spitting up blood include pseudohemoptysis and hematemesis. The amount of blood and your family history helps determine which condition you’re experiencing.

Causes of Hemoptysis

When the case is hemoptysis, the cause is usually due to pulmonary or bronchial hemorrhage. But, other conditions or situations may also contribute. The most common include:

  • Bronchitis — acute or chronic
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Lung abscess
  • Lung cancer
  • Non-cancerous lung tumors
  • Parasitic infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Tuberculosis
  • Blood thinner usage
  • Inflammatory or autoimmune conditions
  • Cocaine usage
  • Foreign objects within your airway

8 Signs You Should Visit the ER After Coughing up Blood

Ultimately, if you are coughing up blood, you should always seek medical attention. But, some cases are more time-sensitive than others. You should visit the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing up blood after drinking
  • Coughing up blood that’s mixed with mucus
  • Coughing up blood after a surgery
  • Coughing up blood while pregnant
  • Coughing up more than a few teaspoons of blood
  • Coughing up blood while also experiencing chest pain, dizziness, fever, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood following a fall or injury to the chest
  • Coughing up blood and also experiencing blood in your urine or stool

Hemoptysis Treatment

During your visit to the emergency room, your doctor’s first goal will be to stop the bleeding. They will also ask questions about your family history and conduct tests to determine the likely cause. Some common treatments include:

1. Bronchial Artery Embolization

Your doctor runs a catheter through your leg to an artery supplying blood to your lungs. They’ll put dye into the catheter to get a better look at your arteries on a video screen and identify the source of the bleeding. Then, they’ll block the source using metal coils or other methods.

2. Bronchoscopy

Using a tool at the end of an endoscope, the doctor can navigate and uncover the cause of your bleeding. The tool helps to stop the bleeding, while the endoscope helps them see what’s causing the issue.

3. Surgery

If the reason you’re coughing up blood is severe, your doctor may suggest surgery. This usually involves removing all or part of your lung. This option is typically only suggested if your cause is life-threatening.

Once the blood has stopped, your doctor will be able to prescribe treatment for the root cause of the issue. Treatments often consist of antibiotics, chemotherapy or radiation, or steroids. After diagnosis, your doctor will be able to provide the best options for your situation — including talking about the risks and benefits of each treatment.

24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one have a medical emergency, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Visit us online to find the Complete Care location nearest you.