Signs and Symptoms of Hemoptysis

Hemoptysis is a symptom of many different underlying disorders, from cancer to a mild bronchial infection. In addition to coughing up blood and depending on what is causing the bloody sputum, a patient may notice other symptoms including the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath, even without exercise)
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
  • Vomiting

Even without other symptoms, anyone who coughs up blood should contact his or her physician or health care practitioner. In most cases, hemoptysis is symptomatic of a mild bronchial infection, it can be a sign of a more serious illness.

Patients are often not sure if the blood is from the respiratory tract or not. There is a big difference, in terms of prognosis (final outcome and expected recovery) and treatment, between hemoptysis and hematemesis (vomiting blood).

Signs of hemoptysis include:

  • Any respiratory symptoms, such as a cough
  • Bright red blood
  • Blood that has a liquid or clotted, frothy appearance

Signs of hematemesis include:

  • A history of excessive alcohol use or liver disease
  • Any esophogastric symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting
  • Brown or black blood
  • Blood that looks like coffee grounds
  • Dark-colored, tar-like stools (a condition known as melena)

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 May 2000

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015