There is nothing more worrying than seeing blood where there shouldn’t be blood- and blood in the saliva is one of those places. There may be small specks, or there may be quite a lot, either way it is a clear sign that there is something going on. Here are a few common causes:
An infection in the lungs- anything from a mild chest infection, to pneumonia or TB. When there is an infection, there is inflammation and this causes the blood vessels in the lungs to become delicate. Now when you cough, small blood vessels can burst, leading to blood coming up in your sputum. This could be a lot (teaspoons!) or just specks. You may have an infection if you have a cough, fever, pain in the chest when breathing or you have recently had a cold or flu. Blood in the sputum along with weight loss and sweating at night should ring the alarm bells as this could be TB.
2. Prolonged coughing
Any cough that goes on for some time (longer than a week) can cause the blood vessels in your lungs to bleed. This isn’t necessarily too serious: they repair themselves. Uncontrolled asthma, a cough after a viral infection and smokers cough are all examples of what could be behind a prolonged cough (with no other symptoms). If it doesn’t stop, you should visit a doctor.
3. Lung disease from smoking
Smoking can damage the small and large airways over time. Eventually the airways start gathering secretions and are unable to get rid of them- this makes infections of the lung more common. The airways can also get stiff, along with the blood vessels. All this can cause bleeding- leaving you with blood in your sputum.
One of the most serious causes of bloody sputum is cancer- this could be in the lungs, mouth or throat.
5. Heart disease
If your heart is not working as well as it should, fluid builds up in the lungs and your sputum can become pink (blood stained) and frothy.
6. Blood from elsewhere
It is important to determine if the blood is coming up when you cough, or if you are vomiting it up from your stomach. Nosebleeds and stomach ulcers are examples of this. Remember blood coming from the lungs will be mixed with mucous, whereas blood from the stomach will not be.
Whatever the cause, and whatever the amount, seeing blood in your sputum means that you need to go and see your GP to be examined- if you cough up large amounts (a teaspoon or more) then you should get to your doctor ASAP or your nearest ER.