What is hemoptysis?

The term hemoptysis refers to  the elimination of pure blood with cough, or sputum with blood contamination. This symptom may occur in adults and older children but is uncommon in younger children. When a person presents with haemoptysis, this means that the blood is coming from the bronchi or alveoli. Bleeding from the nose or stomach can look like hemoptysis, however, these are different situations. When the amount of blood coming out is large, the situation is called massive hemoptysis. This situation is extremely urgent. In this article we discuss the hemoptysis that is not massive and not an emergency.

What are the causes of haemoptysis?

In adults, there are several causes for haemoptysis. The most common are:

  • Bronchitis. The term bronchitis means inflammation of the bronchi. The bronchi are the tubes that  transport air to the lungs. There are 2 types of bronchitis.  Acute bronchitis is an infection of the bronchi and chronic bronchitis is the condition in which the airways are destroyed by chronic conditions.
  • Pulmonary infections, eg pneumonia.
  • Bronchiectasis. This is a situation in which the bronchi are destroyed and suffer frequent infections.
  • Lung cancer

In children, the most common causes are:

  • Infections of the lungs or bronchi and airways.
  • Foreign body aspiration. The object may have inadvertently entered into the airways even several days before the child begins to cough blood.
  • Bronchiectasis. In children are ususually caused by cystic fibrosis, a congenital condition. Cystic fibrosis predisposes to expectorate viscous sputum – phlegm and frequent respiratory infections.

Should I contact my doctor?

Yes. Every time your child has  cough with blood or sputum mixed with blood, call your doctor immediately. Tell your doctor about any possible foreign body aspiration episode of the child, even if that happened several days ago. If the amount of blood  is large (more than 1 cup), or in the presence of dyspnea, call an ambulance immediately.

Do you need to be tested?

Probably. Your doctor will ask you some questions and examine you clinically. Depending on the symptoms and other factors it is likely that you undergo further testing. These tests will help your doctor make a diagnosis and determine the etiology of haemoptysis and the bleeding site. The various tests may include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Laboratory tests. These may include tests of your sputum or blood examinations.
  • Bronchoscopy. With a fine instrument (bronchoscope) this examination overviews  the larynx and bronchi.
  • CT of chest and sinuses. Computed tomography is an imaging test that creates images from inside the body.

Is there anything you can do to stop the hemoptysis?

Yes. Teenagers and adults who excrete sputum contaminated with blood lines must try to quit smoking and use some cough syrup. However,  a treatment for coughs and colds in young children is not suggested. These drugs are unlikely to help and also can have serious side effects in young children. If you smoke is too important to stop smoking! If you are receiving treatment that prevents blood coagulation (eg, anticoagulants), inform your doctor immediately. He may modify the dose of your drug.

What is the treatment of haemoptysis?

If symptoms are mild and occur on the basis of a common cold, you may not need some special treatment. But if treatment is deemed necessary by your doctor, he will prescribe you some treatment for the underlying cause of haemoptysis. Also, you may be given treatment that helps stop haemoptysis with elimination of cough such as:

  • Antitussive treatment
  • Antibiotic therapy if you have an infection or bronchiectasis.
  • Bronchoscopy – a procedure during which your doctor can stop the bleeding under direct visual contact of your respiratory system.