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Nullo's avatar

On a scale from 1 to 911, how bad is bloody phlegm?

Asked by Nullo (21978points) January 12th, 2011

Problem first arose on Sunday, I think. Sore muscles, cough w/phlegm, stuffy/runny nose. Chills that evening, and the following evening. I’m off of the cold/flu meds now.

Per the typical pattern, I spend the next few weeks coughing up phlegm, and then we’re done. It usually ranges from pale green to slightly sickly brown, sometimes solid-ish, sometimes not.

This is the first time that it’s had noticeable amounts of blood in it. Not a lot, though I think that there’s more per loogie now than at the outset.
The coughs aren’t as frequent as the last time I was sick (6 – 7 little bouts per day, not all of them productive), but they do cause more pain coming up.

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19 Answers

MissA's avatar

Personally, I would think that there was a different situation this time…perhaps more dryness.

But, I’m not a doctor, so the moment you feel as if you need to, seek a proper opinion. I’m not one who runs to the doctor, so I attempt to ride it out and do my little things…perhaps Vicks in the notrils…inhaling steam, etcetera. Good luck.

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anartist's avatar

in winter much less bad as dry air is likely to cause it to occur with a cold like yours.

faye's avatar

Coughing will cause capillaries to break and bleed but I would let my doctor know. I think green phlegm is supposed to mean bacteria so you want to go to your doctor. And I don’t think it’s supposed to be funny brown so go tomorrow already.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Could be nothing but an infection. Could be lots worse. What color is the blood (bright red, rusty, etc)? I’d probably go see a doctor tomorrow just to be on the safe side.

mammal's avatar

bad dose of flu, the over exertion of coughing has probably caused this, i doubt it is consumption, or whatever it was that killed off every 19th century star stuck lover who coughed into a handkerchief and bravely tried to conceal the tell tale flecks of blood from their beloved. But if symptoms persist or you had blood in your stool, i would suggest seeking medical advice.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@mammal TB comes on slowly (unlike colds, which come on very quickly), and it’s only bright red blood – not rusty blood in phlegm.

Nullo's avatar

I had not considered dryness as a possible cause. It is quite dry hereabouts.

@BarnacleBill As a general rule, I don’t involve the family practitioner until I feel that it is necessary. I am attempting to determine whether this is the time or not.

@papayalily The blood is rust-colored.

cazzie's avatar

Nullo, the green colour indicates an infection. You need antibiotics. They’ll have to determine where the blood is coming from, so you need to see a doctor. If you’re lucky, it’s coming from your sinuses, but you really do need to go in, NOW.

Go’ bedring. (get well soon)

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jenandcolin's avatar

I just called my physician about this on Monday…
Bloody phlegm, if you are having congestion and “working phlegm out” (my doc’s words) via coughing or spitting, is nothing. It means you are irritating your throat. He told me if the blood remains after a day or two to call back (it didn’t).
You should be fine. If you have an infection you would most likely (but maybe not always?) have a fever. Honestly, I would give it a day or two before I went to the doctor (or just call and ask to speak to doc or nurse, like I did). But, I’m just that way. I hate making trips in town to the doc for nothing (I live in the middle of the woods, far away from town).
Good luck! I hope you feel better soon!

JLeslie's avatar

If your “cold” lasts more than 7 days, you need an antibiotic most likely. The blood could just be from irritation. If it does not go away after a 3 weeks, coughs usually last 3 weeks, then I would get a chest xray. If you have a high fever I would not wait at all, colds do not come with fevers in adults.

cazzie's avatar

@jenandcolin Not all infections are accompanied by a fever.
Yellow phlegm means your immune system is at the beginning or the end of fighting a sinus infection. Green phlegm indicates that the infection is in full swing. Brown or orange phlegm could be a sign of a greater infection in your lungs, like pneumonia. Generally speaking, a cold or sinus infection should end anywhere between 9–15 days. If your symptoms persist longer than two weeks, you should seek a physician—stronger (antibiotic) treatments may be necessary, or you may be suffering from chronic sinus infections (sinusitis).

(lifted from his helpful website:

From my ‘mother type’ instincts, it sounds like it could be pneumonia, but you didn’t say how long you’ve had this for. I had a bad cough for a few weeks this winter, but there was never any bad coloured stuff, so I never went to the doctor. (much to my husbands horror, but I hate running to the docs for every little thing) If I had green snot or rust coloured stuff coming up from my lungs for a week… I would have gone. Promise.

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie I know, but viral colds almost never have a fever in adults. No fever means likely antibiotics won’t help. Fever means, if congested, good chance it is bacterial and antibiotics will help, although of course some people fight bacterial without antibiotics, but after a week, your standard is minimum 9 days, I accept that too, then it is likely not viral. And, blood is an unusual symptom for run of the mill illnesses. There is some reason for concern. Cough, extreme lethargy, and high fever, none to very little congestion is likely flu, and antibiotics do nothing.

I fear pneumonia also. Most people get fever with pneumonia, but not always. I think I was nit clear that when I gave 3 weeks for a cough, I did not mean to wait three weeks if other “cold” symptoms persist. Again, if someone is sick for more than a week without improvement, it generally needs a doctors look see. Walking pneumonia is going around where I live it seems, I know of two cases, could be all over the country.

cazzie's avatar

@JLeslie the only reason I mentioned antibiotics is because of the green sputum. I know you don’t give antibiotics for a viral cold and I would never suggest that. With a lot of congestion, you can get sinus/throat/lung infections as a secondary problem to a viral cold. ( And Nullo is a tough character. He may have had a fever on and off and not noticed or not told us. ;o)

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie I agree, green, bacteria. Sometimes people fight off a bacterial infection on their own, but in this case antibiotics seem in order. We agree.

Nullo's avatar

The worst (chills, aches, fatigue, etc.) are over – lasted about 4–5 days. It’s just the phlegm now (which, at last check (and without considering the blood), was either white or close to white. I think that we’re at @jenandcolin‘s point here.
If I drop off of the radar, y’all know what happened to me. XD

JLeslie's avatar

@nullo, There is a such thing as viral pneumonia. If you don’t start getting better consider going to the doctor. Pneumonia is serious. A cough getting better means it happens less during the day, but might have a bad coughing jag in the morning, or if you wake up in the middle night might have a bad cough. Again, coughs usually take three weeks to subside completely, but there should be a trend towards less coughing. I have found that people tend to not notice the pattern of their coughing, and if they are actually on the mend, and just feel the cough is still hanging on.

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