Bleeding in the throat may result from relatively minor issues, such as a scratch or infection, or more serious problems that require medical attention, like pulmonary embolism or lung cancer.

Bleeding that seems to be coming from the throat may not originate in the area or even in the respiratory tract. It may be coming from the gastrointestinal tract, for example.

In this article, we explore the various causes of bleeding that seems to start in the throat, as well as their treatments and when to seek medical attention.

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Bleeding in the throat may occur due to a variety of conditions.

If a person coughs up blood — and the cause is not clearly a minor injury, such as biting down hard on the tongue or cheek — they should receive medical care.

Also, see a doctor if bleeding in the throat accompanies any of the following symptoms:

  • neck swelling
  • choking on blood
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • discoloration of the skin around the throat
  • vocal changes

If the bleeding seems to have resulted from trauma, such as a fall or an accident, seek emergency assistance.

Also, seek urgent care if the bleeding person is vomiting or experiences difficulty breathing, chest pain, or lightheadedness.

Blood may appear in the throat due to trauma or injury. This might involve:

Pharyngeal abrasion

This term refers to a scratch in the throat, possibly due to swallowing something sharp, such as a fish bone.

Beyond bleeding in the throat, a person may experience:

  • coughing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • spitting up blood
  • pain when swallowing

It may also feel as if something is stuck in the throat.


If a scratch in the throat occurs, consume liquids and soft foods.

To ease any pain, a person can take over-the-counter pain relief medication and gargle with salt water.

Mouth, chest, or throat injury

Injuries to this area may be minor, such as biting down on the side of a cheek.

A more serious injury may occur during a car accident, a physical assault, or a fall. In this case, seek emergency medical attention.

A powerful blow to the chest can lead to a bruised lung, also called a pulmonary contusion. It can cause a person to cough up blood or pink-hued mucus.


If an injury is serious, seek medical attention. Anyone who has sustained a blow to the chest and is coughing up blood should receive urgent care.

Anticoagulant medications, or blood thinners, can cause people to cough up blood.

A person taking any of the following may also have blood in their urine or vomit, and heavy nosebleeds:

  • apixaban (Eliquis)
  • edoxaban (Lixiana)
  • dabigatran (Pradaxa)
  • rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
  • warfarin (Coumadin)
  • heparin

If bleeding is a side effect of any of these medications, alert a doctor.

Several health conditions can cause bleeding in the throat.

Gum disease

Bleeding that seems to be coming from the throat may actually come from the gums.

Poor dental hygiene can cause gum disease, which can lead to bleeding. A person may also notice blood after brushing their teeth.

Other symptoms of gum disease include:

  • foul breath
  • red, inflamed gums
  • loose teeth
  • pain when chewing
  • sensitive teeth
  • receding gums


Improving oral hygiene can control symptoms, and quitting smoking can help.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommend:

  • brushing the teeth twice a day using a toothpaste with fluoride
  • flossing regularly
  • visiting the dentist regularly

Bacterial and viral infections

The following infections can cause a person to cough up phlegm that contains blood:

Bloody phlegm can also appear if a person has a severe or chronic cough.


Specific treatments depend on the type of infection, but a doctor may generally recommend:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • getting plenty of rest

Mucositis or stomatitis

Mucositis is painful ulceration and inflammation that occurs anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract.

Stomatitis is painful ulceration and inflammation of the:

  • cheeks
  • tongue
  • throat
  • gum
  • lips
  • roof and floor of the mouth

The sores are red, sometimes with central white patches, and they may bleed.

People with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy may develop these oral sores as a side effect of the treatment.


When the sores develop in the mouth, a doctor recommends careful oral hygiene and over-the-counter pain relief medication.

Using a soft toothbrush can help reduce the chances of injury to the gums.

Esophageal ulcer

An esophageal ulcer can result from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or esophagitis.

It can also occur due to:

  • repeated induced vomiting
  • infections, such as with Candida yeast
  • medications, such as some antibiotics, NSAIDs, and bisphosphonates
  • long-term consumption of acidic foods and drinks, including alcoholic beverages

Beyond noticeable bleeding, symptoms can include:

  • heartburn
  • chest pain
  • difficulty swallowing, which may be painful
  • nausea
  • vomiting

A person with this type of ulcer may vomit blood. The vomit may look similar to coffee grounds, if coagulated blood is present. Seek emergency medical care if this happens.


Treatment for these ulcers typically depends on the cause.

If the cause is GERD, a person can take antacids, medications called H2 blockers, prokinetics, or proton pump inhibitors.

If the esophagus is significantly injured, the person may need intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and pain relief medication. To treat the ulcer, a doctor may use H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors.


People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may find blood in their sputum.

But coughing up blood is a less common symptom of COPD — it is more likely to indicate a chest infection, for example.

Other, more common COPD symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest
  • wheezing
  • frequent lung infections
  • a chronic cough


Treatment for COPD involves managing symptoms and preventing the disease from progressing and further damaging the lungs.

A doctor may prescribe bronchodilators, corticosteroids, or antibiotics.

Cystic fibrosis

This genetic condition affects the respiratory tract, and it can cause:

  • trouble breathing
  • wheezing
  • frequent respiratory tract infections
  • a chronic cough
  • thickened mucus, sometimes with blood


There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, but there are many ways to manage its symptoms.

A doctor may recommend airway clearance therapy, mucus-thinning drugs, enzyme therapies, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories.

Mitral valve stenosis

This condition causes the heart’s mitral valve to narrow, which restricts blood flow.

People with mitral valve stenosis may experience:

  • trouble breathing
  • chest discomfort
  • dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue
  • coughing up blood


While medications can help manage symptoms, they are not a permanent fix. However, it is possible to repair or replace a mitral valve affected by stenosis.

Pulmonary edema

This involves the lungs filling with excess fluid. It requires emergency medical attention.

Pulmonary edema typically results from a heart condition. Symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • excess sweating
  • heart palpitations
  • severe shortness of breath
  • chest pain

In severe cases, a person may cough up blood-tinged or pink, frothy sputum.


The first goal is to help the person breathe. The next steps depend on the cause of the edema.

Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism usually involves a blood clot traveling to the lungs and blocking an artery. It requires immediate medical care.

Symptoms can include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing up blood

Sometimes, however, people have no symptoms.


A doctor may administer medications called anticoagulants or thrombolytics to dissolve the clot.

They may also use a catheter to break up the clot or a filter to prevent new clots from reaching the lungs.

Lung cancer

Coughing up blood is a common symptom of lung cancer. Others can include:

  • chest pain
  • a persistent cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • a poor appetite
  • repeated infections


Treatment options include:

Granulomatosis with polyangiitis

This rare condition can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment. It causes inflammation of organs and blood vessels.

Symptoms of granulomatosis with polyangiitis include:

  • fatigue
  • a fever
  • joint pain
  • coughing, sometimes with blood in the mucus
  • nosebleeds
  • sinus infections
  • pus in nasal secretions
  • shortness of breath


Treatment may involve medications such as steroids or rituximab (Rituxan).

Coughing up blood or finding it in sputum can be alarming. But it may be the result of a small injury, possibly due to vigorous brushing or flossing or a scratch in the mouth or throat.

See a doctor about bleeding that is persistent or gets worse. Seek urgent care if it occurs with any other symptoms, such as vomiting or shortness of breath.