Tasting blood in your phlegm (mucus from the passageways in the lungs) can occur even when coughing does not necessarily lead to actually coughing up blood. This metallic taste can occur for several reasons, ranging from having a severe cold or taking certain medications to working out too intensely or even pregnancy. Here's more on what a metallic taste when coughing could mean for you.
This article covers why phlegm could taste bloody, why you might cough up blood, when to see a provider for blood in phlegm, and how to stop tasting blood and metal from a cough.
Table of Contents
Causes: Why Am I Tasting Blood When Coughing (but Without Blood)?
There are several possible reasons for experiencing a bloody or metallic taste in your mouth when coughing, including the following.
Bacteria or viruses can cause bloody phlegm and a bloody or metallic taste in the mouth. Common infections that could cause this metallic taste include:
- Cold: The force of a cold's cough could push blood from blood vessels up into the lungs.
- Gum disease: When gums become red and swollen because of oral hygiene issues.
- Bronchitis: An infection in the lung's airways. Bronchitis is usually viral.
Self-Care for Healthy Gums
Gum disease occurs when gums become swollen and bleed easily because of bacteria. Gum disease can lead to a metallic or bloody taste. Types of gum disease include:
- Gingivitis: A reversible condition that makes gums red and swollen
- Periodontitis: Occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. Bacteria in the mouth can become chronic, which can result in lost teeth and the potential for bone loss.
The following can prevent gum disease:
- Brushing and flossing daily
- Visiting a dentist at least once a year for checkups or to look into any concerns
Less common reasons for tasting blood could include the following:
Gum Disease and Pregnancy
About 60–75% of pregnant people experience gingivitis, which occurs when bacteria gather in the mouth and cause swelling and bleeding in the gums. Gum disease occurs during pregnancy because of hormonal changes. Untreated gum disease has been linked to a higher risk of early birth or lower birth weight, but the link is unclear. To prevent gum disease, which can eventually lead to tooth and bone loss, maintaining oral health during pregnancy is advisable.
Some medications could cause a metallic taste. In such cases, you'll need to talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms before changing medications.
Medications that could cause a metallic taste include:
Intense exercise can cause a metallic taste in the mouth; however, if this happens often and results in other symptoms such as coughing up blood or difficulty breathing, seeking medical help is advisable. Exercise can cause a metallic taste in the mouth because of the following:
- Exercise can cause fluid buildup from pressure on the lungs. As a result, red blood cells can leak into the lung's air sacs and release hemoglobin, which contains iron in its structure. Bronchi transport hemoglobin to the mouth, where it tastes metallic.
- Irritation of mucus membranes: Mucus membranes line cavities in the body that lead to the outside.
- Metal fillings in teeth.
Why Am I Tasting and Coughing Up Blood?
Tasting and coughing up blood could occur because of the following:
When to See a Provider for Blood in Phlegm
In most cases, tasting or coughing up blood is usually not a cause for concern. However, seeking emergency care is advisable if a person is:
- Coughing up more than a few teaspoons of blood
- Experiencing symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness
- Losing appetite or weight without explanation
- Noticing blood in urine or stools
How to Stop Tasting Blood and Metal From a Cough
There are several methods of treatment after experiencing a bloody or metallic taste after a cough. In severe cases, blood loss from coughing can require surgery. However, in most cases, treating the root cause can help with the symptom of tasting blood or metal. These include the following.
Treating a condition that causes a cough, such as a cold or bronchitis, can help treat coughing up blood or a metallic taste. This can include cough medicine or taking antibiotics for conditions like pneumonia.
Gum health includes brushing and flossing daily, in addition to visiting a dentist at least once a year. Maintaining healthy gums can prevent a metallic taste that results from inflammation caused by bacteria.
Drinking water can thin out mucus and help bring it out of the body. However, make sure you speak to your healthcare provider before increasing fluid intake if you're living with heart, kidney, or liver disease.
Avoiding Smoke and Pollution
Some lifestyle habits can help you avoid coughing up blood, including:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding smoky or polluted areas
- Avoiding dust
Tasting blood or metal when coughing, with or without the presence of blood, can have several causes. Most commonly, this symptom can result from coughing. This coughing can result from conditions ranging from the common cold to bronchitis. Other causes of tasting or coughing up blood include pregnancy, medications, or exercise. Lung or throat cancer, pulmonary embolism, lung injury, drug use, or an object stuck in the airways are other possible reasons for coughing up or tasting blood.
Treating a cough or healing gum disease are two ways to treat the symptoms of coughing up blood. Staying hydrated and quitting smoking can also help minimize the symptoms. If you lose more than a few teaspoons of blood or are experiencing other symptoms, such as dizziness or difficulty breathing, emergency care is advisable. Blood in urine or stools and coughing up blood are also sufficient reasons to seek medical care as soon as possible.
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