What Does Pink, Frothy Sputum Indicate?

Coughing up pink, frothy sputum is an indication of pulmonary edema, a buildup of fluid around the lungs. Depending on the cause, this and other symptoms could appear suddenly or develop over time, according to Mayo Clinic. Immediate medical attention is recommended.

There are many causes of blood in the sputum, called hemoptysis. It is important to determine whether the blood in the sputum is from the airways or lungs, or if it is being vomited up from the stomach, reports Mayo Clinic. Blood from the respiratory tract is bright red and foamy. Blood from the gastrointestinal tract is dark red or coffee-colored, but it also may be rust-colored.

Some common reasons for coughing up blood include prolonged, severe coughing; a chest infection; bronchitis; and bronchiectasis, which is enlargement and scarring of the large airways of the lung, according to WebMD. Also listed are pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs; cancers of the lungs, throat or windpipe; and tuberculosis. Pulmonary edema usually occurs in people with pre-existing heart problems. Proper identification of the underlying cause is tantamount for proper treatment, and further tests may be needed. Individuals with such symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, states WebMD.