Causes of brown sputum when coughing

Sputum color and illness

Various impurities that may be in it affect its color. Also, the change in color of sputum depends on what changes the body undergoes. The content of pus and blood is possible if a person suffers from bronchitis or a viral infection. It turns yellow when a person has bronchial asthma, as the number of leukocytes of a certain type increases. And pneumonia is characterized by reddish-colored discharge. But only a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis, and only after examining sputum and blood that were previously submitted for analysis.

If white and clear liquid is released in a small volume, then this is normal. The development of a bacterial infection can be noticed by a change in the color of the discharge. Purulent inflammation is accompanied by green sputum. And brown sputum when a smoker coughs is a completely common occurrence. Also, such a symptom indicates that there was previously hemorrhage in the respiratory tract. The presence of bleeding at the moment will color the sputum red or pink.

As it turned out, white and transparent discharge will change color when inflammation begins in the respiratory system. This also includes diseases that produce brown sputum. The reasons for their occurrence can be found out from a doctor, who must first identify the disease by the presence of certain symptoms.

What is phlegm?

Sputum is a secretion that is not typical for the human body. It is secreted by the bronchi and respiratory trachea only when certain abnormal processes occur. In addition to secretions, sputum may contain admixtures of saliva and secretions from the mucous cavities of the nasopharynx.

The nature of sputum is an important criterion for diagnosis. To make a correct diagnosis, it is important to know the following characteristics:

  • its quantity;
  • degree of transparency;
  • color;
  • smell;
  • consistency.

But a visual examination alone will not be enough to make a diagnosis. The doctor must order laboratory tests for the patient. And pink sputum when coughing, rusty or glassy - this is the case when analysis cannot be avoided.

Discharge from smokers

For smokers, the appearance of brown sputum is not particularly surprising. Smoking causes the volume of mucus to increase. Smoke and harmful substances that enter the bronchi provoke a cough.

The body's protective reaction is to cleanse itself of various dangerous substances. This is why smokers cough much more often than other people. Also, during smoking, the hairs of the bronchial epithelium become immobile. And this, in turn, complicates the process of removing sputum.

Causes of cough

The cough that occurs as a result of quitting cigarettes is the body’s protective reaction to harmful substances that have accumulated over the years and settled in the lungs. Epithelial cilia, dormant from systematically entering the respiratory organs with nicotine, wake up and actively strive to cleanse the respiratory tract.

As a result of the increased work of mobile cilia, a cough is formed, which can manifest itself in 2 forms:

  1. With sputum discharge. A natural, expected form of cough that expels tar along with mucus.
  2. Dry. Indicates deviations in the body's recovery process. This may be a consequence of the slow awakening of the cilia and their performance of a cleansing function or the complete absence of such a process. A dry cough can also occur due to the presence of thick sputum in the respiratory system and the inability to remove it independently. It often acts as a symptom of the development of diseases of the throat or digestive organs.

Other causes of sputum color change

With a common cold, just mucus may come out. But if complications arise, sputum may be expectorated with pus. It should be especially concerning when pus appears when a child coughs up. The secretion begins to be abundantly separated in the presence of chronic bronchitis, and it begins with a dry cough. Pneumonia may then occur if not treated properly, although the symptoms will initially appear the same.

If you cough up sputum with brown streaks, this means that dust, paint and other substances that can irritate the mucous membranes have entered the lungs.

Rusty sputum in smokers

In the morning, rusty sputum can be observed in smokers due to the fact that during the night mucus accumulates in the bronchi, and due to changes in body position, it moves, irritating the reflexogenic zones

and causes a cough.
Tobacco smoke adversely affects all human organs and systems, and the respiratory organs are affected first. This is explained by the fact that the poisons and tars present in tobacco smoke, under the influence of high temperature, destroy the epithelium
and lining the walls of the respiratory organs. As a result, they become susceptible to pathogens. Chronic bronchitis in a smoker develops gradually: after waking up, a person begins to cough, which indicates the accumulation of phlegm in the bronchi. Over time, the cough intensifies, and the mucus expectorated by the smoker becomes brown, which indicates the presence of pus. In addition, shortness of breath is observed, and chronic diseases are more severe and longer.

If a person smokes for a long time, morphological changes occur in the lungs and bronchi: severe cough and shortness of breath with palpitations when exposed to wind or cold air.

Important. Experts report that the brown phlegm that occurs in smokers is a mixture of natural body secretions and tars that enter the human body during smoking.

Phlegm and smoking

If brown sputum occurs, it is fraught with many serious consequences. Because an excellent environment has already been created for the development of new infections. Also, toxic tars and carcinogens contained in a smoker’s sputum can poison the entire body.

If the first symptoms appear, you should immediately consult a doctor to find out an accurate diagnosis. Doctors usually advise you to quit smoking. Consequences may vary from day to day. Improvement does not come immediately. A smoker may feel dizzy for several days as blood glucose levels drop. After a person gives up smoking, it becomes possible to avoid the manifestation of new diseases, but this is not enough for the lungs to be cleared of accumulations of various contaminants. Inhalations, taking expectorant medications, as well as breathing exercises will help achieve a certain result in treatment. But before that, you need to see a doctor who will prescribe all the necessary procedures. It is imperative to undergo treatment to clear the lungs. Since the consequences can be more serious, the entire body may suffer. Before quitting smoking, the day-to-day consequences must be taken into account; much depends on the human body and the history of abuse of tobacco products. If done abruptly, it can cause serious harm. It is better to discuss this issue with your doctor.

Brown and black sputum

Brown and black sputum that occurs when smokers cough indicates the presence of red blood cells, as well as their breakdown products, in the secretions. During the decomposition of hemoglobin, hemosiderin is released from red blood cells. The shade of the released liquid depends on the concentration of this substance.

Black and brown discharge most often occurs against the background of the development of the following diseases in smokers:

  • sluggish bronchitis;
  • pneumonia;
  • lung oncology;
  • pneumoconicosis.

Often, black and fairly thick mucus occurs during paroxysmal coughing that appears during the development of tuberculosis. Therefore, if you detect discharge of these two colors, you should immediately seek help from a specialist.

How to treat?

Warming up helps cough up phlegm very well. Mustard plasters or compresses will help achieve the desired effect. Inhalations are also effective. Frequent carrying out may be prescribed if the sputum is very difficult to pass.

If these procedures do not help, and you cough up brown sputum in the morning, then you can follow these rules:

- you need to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce your intake of carbohydrates and fats;

- drink a large volume of liquid, which will help thin the mucus and speed up its removal;

- the drink should be alkaline - to soften the cough.

Traditional methods

Previously, when there were no antibiotics and other medications, they fought phlegm with the help of traditional medicine:

  1. To extinguish the source of infection and soften the respiratory tract, you can drink milk after boiling it and adding pine buds. Then you need to let the drink brew for an hour and you can take it.
  2. Onion syrup will help a lot. You need to boil two onions, no need to peel them, add a glass of sugar during the cooking process.
  3. Tea from plantain, marshmallow, mint and coltsfoot is drunk twice a day.

Folk remedies can be used, but only if the diagnosis is correctly made by a doctor.

Where does sputum come from?

Sputum is a fairly viscous secretion that is produced by the trachea and bronchi. In the absence of any pathological changes in health, cough discharge should be transparent. The presence of purulent and bloody impurities in the secretion indicates disturbances in the functioning of the respiratory system and the development of certain diseases.

Viscous mucus, which is constantly formed in the respiratory tract, is a barrier that prevents pathogenic microorganisms from entering the mucous membrane of the ENT organs.

The liquid secretion contains the following components:

  • immune cells (leukocytes);
  • dust and pathogens;
  • blood cells (erythrocytes);
  • decay products of pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

With the help of sputum, protective cells quickly “get” to the foci of inflammation that arise during the development of pathogenic flora. Thus, the body manages to quickly neutralize colonies of pathogenic agents that attack the immune system. If a person is absolutely healthy, very little secretion is released, but in the presence of diseases, more and more of it is released, which makes it possible to more effectively fight uninvited guests.


Brown sputum may be a sign of bronchitis. It is also possible to develop an infection in the bronchi. Discharges of this nature may indicate that purulent destructive changes are occurring in the lungs.

Another manifestation of the disease is shortness of breath. When air enters the lungs, it is purified when inhaling. But when sick, mucus sticks together the hairs on the inner surface of the respiratory organs. The air is not filtered, and insufficient oxygen enters the body, breathing becomes frequent. In the mucus, microbes multiply and various contaminants are retained, which does not contribute to the cleansing of the lungs and, thereby, recovery.

Brown exudate

The appearance of brown mucus can be a sign of a progressive and life-threatening disease. Sputum acquires this color when stagnant blood enters the respiratory tract. As it oxidizes, it takes on a rusty tint. Vessels of the lungs, bronchi, and trachea may bleed as a result of a bacterial or viral infection or other pathologies. The cause of brown sputum is bleeding wounds in the mouth, nose, or stomach bleeding. The appearance of discharge of this color when coughing is a reason for immediate consultation with a doctor. A variety of diseases are diagnosed with this symptom:

  • Bronchitis and pneumonia with congestion, when decomposition of lung tissue occurs.
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) - its lumen is blocked by a thrombus, and blood leaks through the walls of the vessels.
  • Cancerous formations in the respiratory tract at the stage of tissue destruction.
  • An active form of tuberculosis, which is characterized by the symptom of stagnant blood coming out of the lesions.
  • Foreign particles entering the lungs that injure tissues and blood vessels.

Brown mucus can form as a result of minor damage to the capillaries when coughing - in this case, it passes quickly and does not pose a danger. In other cases, self-medication for coughing with brown sputum can be fatal.

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