Coughing up black stuff or mucus can be quite frightening, but it’s rarely harmful. You usually notice spitting black phlegm when you smoke a lot. However, you may cough up black mucus even if you are not a smoker. This usually happens if you inhale smoke or have some underlying medical conditions. It is therefore a good idea to consult your doctor if you’re coughing up black mucus.Keep reading to learn more about the underlying causes and some treatment options to get rid of your symptoms.
Why Do I Cough up Black Stuff?
The mucus you expel from your body during a sneeze or cough is phlegm which can be of different colors. The color of your phlegm helps a lot in determining your overall health. In some cases, your black phlegm is the outcome of food particles tainting your mucus, but it may also happen due to certain infections. Here are some of the most common causes of coughing up black stuff.
1. Ingesting Dark Foods
One of the most common causes of coughing up black phlegm is ingesting something dark or black. It’s usually the case in children. You may see them cough up black stuff after eating licorice or chocolate. Tiny particles of chocolates and other dark foods can stick to your mucus and change its color.
2. Inhaling Dirt and Dust
If you spend a lot of time working in dirt and dust, you may end up coughing up black stuff. Small dirt particles can stick to your mucus and taint it.
3. Smoking Heavily
Smoke inhalation is yet another common cause of coughing up black phlegm. This usually happens in case you’ve been smoking heavily. Moderate smoking may make your phlegm to turn brown or yellow, but it turns black if you’re a heavy smoker. The color of your phlegm also turns black if you smoke drugs such as marijuana or cocaine.
4. Working as Firefighters or Coal Miners
Inhaling a very large amount of smoke can change the color of your phlegm and often represents a serious medical problem. You can also find most firefighters with this type of respiratory problem. This often leads to something known as black lung disease.
5. Contracting Certain Fungal Infections
Sometimes a fungal infection may be the reason behind your condition. Mucormycosis and Aspergillosis are two fungal infections of the lungs that can make you cough up black phlegm. Your black mucus may also be the indication that you have developed a pneumonia that is triggered by fungal organisms. These are rare conditions though and usually affect people with compressed immune system.
How to Relieve Coughing up Black Stuff
Here is what you can do about your condition.
1. Clear Black Mucus
Expelling black mucus is the way to get rid of it. You may drink more water than usual to make it easier for you to expel mucus. Also, breathe deeply when coughing to get mucus out of your respiratory passages. Inhaling steam can help loosen thick mucus and you can then expel it by coughing. Similarly, nasal rinse helps eliminate black stuff from your nose, which involves flushing a saline solution and sterile water through sinuses.
2. Stop Smoking
You cannot get rid of black mucus if you continue to smoke. Your respiratory system has tiny hair-like structures called cilia that help particles move out of your respiratory passage. If you stop smoking, these structures can get better and remove mucus that can be black or brown in color.
3. Wear a Face Mask
You can consider wearing a facemask to filter out dust and other environmental particles that can irritate your respiratory passage. When wearing a mask, make sure it covers your mouth as well as the nostrils.
4. Stop Fungal Infection
You are more likely to develop a fungal infection if your immune system isn’t working at its full potential. Aspergillus is a type of fungus that can cause lung infections and result in symptoms such as coughing up black stuff. Be sure to wash your palms when contaminated with soil and use a high quality mask for protection. Install a HEPA filter in your house to improve the quality of air.
5. Medication for Fungal Infection
If you have already developed a fungal infection, you may have to take certain medications to eliminate the infection. Your regular antibiotics don’t prove beneficial. Instead, you need to use powerful antifungal drugs, such as itraconazole, amphotercin B, or voriconazole. These drugs don’t work against some forms of aspergillosis. Caspofungin is the alternative to use in this case. You may also have to use astragalus which is an immune-system booster. Similarly, taking an acidophilus helps change the chemistry of your tissues and protects you from fungal infections.