Coughing up white phlegm with bubbles

Coughing up white phlegm with bubbles – What causes that?

Is coughing up white phlegm with bubbles normal?

Coughing is an instinctive reaction. It’s your body’s method of preventing infection and cleansing your lungs of irritants like mucus, allergies, and smoking. Dry or productive coughs are two common categories of coughs. Sputum (mucus, phlegm, and other material) is expelled from the lungs by a productive cough.

Coughing up white phlegm can be a sign of a number of illnesses, such as bronchitis, asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (COPD).

It’s possible that occasionally coughing up white phlegm doesn’t indicate anything is wrong. However, if someone has a coughing disease, they may cough up more phlegm or notice more of it.

Continue reading to find out the causes of coughing up white phlegm, especially with bubbles, as well as how to treat it.

The reason we cough

A protective reflex, coughing keeps foreign objects out of your airways and lungs. You run the danger of aspiration and other respiratory issues if you can’t cough.

While the occasional cough is not always an indication of a problem, some illnesses, such as allergies or respiratory infections, might make you cough more frequently as your body tries to get rid of extra mucus.

Coughing up white phlegm

The cause of a cough and excessive respiratory mucus production may be deduced from the color of the phlegm. Clear, cream, white, yellow, green, rust-colored, or red phlegm might also be present.

Clear phlegm frequently results from lung conditions like asthma or emphysema that are not caused by infections.

Brown or black phlegm can, however, also be a symptom of lung illness and smoking. The condition known as “coal workers’ lung” or pneumoconiosis, for instance, may manifest as black phlegm.

Infection is frequently linked with green phlegm. The American Lung Association mentions that pneumonia might result in a cough that discharges green phlegm.

Phlegm that is pink or rust-colored and contains blood may be a sign of a serious illness like tuberculosis or an abscess.

However, this article focuses on white phlegm. You might have a bacterial infection in your airways if you cough up thick, solid white phlegm. Your doctor might prescribe medications for this kind of infection.

What causes coughing of white phlegm with bubbles?

Foamy and bubble-filled phlegm is often referred to as frothy sputum. Sometimes frothy sputum can indicate:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

A collection of lung illnesses that worsen is known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Breathing becomes more difficult with COPD. Initial signs could be intermittent coughing and shortness of breath, which are moderate symptoms. As it worsens, the symptoms may become more frequent to the point that breathing may become more challenging.

It’s possible that you will wheeze, feel tight in the chest, or produce more sputum than usual. Some COPD sufferers experience acute exacerbations, which are severe symptom flare-ups.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

When stomach contents rise back up into your esophagus, acid reflux occurs. Acid regurgitation and gastroesophageal reflux are additional names for this behavior.

You may have gastroesophageal reflux disease if you experience acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week (GERD).

Acid reflux is the main sign of GERD. Your chest may feel like it’s burning, and the discomfort may spread to your neck and throat. Heartburn is a common name for this sensation.

The back of your mouth may start to taste sour or bitter if you have acid reflux. Additionally, it could result in food or drink coming back up into your mouth from your stomach.


A lung infection known as pneumonia is brought on by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The infection causes inflammation in the lungs’ alveoli, which are small air sacs. As the alveoli swell with liquid or pus, breathing becomes challenging.

Pneumonia caused by bacteria or viruses can spread to others. This implies that they can transmit from person to person when airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze are inhaled.

These kinds of pneumonia can also spread by contact with surfaces or objects that have been exposed to pathogens that cause the disease.

Pneumonia caused by fungi can spread through the environment. It cannot transfer from one person to another directly.

Pulmonary edema (such as from heart failure)

The disease known as pulmonary edema causes the lungs to swell up with fluid. It is also referred to as pulmonary congestion, lung water, and congestion of the lungs. The body has trouble getting enough oxygen when pulmonary edema develops, which leads to shortness of breath.

Congestive heart failure is the most typical cause of pulmonary edema (CHF). When the heart is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body, heart failure results. As a result, the lungs’ tiny blood veins experience a buildup of pressure, which results in fluid leakage.

Congestive heart failure presents commonly with coughing up white phlegm with bubbles.

Your body will have trouble absorbing oxygen if you have pulmonary edema. This is because the quantity of fluid in the lungs is growing, which is blocking oxygen from entering the bloodstream. Until you receive therapy, your symptoms can keep getting worse.


A doctor may question a patient about the duration of their symptoms and whether there are any known triggers in order to identify the underlying ailment that is causing them to cough up white phlegm with bubbles. They’ll probably inquire about the phlegm’s color or texture.

The doctor will examine you for allergies or breathing problems like asthma. They might conduct an upper GI endoscopy if they feel that GERD is the root of the problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to rule out other conditions with blood testing or chest imaging. To determine the kind of lung disease a person has, a sputum test may also be required.


The cause of phlegm coughing will determine the course of treatment.

For instance, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can be beneficial if your cough is being brought on by GERD.

Another option is to raise your upper body (to prevent reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus) especially when resting or sleeping.

Relief can also come from modifying your diet and losing weight. Surgical intervention can be necessary in severe GERD instances.

Medical treatment for COPD may include prescription drugs and more oxygen. Bronchodilators, steroids, antibiotics, and other medications are available.

A medicine may be recommended by your doctor to assist treat your pneumonia. Depending on the precise cause of your pneumonia, you may receive a different prescription. Most cases of bacterial pneumonia can be treated with oral antibiotics.

A dangerous ailment that needs prompt treatment is pulmonary edema. The primary line of treatment for this disease is always oxygen.


Usually, coughing up phlegm is nothing to worry about. The majority of phlegm-coughing reasons are not dangerous. For many cases of coughing up phlegm, GERD and the common cold are to blame. The majority of reasons are curable.

Heart failure is one of the disease conditions that may result in coughing up white phlegm with bubbles (frothy sputum).

However, some may be serious, and while some people will be able to get by with at-home treatments, others will need long-term care. Treatment for serious illnesses like COPD or heart failure must last a lifetime.


Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for and a writer for Wapomu

Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.

His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.

He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.

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