Coughing Up Black Mucus


Coughing Up Black MucusIf you’re coughing up black mucus, there’s a good chance you’re alarmed. Any kind of discoloration in your body fluids is quite rightly something you should see a doctor about. The good news is that coughing up the black stuff might look frightening but it’s rarely a very serious cause for concern.

The mucus in your throat is actually a very good thing. It does a very important job. Your respiratory system needs to be kept moist and the mucus provides a covering that does just that. It also ensures the area is kept supple to it can expand and contract as your breathing dictates. The covering also helps to prevent against things such as inflammation, irritation, infections, bacteria and viruses, and more. There are also said to be very powerful enzymes present which can help fight back against illnesses, giving you a preventative approach.

It is not the mucus itself that causes the coughing but the inflammation and irritation in your respiratory system. Usually, the throat becomes inflamed which brings on a coughing fit, and the pressure you exert on your body when you cough forces out the mucus, taking the bad stuff (bacteria, etc.) away from your body as it does so. This will happen when you are suffering with an illness such as flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis and other lung infections, and even just the common cold. It is your body’s natural way of trying to fight back against the bad viruses or bacteria that shouldn’t be there.

If you’re coughing up black mucus, there are a few common reasons why:

Dark Foods

This happens a lot in young children but if you cough after eating a dark-colored food such as chocolate or licorice, there is likely to be still some of the coloration from the food in the mucus covering. When you cough or sneeze it up, some of the food comes back up with it.

Dirt & Dust 

If you are in a very dusty place, you could inhale a lot of that dust and the mucus does what it does best – it catches it to then expel it from your body and make sure it doesn’t cause your body any further harm.

This dust and dirt can also irritate the throat, airways and lungs depending on what compounds it’s made up of, which can induce this coughing fit that results in black mucus.

If you have worked in the attic, or in other dusty or particularly dirty places, and you start coughing up black mucus, it’s just a sign that your body is doing what it needs to do to stop you from getting sick.

Environmental Factors

As well as dirt and dust, people who work with high smoke levels can suffer with coughing up black mucus. Firefighters, for example, are people who save the public from fires which of course, cause smoke. This smoke can easily and quickly turn your mucus black, and the smoke will also inflame and irritate the throat and airways to cause fits of coughing.


Smoking does a lot of negative thing to your body and as well as filling your lungs with toxic chemicals which can cause cancer, tar and other poisonous compounds are present which cause a number of problems with your respiratory system.

The black color of the mucus coughed up is said to be down to the aluminum content. According to studies, the qualities of aluminum are high in regular cigarette smoke and also marijuana smoke. Other drugs can also cause this black color including cocaine.


There are a few medical condition which can cause black mucus when coughing and this can be made worse if you have been in dirty, dusty or smoky conditions also.

Pneumonia can cause black phlegm and mucus as can sinusitis, and even rare, fungal infections such as aspergillosis and mucormycosis. As a general rule, the latter two are rare and serious cases and will happen in those only with a dysfunctional or under-working immune system.

Foreign Bodies 

Again, something that commonly happens in young children, a foreign body inserted into the nose or mouth can cause black mucus. If the foreign body is left in the nose or mouth, it can get lodged in nooks and crannies along the airways, eroding or causing infections which then go on to cause a drainage of black mucus and other fluids.

A foreign could be something as simple as a toy or even as complex as a fly or other small insect.

How to Treat Coughing Up Black Mucus

There are a number of ways in which you can treat black mucus. If you are a smoker, you should quit or at the very least, take active steps to slow down and eventually quit. Smoking does your body no good at all.

If you drink more water, you may find that it encourages more mucus production and when this happens, you’ll be more likely to cough or sneeze it out, expelling the black waste and phlegm with it.

Face masks should always be used in dirty, dusty or smoky conditions to prevent inhalation as much as possible, and if you believe you have an infection, fungal or otherwise, you should seek medical advice. This will generally be when you start to feel otherwise unwell – you have a severe cough with a sore throat, fever-like symptoms, aches and pains, exhaustion, etc.

*image source: David Castillo Dominici /


  1. Directly across street the apt. Im staying in, a demolition
    took place 3 days ago & the wind blew in the dirty dust.
    My symptoms are coughing, feverish, headache & black,
    grayish, mucous. Never experienced this before. Coukd that be the cause?

    • It is likely that your cough and symptoms are stemming from the dust that you breathed in. It is likely that you should not be concerned, though it would be wise for you to take care of your lungs. If you have the time to get out of the city and walk through nature, then you might want to do that. If problems continue, then make an appointment with a medical professional. Remain positive and mindful, Jen!

  2. quit marijuana three months ago and still coughing up A LOT of black tinged mucus- I also have compromised immune system from 25 years of cancer treatments- should I ask my pcp to order sputum culture?

    • You should look into any treatments that are you interested in looking into. I do not know your situation and medical history and I don’t think it is wise to advise you to order anything. Keep note of the changes that you are experiencing and perhaps create a journal. This will help you to answer any questions that your doctor may have in the future.

    • Thank you for your story and insight. Lung tar can remain in your body for a long time. There may still be more in there, so remain positive as you move forward.

  3. I have Sarcoidosis and have been coughing up black phlem for weeks now . I smoke a 1/2 a pick.a day. Thank you for this info

    • Thank you for your comment. It would be best to immediately stop smoking. There are many remedies to help you stop smoking. Gum can be helpful in addition to any actions that you will take. If you find yourself fiddling with your hands, then perhaps take up a manual hobby.