Three-Day Sputum Sample
What is a sputum sample?
Sputum is the phlegm that you cough
up from your lungs. Your doctor has
asked for a sputum sample on three
different days to help find out what
may be causing your lung symptoms.
It is best if you can do these sputum
samples three days in a row.
These samples will be done at home.
The nurse will provide you with
sample cups and forms to return with
Your doctor will discuss your test
results with you. It may take a few
days for the lab to complete the tests.
How do I prepare for these tests?
Drink plenty of fluids the three nights
before each test. This may help to
produce better samples.
How do I produce a sputum
1. The best sputum samples are
done first thing in the morning
before eating. You may take a
warm shower first to help
loosen up the phlegm in your
2. Each morning you will need a
fresh sputum sample cup and a
cup of water.
3. Rinse your mouth well with
water. Swish and spit. You
may brush your teeth before
this rinse if you desire.
4. Take a very deep breath and
cough hard and deeply until
you can feel phlegm come up
into the back of your throat.
Clear your throat and cough the
phlegm into the cup. You may
have to spit it into the cup once
the phlegm has reached the
front of your mouth. *Note:
Do not touch the inside of the
cup with your hands so that
other germs do not enter the
5. If you do not get a sample after
the first few coughs, wait a few
minutes and keep trying with
strong, deep coughing. A good
sample will look thicker and
cloudier than your saliva.
6. Secure the lid on to the sample
7. Label the cup with the date and
time of your sample.
8. Place the sample into the
refrigerator until you mail the
sample or leave for the clinic.
9. Please transport or mail all
samples back to the lab within
7 calendar days of the date the
first sample was provided.
What do I write on the forms?
Please write the date and time that
you gave the samples on the forms.
Place the form around the cups with a
How do I transport the sample?
The nurse will instruct you to either
mail or bring the three samples back
to the clinic. If you have been asked
to mail the samples, the clinic will
provide you with mailing supplies.
If you have been asked to bring in the
samples, please transport them in a
cooler if you live more than 1 hour
If you have any questions or concerns
please call the UWHC clinic that
ordered the sputum tests for you.
Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm at
(608) 263-6400, or toll free:
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6407