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When to See a Doctor for a Cough

March 18, 2024

When to See a Doctor for a Cough

Just about everyone comes down with a cough now and then.  Whether from allergies or the common cold, coughs are a widespread symptom that many don’t take a second glance at.  But when is a cough actually a sign of something more serious?  When is cough medicine not enough?  Many people don’t know when to see a doctor for a cough.  Here are some questions to ask yourself before heading to urgent care.

How long has the cough lasted?

No cough is going to be healed in a day.  Take some cough medicine to calm your symptoms if the cough is causing you a lot of discomfort.  Otherwise, just drink some tea and eat cough drops.  Try to avoid smokers as well, as cigarette smoke will make your cough worse. 

If your cough doesn't go away or lessen significantly after a week or two, it may be time to see a doctor.  Length of the cough isn’t always a telltale sign of a more serious illness, but it can be.  This is especially true if you cough gets progressively worse over a period of weeks instead of better.

Are you coughing anything up?

A dry cough is one thing, and a wet cough is another.  Coughing up anything is cause for some concern.  If it is just clear or white mucus, though, you are probably fine.  Thick, green or yellow phlegm coming up with coughs can be a symptom of various sicknesses.  You may want to consider seeing a doctor if you experience this.

Coughing up blood or even pink-tinted phlegm is cause for immediate concern.  Patients who experience these symptoms should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

What other symptoms accompany the cough?

A cough all by itself is usually more or less harmless.  If it is accompanied by other symptoms, you should probably see a doctor.  Head to urgent care or a primary care doctor if you have a cough and also:

·         Wheezing

·         Fever

·         Night sweats

·         Trouble sleeping

·         Shortness of breath

·         Fainting

·         Ankle swelling

·         Weight loss

·         Dizziness

Get emergency care as soon as possible if you have a cough with any of the following symptoms:

·         Choking

·         Vomiting

·         Difficulty breathing or swallowing

·         Coughing up blood or pink-tinted phlegm

·         Chest pain

·         Ongoing heartburn

Is your cough interfering with your daily life?

Coughs can be annoying.  If you find yourself unable to sleep or work because of a cough, try taking over the counter cough medicine.  If that doesn’t solve the issue fairly quickly – within a day or two – you should talk to your doctor.  Any sickness that prevents you from completing your daily tasks is serious enough to discuss with a healthcare professional.

Does your cough feel like a sickness you’ve had before?

Coughs that come with colds and those caused by pneumonia or bronchitis feel different.  It is easier to determine this for yourself if you have had one of these diseases before.  Even if you haven’t, you can recognize symptoms of these illnesses.  Symptoms of bronchitis include:

·         Cough with mucus

·         Sore throat

·         Headache

·         Runny or stuffy nose

·         Body aches

·         Fatigue

Pneumonia causes symptoms like:

·         Cough with mucus

·         Shortness of breath

·         Fever

·         Chest pain

·         Loss of appetite

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Confusion

Asthma can also cause coughing.  If you haven’t been diagnosed with asthma but find yourself coughing and wheezing a lot after exercise or at certain times of day or locations, talk to your doctor.

BASS Primary Care has cough solutions for you

If you get a cough that requires a visit to the doctor, look no further than BASS Primary Care. Call (925) 962-9120 to schedule an appointment, or just walk in any weekday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

At BASS Primary Care Walk-in Clinic, it's Your Health, Your Schedule.