Coughs are common and not always a cause for concern. A cough can be triggered by allergies or respiratory infections. They usually clear up once your illness or allergy symptoms go away. However, there are instances when a cough can be a sign of a medical condition that needs a doctor's attention. Here's when to call or visit your doctor's office for your cough.
When You Have A Chronic Lung Condition
If you have asthma or COPD, your doctor may have instructed you to notify them if you develop a cough that's different from your usual cough. A change in your cough could signal the beginning of a lung or airway infection, and the sooner you begin treatment if you need it, the better. You might be able to prevent a serious infection or shortness of breath by treating a cough early.
When The Sputum You Cough Up Has Color
The mucus you cough up should normally be white or clear. If it's yellow or green, that could indicate you have a respiratory infection that could need treatment with antibiotics. If your sputum has red streaks, that could mean you have some bleeding in your airway or lungs due to irritation. You may need to go to your doctor's office to spit sputum in a specimen cup so it can be analyzed in a lab to pinpoint the type of infection you have.
When Your Cough Is Accompanied By Fever
If you have bronchitis or other respiratory illness, you might have a low-grade fever. If the fever lasts more than a couple of days or if your fever is high, you may want to call your doctor's office and let them know. They may want you to come in for treatment, or if the doctor knows your medical problems well, they might prescribe medications over the phone.
When Your Cough Won't Go Away
A cough from a respiratory illness might last for a few weeks, but it should gradually get better and go away. If your cough lingers, let your doctor know. If you continue to cough up mucus, or if you have additional symptoms such as shortness of breath or sweating, you might have an infection that needs treatment to clear up completely.
When You Feel Short Of Breath
If you feel short of breath when you're resting, or if you have chest pain, call your doctor's office right away. They may tell you to go to the emergency room or call an ambulance, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Chest pain and shortness of breath can be signs of heart or lung problems and should be taken seriously just to be safe.