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When to see a doctor for a bad cough

Coughing is your body’s way of trying to remove potentially harmful materials from your body and keep your airways clear. Despite these protective intentions, even dealing with a cough for a few days can be frustrating and unpleasant. Know these facts to help you decide if you need to see a doctor the next time you have a nasty cough.

Types of coughs

There are two main categories of coughs: acute and chronic. Typically, acute coughs are symptoms of illnesses such as the flu, acute bronchitis, or the common cold. They usually begin suddenly but go away within three weeks. In the case of acute bronchitis, you will typically get better within 10 days or fewer, but the cough will last for weeks afterwards. After you’ve had the flu or a cold, it is normal for your cough to stick around for about one to three weeks after the other symptoms have ended.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a cough that last eight weeks or longer is a chronic cough. These coughs tend to impact other parts of your life, such as interrupting your sleep and making it difficult to eat. There is a wide variety of diagnoses and treatments associated with chronic coughs for which you should see a medical professional.

Signs you should see a doctor

Everyone gets a cough every now and then, but how are you supposed to know if it’s just another cough or if you should make a trip to the doctor? In general, you should see a doctor if your cough lasts longer than three weeks or if you experience any of these symptoms in conjunction with your cough:

  • A fever at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing up thick, greenish-yellow phlegm

  • Night sweats

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

While coughing is a part of life, a persistent or intense cough could be an indication of an underlying medical issue. Take care of your health by keeping an eye out for signs of a serious cough.


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