Should I be worried about my cough?


Why do we cough?

Coughing is the body’s way of removing foreign particles or mucus from the lungs and upper air passages, or of reacting to an irritated airway.  Coughing is the body’s way of doing this.  There are two main kinds of cough, chronic and acute. An acute cough is one that has been present for less than  three weeks, while a chronic cough is present for longer than three weeks.  A cough itself is not a disease, it is a symptom.  Acute coughs may be helped by over the counter remedies.  Treatment for a chronic cough should be discussed with your doctor.

You should contact your doctor if:

  • You have difficulty breathing or have shortness of breath
  • Your cough interferes with sleeping or normal activities of daily living
  • You cough up blood
  • The cough changes in character
  • A cough fails to improve after other symptoms go away

Elderly people who develop a cough and high fever should contact their doctor immediately, or if they are unable to contact their doctor, should go to Urgent Care or the emergency room.

Published on March 30, 2012.