When to Seek Medical Treatment for a Persistent Cough

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When to Seek Medical Treatment for a Persistent Cough

You might have initially brushed off that mild throat irritation and cough, but now your cough has worsened. Whether it's accompanied by fever, phlegm, wheezing, or simply won’t go away after weeks, it's time to consider expert care.

Board-certified in pediatrics and family medicine, Dr. Joseph Goin and his team at Calvary Urgent Care in Humble, Texas, offer prompt diagnosis and treatment for persistent coughs caused by various acute illnesses, allergies, or a dry environment. The Calvary team diagnoses the root cause of your cough to ensure an effective solution.

Dr. Goin explains what you need to know about that cough and when to seek medical care.

Understanding your cough reflex

A cough is a natural reflex that involuntarily clears irritants from your upper and lower airways, throat, and lungs. It expels mucus, germs, airborne pollutants, allergens, and dust, protecting your airways and overall health. Much like sneezing and blinking, coughing is a crucial defense mechanism against irritants and foreign invaders triggered by various factors, from allergies to respiratory infections.

Identifying your cough

The occasional random cough clears immediate irritants, while a persistent cough often signals continued irritation from illness, allergens, or pollutants. Lingering coughs can be classified based on sound, timing, or mucus production. Additionally, every cough is categorized by its duration:

Acute cough

Lasting a few days to a couple of weeks, an acute cough resolves within three weeks. Causes include respiratory illnesses, seasonal allergies, and exposure to pollutants.

Lingering three to eight weeks after an infection, a subacute cough may result from conditions like asthma or allergies.

Chronic cough

Persisting beyond eight weeks, a chronic cough may indicate a respiratory illness, long-term COVID-19, or conditions like sinusitis or GERD. Less commonly, it could be a symptom of serious conditions like lung cancer or heart failure.

When to seek care

While most acute coughs resolve with rest and fluids, it's crucial to seek care if your cough:

  • Lasts longer than three weeks, especially if not improving.
  • Is acute with additional symptoms like fever, headache, chest pain, breathlessness, or non-stop coughing spells.
  • Is acute cough and accompanied by flu or COVID-like symptoms requiring flu and/or COVID-19 testing.
  • Brings up blood
  • Is accompanied by night sweats
  • Is accompanied by swelling in your legs

If you have concerns about your cough, don't hesitate to contact our team for expert evaluation and guidance. Call us at 832-680-2273 or request an appointment on our website today. To get care without leaving home, book a virtual appointment.