Are you constantly coughing but aren’t worried if it’s something serious? Before you start any self-diagnosis and assume that it’s nothing to worry about, you should understand that not all coughs are minor and you may need the treatment of a doctor.
I was on my way to my favorite and top rated medical spa in St. Louis when I started to cough a it. A quick temperature check there told me I was coming down with a cold so I had to re-schedule and go home to start the healing process. The good news is that treating the common cold is not hard, but does require some rest and a healthy immune system.
True enough, you can treat minor coughs at home by taking convenient cough tablets. However, for a cough that extends far longer than 2-3 weeks, you need the expert diagnosis of a doctor.
Here are signs to watch out for when it comes to coughs, and do consult your doctor ASAP.
1. Cough duration
Although it’s normal for a cold to last for about 21 days, coughs that last more than three weeks should be cause for concern. These prolonged symptoms could be a sign of pneumonia, asthma or a type of lung pathology. More importantly, over the three-week period, your symptoms should have improved instead of getting worse.
2. Sputum Color
When you have a coughing fit, examine your phlegm on a napkin or tissue. If the phlegm is clear, then it’s normal. Any change in color means you have an infection that may lead to a serious health problem.
If your phlegm or sputum is yellowish, greenish, reddish or brownish, such coloration can indicate an inflammation or infection. When you are having a productive cough, keep an eye out and check your phlegm as this will give you a clue on whether or not you need to visit your doctor without delay. If there’s blood in your sputum, you need to go to a hospital ASAP.
3. Quality of breathing
Do you have any difficulty breathing? Or are you unable to talk and flail your arms in the air? If you have any of these symptoms and are turning blue, you need to go to the emergency room immediately.
Breathing problems go together with serious coughs as both involve the lungs. Listen for any wheezing, a high-pitched noise or “bark” when you breathe. Also, check for retractions by pulling up your shirt and observing your breathing in the mirror.
Experiencing a high fever with your cough means that you have an infection and you need to treatment from a doctor quickly. If your temperature is over 37.8 degrees Celsius, or even if it’s a low-grade fever but lasts longer than 72 hours, you should go to your doctor immediately.
5. Intense pressure
You should be cautious if you’re experiencing pressure or pain in a specific area of your body together with your cough. For instance, a sinus infection can cause pain in your nasal passages and even teeth. Furthermore, a strep throat will noticeably cause pain in your throat.
Any hearing loss or severe pain in your ear, making it hurt to the touch and any ear discharge are good reasons to see your doctor right away.
6. Worsening symptoms
When you start to feel better but then suddenly the cough gets worse, this is a sign that you need immediate medical attention. Flu-like symptoms that appear to improve but come back with a cough and worse fever are alarming. You may have a secondary infection which could be pneumonia or bronchitis.
7. Upper respiratory infection (URI)
An upper respiratory infection is caused by fungi, bacteria or viruses. This can cause irritation to your lungs and throat, triggering your coughs. This also produces colored phlegm, so if you notice any increased irritation in your lungs and throat, go and see your doctor.
8. Weight loss
It’s normal to lose weight if you’re not eating properly when you’re sick. But if you’re continuing to lose weight together with your cough even if you’re eating well – that should be a cause for concern. Sudden weight loss combined with symptoms similar to colds can be a sign of hyperthyroidism, a bacterial infection and even HIV.
If any of the eight signs and symptoms above manifest with your cough, you should visit your doctor without delay. Now that you know that coughs can evolve into something serious, you shouldn’t take them lightly, and should undergo proper examination and treatment.
Make sure your home goes through a deep cleaning periodically to eliminate any allergens that can frequently cause coughing. More importantly, avoid self-diagnosis and medication when the the aforementioned signs and symptoms related to coughs are present.