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Coughs (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

In general, contact a doctor if you experience the following:

  • Cough is associated with a fever and sputum production
  • Cough fails to get better after other symptoms go away or lessen
  • Cough changes in character
  • Trial therapy shows no signs of reducing the cough
  • You begin coughing up blood
  • Cough interferes with the activities of daily living or sleep cycles
  • Call a doctor immediately if you have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Most coughs do not require evaluation in the emergency department, and efforts should be made to discuss the situation with a doctor. But certain circumstances warrant emergency evaluation.

  • If you have a cough that is caused by a chronic condition, discuss what signs and symptoms warrant going to the emergency department with your doctor or specialist.
  • If you develop severe shortness of breath or chest pain with your cough, you could have any number of serious medical problems that require urgent intervention.
  • Elderly people or people with weakened immune systems who develop a cough and fever should be seen in the emergency department if they are unable to contact their doctor.
  • If you have lung disease and an acute worsening in your cough that does not respond to home therapy, you should go to the emergency department.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2016
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