Health & Fitness

How to Know If Your Chronic Cough Is Severe

It’s important to note that not all coughs are the same. You may be able to get rid of a simple cough with the help of common cough treatment options, but sometimes, what you are experiencing could be an indication of something more serious.

In cases like this, you would need a doctor’s advice to get the proper treatment.

Typically, a common cough should only last for two and a half weeks. If it continues to linger until you begin to worry, you should consider that it’s a sign of something severe.

But even before you see your doctor, there are some initial ways to try to determine whether your cough is severe or not.

Warning Signs

A cough is your body’s natural way to clear your airways. The best way to treat any cough is to deal with the cause.

For instance, if you have pneumonia, taking antibiotics can help. And if your cough is caused by an allergy, you can either avoid the trigger or treat the allergy directly.

Unfortunately, there are coughs related to viral infections. If your cough goes together with any of the following symptoms or conditions, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

  1. Chest pain – If you’re feeling pain in your chest, this can be an indicator of bronchitis. People who suffer from bronchitis have difficulty breathing and cannot clear heavy mucus or phlegm.
  2. Chronic heartburn – When you experience heartburn together with your cough, you should first treat the heartburn before getting rid of the cough. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a serious form of acid reflux and is one cause of common coughs.
  3. The cough is getting worse ­– Bear in mind that you should be getting better instead of getting worse. If your condition is worsening, you shouldn’t hesitate to make a trip to your doctor.
  4. Coughing up blood or bloody mucus – You should consider anything you spew with blood to be a red flag.
  5. Fever or night sweats – This could mean that you have a serious infection. If this is the case, you may need an antibiotic to help ease your common cough.
  6. Sudden weight loss – Losing weight should happen gradually and not immediately.
  7. Trouble breathing – Are you having a hard time breathing? This could be a sign of a deeper issue in your lungs.
  8. Trouble sleeping – If you can’t sleep or have a hard time getting comfortable enough to fall in deep slumber, you need to consult your doctor for a thorough diagnosis as it may be due to sleep apnea.

Why Cough Sticks Around

If your cough doesn’t get better within seven to 10 days, you should not leave it as it is, and find ways to pinpoint cough concerns. A cough that stays past eight weeks is already considered chronic and may relate to:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Bronchiectasis (damage to airways due to infection)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Lung cancer
  • Side effects of medications you take such as ACE inhibitors or beta blockers
  • Smoking
  • Post-nasal drip

Other reasons why your cough is not improving:

  • Irritated airways – Your cough may hang around for several days because of viruses that caused your airways to become oversensitive and swollen. This may last even long after the virus is gone.
  • Stress – Chronic stress can make your colds last longer. To beat a lingering cough, you should slow down and get some rest. Pushing yourself too hard will only worsen your condition.
  • Not enough fluids – Drinking enough fluids is essential when you have flu or cold. Water, juice, or soup can help loosen the mucus in your airways so that you can easily cough it up. Stay away from alcohol and other drinks with caffeine as they can dehydrate you.
  • Dry or moist air – Air that is too dry or too moist may irritate a cough. Cranking up your humidifier too high won’t help either as moist air can stimulate asthma and promote dust mite and mold growth. Aim for humidity levels of about 40-50 percent in your home to prevent cough.

A lingering cough can intervene with your sleep, mood, and day-to-day activities. Knowing whether your cough is severe and getting to the bottom of its cause will help you receive the right treatment and get back to your normal routine quickly.

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