When You Notice These 5 Red Flags In Your Cough, It's Time To See A Doctor

by Caroline Burke

When you have a cough, it can often be easy to overlook and go without medical treatment because, well, it's only a cough. A scratchy throat can follow you throughout the winter months without ever turning into anything more, but in some cases, a cough might be an indicator of something much more serious. As the month of March throws winter storm after winter storm at us, it's important to stay aware of the red flags of a cough that mean it's time to make an appointment and talk to your doctor.

It might feel dramatic, taking time out of your day to talk to a doctor about a simple cough. But the truth is that coughing is an overall indication of the health of several systems in your body, from your lungs, to your nasal passage, to your immune system. Depending on the type of cough you have, it just might be an indication of something more serious.

The best thing you can do when you have a cough is to keep track of when you're coughing, and how the rest of your body is feeling. That way, you can give your doctor as much information as possible to come to an educated guess about what's really going on with your body. If you have any of these five red flags, make sure to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Your Cough Is Accompanied By Other Symptoms

If your cough is accompanied by other symptoms, it's likely there's something bigger going on with your body. For example, if you have chest pain, or a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, it's possible your cough is actually a viral infection, according to Everyday Health.

Pay attention to the symptoms that are accompanying your cough, so that your doctor can make the proper diagnosis of what you might be dealing with.

Your Cough Is Wet, Or Wheezy

If your cough is wet, wheezy and filled with mucus, then it's likely that your body has one of these three I's: infection, irritation, or inflammation, according to Delsym.

Clear or opaque mucus shouldn't give you any cause for alarm, but if your mucus is a thick green color or a thick white color, it's time to get it checked out.

You're Coughing Up Blood

Surprisingly enough, coughing up blood isn't necessarily as serious as it sounds, although it's still worth seeing a doctor to know what's up. According to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), if you're coughing up bloody phlegm, it's most likely coming from your lungs, as "the result of prolonged coughing or a chest infection."

If you're coughing up bits of food, though, the UK's NHS explained this means it's likely coming from your digestive system, which is potentially a much more serious matter. Either way, you should see a doctor ASAP, so that you can figure out what's really going on and get the treatment you need.

Your Cough Has Lasted Multiple Weeks

If your cough is going on for weeks with no end in sight, then it's probably a sign of a viral or chest infection — as long as you're a nonsmoker. Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of chronic coughing, according to Harvard Health.

But if you don't smoke, and your cough is still totally relentless, Harvard Health says it could be anything from the common cold, to bronchitis or pneumonia, so make sure to see a doctor ASAP so they can run some tests.

You're Having Trouble Catching Your Breath

When your cough has gotten to the point that it leaves you literally breathless, it's definitely time to see a medical professional. According to Healthline, shortness of breath, as well as coughing, is one of the main symptoms of pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, and can be deadly when left untreated.

If you're coughing so hard or so often that you're having trouble catching your breath, call you doctor as soon as you can to get it checked out.