When you're feeling a little under the weather, it's all too easy to ignore your symptoms. You can't worry about a sore throat and runny nose when you have a job to do, bills to pay, and a family to take care of. There are times, though, when you should be on alert and pay extra close attention to your body — like with certain types of coughing you should never ignore.
If a pesky cough (medical name: tussis, according to Medical News Today) is annoying you, you're not alone. WebMD says it's the most common reason we see a doctor — a whopping 30 million of us each year. As annoying as it is, coughing is something our bodies do to protect us. We cough to remove things from our throat or lungs that we don't like — like dirt, food that got stuck, and mucus when we have a cold or the flu.
But what if a cough seems like it might be more than a cough? While they are relatively harmless and generally go away on their own, they could also be a sign of something more serious. If you're experiencing any of the following kinds of coughs, don't dismiss them. Instead, talk to a doctor about what it might be.
1. When It Might Be Whooping Cough
Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) seems innocent enough at first. Sometimes disguised as a mere cold, within a couple weeks, you could be vomiting, experience exhaustion, and be displaying an excessive and rapid cough, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can even lead to more serious illness, if left untreated. Plus, it can be pretty painful. If your cough seems to get worse and not better over the weeks, get it checked out.
2. If You're Coughing Up Blood
Hemoptysis, or coughing up blood, can be relatively unconcerning if it's happening in very small amounts, says the Mayo Clinic. In fact, it's somewhat common. However, if you think you might be coughing up more blood than this, take action and get a check-up. While bronchitis is one of the main causes, it could also happen due to cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, a parasitic infection, or a lung abscess. It's important for your doctor to first determine where the blood is coming from (your lungs or your stomach) and then treat you accordingly.
3. Coughs That Last More Than Several Days
Harvard Health Publishing explains a chronic cough as one that lasts for longer than three to eight weeks, and possibly for several months or even years. While it may or may not be serious, know there is likely a solution that can bring you some relief — all the more reason to visit your doctor. Some of the most common causes of chronic coughs are postnasal drip, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Treat the cause and you treat the cough.
4. Coughs Accompanied By Chest Pains
A nasty cough is literally a pain in the neck; but it can also be a pain in the chest. If your coughing is accompanied by chest pain, it could be a sign of acute or chronic bronchitis, says the Mayo Clinic. Bronchitis happens when the lining of your bronchial tubes becomes inflamed, often due to a cold or respiratory infection. While acute bronchitis is pretty common, if it's chronic, you should meet with your doctor.
5. When Your Breathing Is Compromised In General
You don't need a medical professional to explain why you need to be able to breathe. If coughing is causing you a shortness of breath or some other kind of difficulty breathing, you might be dealing with asthma, bronchiectasis, bronchitis, or pneumonia, according to WebMD.
6. When You Have A Fever Too
While a fever is a sign your body is fighting off something nasty, that doesn't mean you should let it go. If your cough and fever come with green snot (gross, I know), the CDC notes that it doesn't necessarily mean you have a bacterial sinus infection, but is a symptom of one — something you definitely don't want to ignore (and can easily be treated with antibiotics).