When to Seek Expert Care for Your Cough 

When to Seek Expert Care for Your Cough 

What began as a slight, irritating cough has become something a bit more worrisome. Whether it seems to be getting worse, is accompanied by fever, phlegm, wheezing, or other symptoms, or has simply persisted longer than expected, you’re probably wondering: Does my cough require expert care?

Our seasoned team encourages you to schedule a visit at your nearest Fivestar Pulmonary Associates office in Allen, McKinney, or Plano, Texas, any time you have a cough that is accompanied by other symptoms, has persisted longer than three weeks, or has you feeling concerned in any way.

As board-certified pulmonologists who offer prompt diagnosis and treatment for a full scope of respiratory concerns, we can get to the bottom of your cough and help you feel better. Here, we take a closer look at when a cough calls for expert evaluation. 

Understanding your cough reflex

Coughing is an involuntary reflex to clear mucus, germs, airborne pollutants, allergens, or dust from your throat and airway. Like sneezing, blinking, and other spontaneous reflexes, it’s one of your body’s key protective mechanisms against irritants and foreign invaders. 

Your throat and airway are highly sensitive to irritating particles, and your cough reflex seeks to dispel these particles as quickly as possible — at speeds close to 50 miles per hour. It’s an instantaneous and effective reaction. 

While the occasional cough is typically a product of momentary airway irritation, a lingering cough is usually a sign of ongoing irritation from an illness, allergen, or pollutant.

Common cough types and causes

Diagnosing a lingering cough begins with understanding its defining characteristics, such as how it sounds (barky vs. whooping), when it occurs (daytime vs. nighttime), or if it generates mucus (dry vs. productive). Cough duration is another defining characteristic. All coughs fall into one of two basic categories: 

Acute coughs

An acute (short-term) cough may last for a few days or a couple of weeks but doesn’t last longer than three weeks. Most infection-related coughs fall into this category. Common causes of a short-term cough include:

Depending on its underlying cause, an acute cough may persist and become chronic. 

Chronic coughs

A chronic (long-term) cough persists for longer than 3-4 weeks. Common causes of a chronic cough include:

Less commonly, a chronic cough may be a sign of a more serious medical condition like lung cancer, heart failure, or tuberculosis. 

Should your cough be evaluated?

While most short-term coughs resolve on their own with rest and fluids, an acute cough can still be cause for concern if it’s accompanied by other symptoms or persists long enough to qualify as chronic. 

First and foremost, we encourage you to see our team any time you have a cough that concerns you. We also specifically recommend that you seek prompt evaluation for any cough that: 

Lasts longer than a month

Seek expert care for any cough that persists longer than four weeks, especially if it’s not improving or seems to be worsening.

Occurs with other symptoms

The average acute cough is harmless and clears up without treatment. Still, it’s important for our team to evaluate and diagnose any cough that causes or is accompanied by: 

Further, any cough that’s accompanied by flu or COVID-like symptoms such as body aches and chills should be evaluated with COVID-19 and/or flu testing


Are you worried about a lingering cough? We can get to the bottom of the problem and help you feel better. Call or click online to schedule a visit at your nearest Fivestar Pulmonary Associates office today.

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