When your cough needs medical treatment.

We all cough from time to time but how do you know when your cough requires medical attention?

Seeking treatment for a cough is one of the most common reasons why patients visit the pharmacy. Self-limiting coughs, such as those relating to a common cold or other viral upper respiratory tract infection usually go away on their own within 3 weeks. There’s usually no need to see a doctor. 1,2 Your pharmacist can give you advice or suggest a cough syrup suitable for the type of cough you are experiencing. Don’t forget to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

However, it’s recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor if you experience some of the symptoms listed below. They may be signs of a more serious illness that needs to be diagnosed and treated.1,3

When to see a doctor:

  • Coughing for more than two weeks with no improvement (with or without appropriate medication) 1
  • Coughing up thick, greenish-yellow phlegm 3
  • Recurrent night-time cough 1
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing 1
  • Experiencing a fever more than 38 C 3
  • Symptoms suggestive of whooping cough (after a spasm of coughing, one can hear a “whoop” when the breath is drawn in) or a hollow barking cough with difficulty in breathing) 1
  • Chest pain 1

You may need immediate medical attention if you:

  • Are coughing up blood or a bloody or pink-tinged phlegm 3,4
  • Are choking 3
  • Have difficulty breathing or swallowing 3

Coughs can be annoying but often don’t need treatment. However, because they can be caused by so many different types of illnesses, you should always contact your health care provider if your cough concerns you or it is different from coughs that you have had in the past.

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of the holder of the certificate of registration: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd,. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15e Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For further information, speak to your healthcare professional. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN3054/19

References:

  1. Schmidt S. An OTC approach to managing cough. SA Pharmacist’s Assistant. Autumn 2017, pg. 9-12.
  2. Cough. [online] December 2017 [cited January 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cough/
  3. Mayo Clinic. Cough. Symptoms. [online] January 2018 [cited January 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/cough/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050846?p=1
  4. What Illnesses or Conditions Cause Wet Cough, and How Do I Treat It in Myself or My Child? [online] July 2018 [cited January 2018]; Available from URL: https://www.healthline.com/health/wet-cough