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I Have a Cough. How Do I Know if It’s Serious?

Created: November 8, 2021
Updated: July 23, 2022
masked woman with a cough, sitting in a public bus
This blog content is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Many people in Colorado are dealing with coughs even after getting the COVID vaccine. A
cough is one of the body’s ways to get rid of an irritant. When your airways are blocked with
something that isn't supposed to be there, the brain is alerted. It reacts by telling the muscles in
your belly and chest to generate a burst of air, thus getting rid of the irritants and making it
easier to breathe. Read on to learn about the causes of coughs and when to seek advice from a
healthcare provider. These visits are often appropriate for a telemedicine visit.

What Causes a Cough?

A cough is a reflex mechanism that protects your body. The coughs may be every once in a
while or they can be more persistent. Here are the primary triggers.

  • Irritants — Things like cigarette smoke, cold air, dust, or strong perfumes can trigger a
    cough even if you're not allergic.
  • Viruses and bacteria — The most common causes of cough are colds,flu and
    pneumonia. After a cold, some coughs may last for months or weeks. Coughing also
    irritates the lungs, resulting in prolonged symptoms. Productive coughs remove germy
    mucus from your lungs and may fade away in a few days.
  • Allergies and asthma — Many adults and children with allergies experience coughs
    after inhaling molds or other irritants, causing the lungs to overreact.
  • Acid reflux — Whenever you are experiencing heartburn, stomach acids find their way
    to the throat, especially at night. This can irritate your vocal cords and windpipe.
  • Postnasal drip — Mucus tends to drip down from the nose to the throat when you're
    congested, causing a cough. Postnasal drops are caused by allergens, colds, and sinus

A Few Basic Home Remedies for Coughs

You can try several home remedies to help ease your symptoms initially. Here are a few
essential remedies for an irritating cough.

  • Honey or ginger tea — Research has found that honey and ginger may help relieve
    coughs. When your kid has a cough, mix two teaspoons with tea or warm water and give
    the kid the mixture once or twice a day.
  • Drink plenty of water — Staying hydrated is crucial for people with a cough. You can
    relieve coughs by always staying hydrated.
  • Steaming — A wet cough that causes mucus production may ease with steam. To do
    this, fill a bowl with boiling water. Add essential oils such as rosemary or eucalyptus,
    lean over the bowl and place a towel over your head. Inhale the trapped vapor for
    around five minutes. Avoid irritating the skin with hot steam.
  • A saltwater gargle — Saltwater lessens mucus and phlegm in the back of the throat.
    Gargle with warm water to soothe the throat.

When Should I Seek Medical Advice and Treatment?

Coughs may seem similar, especially during the flu season. However, if your immune system is
compromised due to persistent coughs, you may require medical attention. Below are
symptoms of cough in adults and children that may benefit from an evaluation by a medical
professional, often via telehealth.

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Difficulty in taking breaths
  3. Coughing up blood
  4. Trouble swallowing
  5. Swelling on one side of the throat
  6. High fever
  7. Muffled voice
  8. Unable to open mouth all the way
  9. Coughing to the point you feel like you are going to throw up or can't breathe

What Does Having a Cough Mean?

Worried that your cough is a symptom of COVID-19 or pneumonia? Care on Location can help
you determine if it might be and what your best steps are, including treatment.

Our online providers can evaluate and treat your cough, send in an inhaler or antibiotics if
required, and order labs and x-rays if needed. We also give some home treatment advice to get
you feeling better, plus advise you on what to look out for if your symptoms are worsening or not
going away. The risk of delaying care can lead to more inconvenient and costly care and
worsen the illness. You may miss more events, work, and family care. Don't delay; see a Care
on Location provider
now for advice, treatment, and peace of mind.

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