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  • Writer's pictureIEP Urgent Care

When should you seek treatment for a lingering cough?


older man with a lingering cough

Common respiratory and viral infections like the cold and flu typically clear up in seven to 10 days. But for one in four adults, a cough can stick around long after the other symptoms clear up, and you may be wondering if you should seek medical care, or if something more serious is happening. 


The ER-trained providers at IEP Urgent Care can answer your questions and recommend treatment if it’s necessary. Our seven locations are open seven days a week to give you and your family peace of mind if you’re worried about your symptoms.


Generally speaking, a cough will usually clear up on its own after a cold or flu as postnasal drip improves and inflammation decreases. This can take up to eight weeks sometimes, and it’s easy to confuse this symptom with something more serious. If you have a lingering cough, it's essential to pay attention to certain signs and symptoms that may need medical atttention. Here are some general guidelines:


  • Coughing up blood, or any change in the color, thickness or texture of the fluid or droplets your cough produces

  • Increased frequency or strength of your cough 

  • Ongoing systemic symptoms, such as fever, body aches, chills, changes in appetite or difficulty swallowing


A lingering cough that won’t go away can also be caused by other underlying conditions like asthma, acid-reflux, or obstructive sleep apnea. If you experience any of these symptoms related to an a viral infection, it’s important to see your Primary Care Physician or visit IEP Urgent Care to rule out other issues and get the appropriate treatment.


How to care for a lingering, postinfectious cough


During the first few weeks following a cold, you can treat lingering coughs with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medication:


  • Humidifiers provide extra moisture to help soothe throats and nasal passages. Hold a steaming cup of water or tea under your face for the same effect.

  • Decongestants and nasal sprays reduce swelling and inflammation in your nose. 

  • Cough syrup is best used at night since it can cause drowsiness.

  • Throat lozenges and cough drops stimulate your saliva production to soothe a sore throat.

  • Lozenges containing menthol also help open nasal passages.

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