Cough

A cough is an annoying symptom that can have many causes. Follow this chart to help identify your problem and find suggestions for self-care.

Our trusted Symptom Checker is written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals. Find a possible diagnosis by choosing a symptom and answering a few simple questions.

Remember, be sure to consult with your doctor if you feel you have a serious medical problem.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Has your cough begun recently?

  • Are you very short of breath, and are you coughing up pink, frothy mucus?

  • Does your cough produce clear or pale yellow mucus?

  • Does your cough produce yellow, tan or green mucus?

  • Does the cough come with shortness of breath and wheezing?

  • Do you have swelling in your legs and/or shortness of breath when you are active or after you have been lying down?

  • Do you have heart problems?

  • Have you recently started coughing up blood or bloody sputum?

  • Have you recently started having sharp chest pain, rapid heartbeat, swelling of the legs and sudden shortness of breath?

  • Do you have a fever, chills and night sweats along with chest pain when you cough or take a deep breath?

  • Have you unintentionally lost weight?

  • Did you inhale dust, particles or an object?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    Your symptoms may be from a serious condition called PULMONARY EDEMA (fluid in the lungs).


    Self Care

    EMERGENCY

    GO TO THE NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM RIGHT AWAY.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a viral illness such as a COLD or the FLU.


    Self Care

    Get plenty of rest, and drink lots of fluids. Try over-the-counter medicines to treat your symptoms.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have an infection of the airways such as CHRONIC BRONCHITIS. If you have a fever with shaking chills and are very ill, you may have a more serious infection such as PNEUMONIA.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. He or she can prescribe medicine to relieve your symptoms. Get plenty of rest, and drink lots of fluids. If you smoke, stop smoking.


  • Diagnosis

    These symptoms may be a sign of ASTHMA, a constriction of the airways.


    Self Care

    Asthma can be dangerous and should be diagnosed and treated by your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Persistent coughing can be caused by CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE, especially when there is a buildup of fluid in the lungs.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Bloody mucus with these symptoms may mean that a blood clot has moved from your leg to your lungs. This is called PULMONARY EMBOLISM.


    Self Care

    EMERGENCY
    SEE YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY.


  • Diagnosis

    These symptoms may be caused by TUBERCULOSIS or another type of infection.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    This may be a sign of a serious illness, such as LUNG CANCER. Other signs of lung cancer may include a cough that produces bloody sputum, shortness of breath and wheezing.


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    IRRITATION OF THE AIRWAYS will cause coughing to attempt to clear the object or irritation out of the airway.


    Self Care

    If the coughing is severe or if you don’t believe the irritant has been cleared from your airway, see your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think your problem is serious, call your doctor right away.