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How Do I Know If My Cough Is Serious? | 6 Ways To Tell

The Hyfe Mind


July 9, 2020
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

A young woman coughing with a napkin held in hands

At times it may seem like a cough is intent on sticking around, but how do I know if my cough is serious? We look at when a cough is just an inconvenience, and when it requires medical attention/

An Inconvenient Cough

At best, a cough is inconvenient, from the initial tickle in your throat to the constant hacking. Not to mention the sleepless nights and aching core muscles.

While a lingering cough may be annoying, a persistent cough can be a cause for concern. But how do you tell the difference?

Coughing is a natural way for your body to get rid of any irritants or secretions from your lungs. You might be coughing because of something that's mostly harmless. Things like dust and allergies are common culprits. In other words, it's not always necessary to worry about it.

Furthermore, doctors classify a cough as chronic if it lasts for more than eight weeks. So, if you hit the eight-week mark, you should definitely consult a healthcare worker. But, if you don't feel sick, check your environment for something that might be causing your cough.

If you suspect your cough may be dangerous, here's an outline of when you should consult a medical professional.

How Do I Know If My Cough Is Serious? | Adults

When you have a persistent cough accompanied by other symptoms, it's best to see your doctor as soon as possible. More specifically, if it affects your ability to function normally, causes fatigue, and keeps you awake at night, talk to a medical professional.

Here are six ways to tell if your cough is serious.

Thick, Yellow, Green or Brown Phlegm

Greenish-yellow mucus or phlegm is usually a sign that your lungs are infected.

Some viral infections like bronchitis might start off with white phlegm. But, if it changes to yellow or green, it could indicate that the illness progresses from viral to bacterial.

Pneumonia might be another reason for yellow or green phlegm. In some cases, it may also cause bloody mucus. Other symptoms depend on the type of pneumonia, but most commonly, you'll have a fever and shortness of breath.

Conditions like pneumoconiosis or an abscess in your lung might cause brown phlegm. Additionally, if your mucus has a foul smell, you should see your doctor.

Thick, Yellow, Green or Brown Phlegm

A persistent cough accompanied by red, pink, or bloody phlegm is severe. The most common causes include pneumonia, tuberculosis, congestive heart failure, or lung cancer.

Speak to your doctor as soon as you notice bloody phlegm.

Black Phlegm

Black phlegm could be from smoking, or it may indicate that you inhaled something black, like coal dust. However, it could also be a sign that you have a fungal infection.

Fungal infections are rare, but they will require medical treatment.


Fainting after prolonged bouts of coughing is another cause for concern. Violent coughing episodes also disrupt the blood flow to your heart. As a result, your brain receives less oxygen, which causes you to faint.

It's crucial to seek medical help if you faint from coughing because repeated fainting might affect your brain.

Swollen Feet or Ankles

Acute heart failure and congestive heart failure are severe conditions where the heart doesn't pump blood around the body at the right pressure. Consequently, it causes your feet or ankles to swell.

Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fast or shallow breathing. Both conditions are life-threatening, and you should see your doctor if you're experiencing these symptoms.

Unexplained Weight Loss

It's always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you're experiencing unexplained weight loss. However, if you experience weight loss alongside prolonged coughing, it might be a sign of lung cancer or tuberculosis.

Cough Severity Checklist

If you're experiencing a cough alongside any of these symptoms consult a healthcare professional:

  • Your cough lasts more than eight weeks
  • Fever
  • Thick phlegm that's yellow, green, red, brown or black
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shallow or rapid breathing
  • Fainting
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

How Do I Know If My Child's Cough Is Serious?

A mom taking care of her son

Your child's cough might simply be due to a cold, but other conditions could also be responsible. If your child develops any of these symptoms, call you pediatrician:

  • Fever
  • Choking or vomiting
  • The cough lasts more than three weeks or gets worse
  • Trouble breathing or rapid breathing
  • Turns red during a coughing fit
  • Lethargy
  • Chest pain

Children can't always explain how they're feeling, so keep a close eye on your child when they have a cough.

To conclude, if you're concerned about your or your child's cough, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can rule out any serious conditions and help you manage a lingering cough. Additionally, long-term coughing can cause other complications like fractured ribs. Rather talk to your doctor, than run the risk of serious complications.

Are you concerned about your cough? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Your Cough Matters

Based on our results in Google Play & App Store
  • Excellent, insightful
    By dust mite dan - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    This app is easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and has provided me with useful information about my cough and disease patterns that have improved my overall health!

    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Great app!
    by Imtfx0019 — Dec 6, 2022 - App Store
    Impressed with how well it detected my coughs, even very slight ones.
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • App is Great!
    by HBert Quach — Jan 22, 2023, - Google Play
    App is great at tracking cough when little ones are sick. I treat it as a early warning indicator before the cold gets back. Customer service is awesome, they actually respond to all my questions.
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Great Experience
    by Christi Hammock — Mar 7, 2023, - Google Play

    I had an issue logging into the new app but I contacted the support team and they were awesome in helping me figure out the issue. It turned out to be a technical issue which they resolved very quickly and I was kept in the loop on the status from start to finish. This app is really helpful when talking to my doctor too..
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Impressive app
    By KayakTina - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    "The app accurately is recording my coughs with excellent ways to review the results. I can add notes to help me identify patterns or have accurate information for my physicians. I’ve hoped for an app like this for years to help me accurately track the amount of coughing I’m doing"
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Accurate count of coughs
    by Beardonna — Mar 8, 2023 - App Store

    Just installed the app. Very accurate measuring coughs so far! Cannot wait to see how much coughing I do while sleeping. I'll have a better picture to discuss with my physician at my next visit.

    Try CoughPro for Free

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