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When to see a doctor for a cough

At what point should you see a doctor for a cough that won’t go away after a cold or upper respiratory infection?

“Usually a cough is not a sign of something more serious, but if it has been going on for more than a week, you should see your doctor,” says Christine Kirlew, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Piedmont. “If you have an upper respiratory infection, you may experience post-viral cough syndrome, which isn’t harmful, but it can last for six to eight weeks. This type of cough is dry and not associated with fever or chills.”

Dr. Kirlew recommends scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A cough for more than a week

  • Chronic heartburn

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Fever

  • Shortness of breath

You should see your doctor immediately if you are coughing up blood or your cough is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.

How long is a cough contagious?

She adds that you are only contagious during the first week of the upper respiratory infection, or when you have active symptoms. After that first week, your cough is most likely not contagious.

If you have a cough that won’t go away, call your doctor.

“It can be hard to diagnose the cause of a cough at home, so I recommend seeing your doctor to have them clarify what’s going on,” she says.

Dr. Kirlew practices at Piedmont Physicians Buckhead, located at 35 Collier Road Northwest, Suite 775, Atlanta, GA 30309. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Kirlew or another primary care physician online. Save time, book online.

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