Signs to Visit Urgent Care or the ER for a Cough

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Signs to Visit Urgent Care or the ER for a Cough

A cough is the body's way of keeping the airway clear and helping prevent lung infection. Many things can cause a cough, like pollen or smoke. Respiratory illnesses such as a cold or the flu can also cause coughing and may require you visit an urgent care or an emergency room depending on any additional symptoms.

Signs Your Cough Is Serious and Needs Urgent Care

While coughing is a common problem, it can also be a symptom of a worsening medical condition. Some signs that you may need to go to urgent care with your cough include:

  • A cough that lasts more than three weeks
  • A persistent cough with a fever
  • Thick green or yellow phlegm
  • Fainting or shortness of breath
  • Night sweats or unusual weight loss

How a cough sounds can sometimes help identify what is going on. For instance, children and adults without the pertussis vaccine could contract whooping cough. This disease got its name from the "whoop" sound many people make when they breathe between coughs.

Other coughs may have a "barking" sound, which could be a sign of croup. A cough can be dry or sound "wet" because of phlegm.

If you have the following severe symptoms with your cough, you should skip going to urgent care and head straight to the emergency room:

  • Blood or pink-tinged mucus
  • Sharp or persistent chest pain
  • Vomiting and choking, especially for children
  • Problems with breathing and swallowing

Common Causes of Coughing

Many conditions and illnesses can cause coughing in children and adults, such as:

Caring for Your Cough at Home

You can try several things to ease the discomfort of your coughing. Many over-the-counter medications can reduce the frequency of your cough and provide some relief. Cough drops can soothe an irritated or itchy throat. Warm drinks like tea with honey mixed in or by itself can also ease an inflamed throat. 

In some cases, adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can help thin the mucus and make your cough more productive. You can also take a steamy shower to help loosen phlegm. If you are prone to allergies, have asthma, or are dealing with smoky air, you may need to change your environment. A higher quality air filter in your home can reduce airborne particles and irritants. Closing your windows and staying indoors when the air quality outdoors is poor can also help.

Additional Treatments for Coughing

Home remedies may not be enough to help your cough. You may need medical help. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the conditions causing your cough. You may also need a breathing treatment like a corticosteroid.

Visit OU Health ER & Urgent Care for Severe Cough

At OU Health ER & Urgent Care, you'll find the convenience of both ER and urgent care services under one roof. When you're not sure if you need emergency care or urgent care, you don't need to decide. Just walk into an OU Health ER & Urgent Care location near you for the appropriate level of care.

Our combined emergency room and urgent care facilities come fully equipped to handle everything from allergies, colds, flu, sprains, cuts and scrapes to chest pain, appendicitis, complex fractures and more. An onsite laboratory, X-ray, ultrasound and CT scanning ensure you receive prompt, accurate diagnosis and the right level of care.

Walk in any time for OU Health emergency room (ER) services 24/7 or urgent care every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.