Most of us don’t make through the year without having a cough. Most of the time it is a cold.  Bronchitis can be caused by an infection, which by the way is almost always viral.  What this means is that antibiotics have virtually no role in the treatment of bronchitis.

Sometimes a cough can be the sign of  a more serious problem. Pneumonia starts off with a cough but there is also associated shortness of breath and weakness.  Asthma and allergic bronchitis will have shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing.

if you have a cough along with leg swelling, weakness and or chest pain,  you might have congestive heart failure, a very serious condition. Often, the shortness of breath is worse with exertion and lying down.

Unintentional weight loss is always a concern. If you also notice night sweats, bloody sputum then several things could be at play, all serious. Tuberculosis, although uncommon, can present like this.  So too can lung cancer. Finally, a blood clot in your lung cause similar symptoms. Chest pain is often worse when you take a deep breath.

In children or in adults who have difficulty swallowing (usually after a stroke),aspiration can also lead to a cough.  Sometimes, the cough may have appeared for weeks, which makes it difficult to remember when exactly the aspiration occurred.

Bottom line is if you have a cough with worrisome symptoms such as chest pain, weakness, high fever, weight loss or if you the cough won’t go away after several weeks, you need to see your doctor.