When to Go to a Doctor or Urgent Care for a Cough

Woman coughing holding chest.jpg

Many things make us cough, including a dry environment, viruses, allergies and even COVID-19. Some coughs are temporary and harmless. Others are ongoing (persistent cough for several weeks) or a sign of a potentially serious medical issue. Loras Even, DO, UnityPoint Health, explains which coughs require an urgent care visit and how providers can help you feel better.

When Should I Go to Urgent Care for a Cough?

Persistent coughs bring a lot of people to urgent care.

“We’re especially concerned when a cough worsens, is associated with a fever or causes breathing problems,” says Dr. Even. “Patients experiencing these symptoms should come in for an evaluation.”

For a prompt diagnosis and cough relief, visit a UnityPoint Health Urgent Care. Clinic providers treat patients of all ages, including newborns and older adults. They pinpoint the source and offer personalized care recommendations. No appointment is necessary.

Find Urgent Care Near Me

Reasons to See a Doctor About a Cough

Some coughs get better while recovering at home. But some symptoms require timely assessment to determine whether they’re a sign of a more serious issue.

Consider visiting urgent care if you’re concerned about a cough. Types of coughs frequently seen in urgent care include:

  • Cough causing headache
  • Nonstop cough
  • Long-lasting dry cough (lasts for weeks)
  • Coughing up mucus, phlegm or blood
  • Cough that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medication, like cough suppressants

You need evaluation if you have a cough along with these symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties, such as wheezing, gasping or shallow breaths
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms or signs of COVID-19, which include body aches, chills and vomiting

How Can an Urgent Care Provider Help Me?

One of the biggest reasons to come to urgent care is to discuss treatment options.

“We provide recommendations that help you achieve the best results and possibly get rid of the cough sooner,” Dr. Even explains. “Your care may include cough suppressants along with other therapies to help you feel better.”

Other reasons to come to urgent care include identifying coughs due to serious medical conditions. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • COVID-19
  • Croup
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Whooping cough (pertussis)

It’s best to get prompt evaluation if a nonstop cough is identified in a child younger than six months old. Learn more about how to tell if your child's cough is serious.

Could My Cough Be a Sign of COVID-19?

The early symptoms of COVID-19 can include a dry cough. But if that’s your only symptom, it might not be coronavirus.

“If the cough is accompanied by a fever, fatigue and body aches, you may want to consider testing for COVID-19,” Dr. Even explains.

You can access testing at UnityPoint Health Urgent Care. And it’s not too late to protect yourself against coronavirus.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is available to everyone age 12 and up,” says Dr. Even. 

Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine at UnityPoint Health.

Schedule a COVID-19 Vaccine

Preparing for Your Urgent Care Visit

During your urgent care visit, our providers will perform a detailed physical exam and ask about your medical history. They may discuss your lifestyle, such as whether you use tobacco or have regular exposure to chemicals.

They’ll also want to know more about your cough, including:

  • How long you’ve had it
  • If you’ve had medical issues, like seasonal allergies, that cause a nonstop cough
  • Whether it gets worse at night or when you’re active
  • What medications or home remedies you’re using
  • Other symptoms you’re experiencing
  • If you’re coughing up mucus

Easy Access to Cough Relief at UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health makes it easy to fit care into your busy schedule. Our urgent care clinics are available in locations close to home.

Find Urgent Care Near Me

For non-emergency situations, our urgent care clinics accept walk-in patients seven days a week. Experienced healthcare providers are available during the day, in the evenings and on holidays. Our offerings also include UnityPoint Health Virtual Care and reserve your spot online for in-person urgent care visits.