ZocdocAnswersWhat could be the cause of a 4-month cough with congestion?

Question

What could be the cause of a 4-month cough with congestion?

I'm writing on behalf of my mom who is avoiding going back to her doctor out of frustration. She has had a severe cough for the last 4 months which includes coughing up phlegm which she says feels like it is covering her lungs and is thick. She has never been a smoker. She has seen her doctor and been put on antibiotics and steroids twice. During the first round she said she felt better for a few days, then it returned just as bad as before (she did finish all her antibiotics as directed). The second round just finished with no change whatsoever. Her doctor mentioned the use of an inhaler as a possible next step but she is hesitant to return to him. She has no other obvious symptoms and it doesn't appear to have been contagious to anyone else. Any idea what this could be, and how to treat? Should she see a new doctor?

Answer

It sounds like she should continue working with her doctor, or find a new one, but definitely she should see a doctor! Changing doctors can be necessary in some situations, and she should feel comfortable with him or her, but it is also important to realize that time is one of the things that doctors use to help them determine what to do next. That is because serious problems will tend to not improve with normal therapies. In that way, doctors can avoid treating everyone with aggressive therapy that might cause more harm than good. Now that your mother has failed two rounds of therapy, it can be a clue to your doctor that something more is needed and that this is not a normal response to normal treatment. There are so many different possible causes, that your doctor may feel that it is necessary to refer her to a specialist at this point, or may choose to get some imaging or some other information that can help to pinpoint the problem and help her get better. A pulmonologist can be a valuable resource if there is one in your community. Please speak with her doctor about her concerns and yours.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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