ZocdocAnswersChest pains & coughing up phlegm - what should I do?

Question

Chest pains & coughing up phlegm - what should I do?

About 3 months ago, I visited New York, where (within the first few days of being there) I started getting a bad cough. Nothing was coming out when I coughed until I got back home to Texas about a month later. I started coughing up a lot of yellow phlegm like all day & all night.. I went to the doctor about a month later (over a month ago today), where she prescribed me antibiotics for it. I took the antibiotics and it seemed to get better for about a week. Then a few days later, I started coughing up stuff again.. same color & density as before. I figured I would wait it out & see if it gets better on it's own, but now I'm having bad chest pains when I try to breathe, & I'm the phlegm is hard & green & smells bad... I don't have the money to go to a doctor again but what could be wrong with my lungs & what should I do ? Please help !

Answer

Please go see a doctor. I am concerned that this is a condition that may not get better without further care, likely including antibiotics and perhaps even an admission to the hospital. Viral illnesses are quite common when traveling, for a number of reasons. Only good hand hygiene can really help prevent that, and even that is not a certainty when in crowded conditions such as an airplane or subway. Once the virus has attacked, it makes the other cells of the body more at risk of getting secondary infections such as bacterial infections. In your case, it sounds like a round of antibiotics was a good start, but didn't completely fix your problem. That is one of the reasons that it is important to follow up with your doctor after treatment, to make sure that you are completely healed. Sometimes it is necessary to get an x-ray if your doctor is especially worried. In your current situation, seeing a doctor quickly is likely to yield significant benefits over waiting, as I am concerned that you could be developing a more serious infection. The sooner these are treated, the easier they are to treat in many cases. Again, please speak with your doctor soon.

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

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.