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"I have had a cough for three days, and my sputum is slightly greenish. Should I go see a doctor?"

ZocdocAnswersI have had a cough for three days, and my sputum is slightly greenish. Should I go see a doctor?


I am 18 years old and I am an in-season swimmer. We practice six days a week in a chlorinated pool. I have a history of seasonal allergies that have been acting up lately. I feel a little bit run down, but nothing extreme, and everything else feels fine except for a slightly sore throat and a stuffy nose. I am not currently taking any medications.


Given your overall good health and the prevalence of the common cold during the winter months, your symptoms are most likely consistent with a viral respiratory infection. The combination of cough (with or without sputum production), sore throat and nasal congestion are all symptoms that point towards this diagnosis. The green sputum may be a sign that there is a bit of inflammation in the airways, possibly the result of some bronchitis. In either case, upper respiratory infections and bronchitis are due to viruses in the majority of cases. Typically these illnesses run their course over the course of 1-2 weeks. They are best treated conservatively, with the use of nasal decongestants (such as Afrin), oral decongestants if needed, and nasal saline sprays. If you develop any symptoms that do not fit into the classic viral illness syndrome, such as fevers, shortness of breath or chest pain (or any other symptoms that are concerning to you), then you should seek consultation with your primary care doctor for further work-up and treatment.

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