Productive CoughsSkip to the navigation
A productive cough helps clear mucus (sputum) and foreign material from the airways. Mucus may be made in the lungs because of bronchitis , pneumonia , or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Colds and allergies may produce mucus that drains down the back of the throat ( postnasal drainage ). Home treatment may be all that is needed to provide relief if you have a productive cough and postnasal drainage but do not have other symptoms.
A productive cough in a person who smokes is often a sign of lung damage. For smokers, the most effective way to treat a cough is to stop smoking. A change in the cough or in the color or quantity of sputum may mean a bacterial lung infection.
A productive cough is a more serious when:
- It produces sputum from the lungs (not postnasal drainage).
- The sputum is rust-colored or contains bright red blood.
- It lasts longer than 10 days.
- It occurs with
other symptoms. These may include:
- Fever and chills.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Night sweats.
- Weight loss.
- You have a known exposure to tuberculosis .
A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Current as ofAugust 21, 2015
Current as of: August 21, 2015
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD